Friday, May 25, 2007

Here on Earth Combats Illiteracy in Liberia

Friday, May 25, 2007

It's almost 6:00pm on a holiday weekend and I'm dying to get out of here, but I don't want to leave without sharing the great news of the week with you: Juli Endee called from Liberia late on Wednesday to tell me that the woman from Bopalu who spoke on behalf of her Muslim sisters the day I visited the village with Swanee Hunt's delegation, asking to learn how to read and write, (her photograph appears in an earlier entry) has been found. The literacy program will begin this week! Juli has arranged for teacher training with teachers from the Ministry of Education. But here's the best part: there will be not one women's literacy program, but six!

When Juli got off the plane in Monrovia, she was met with a queen's reception - traditional dancers and singers performing in her honor - she gave a press conference on the spot and announced that Jean Feraca and her radio show Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders was starting a literacy program for the women of Bopalu. Well, word spread, of course, and before you know it, there were six programs in six different venues. The American Embassy is thrilled and has asked me to send six packets of ABC's! And now there's a song about us!

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 18, 2007

After the Open Line

May 25, 2007

As most of you know, I hosted an open line a few weeks ago on May 2. It was the first open line we had done since starting Here on Earth four years ago. Even though many of you were very positive in your comments, the ones I took to heart were critical. I was discouraged at first, and then I started thinking. Why not try to recapture some of the magic of the old program? So, with Carmen Jackson's help, that's what we tried to do this past week - successfully, I think. But I'll let you be the judge.

This was the line-up: Comedy From the Axis of Evil, a program about circuses and elephants, Paul Davies on the new cosmology, a conversation with a Canadian poet who recreated the journey of Huishen, a 5th century Buddhist monk, and a side trip into Cajun country. God, I had fun. How about you?

Keep those cards and letters coming. You're really helping me re-shape the program without losing its core values. Sort of Cajun, come to think of it!

I love having you guys as real partners.



Friday, May 11, 2007

Hell Without Joe

May 11, 2007

Well, it's been a hell of a week. Those of you who are curious about what goes on behind the scenes in radio will enjoy my tale of the Week From Radio Hell. Joe Hardtke, our wiz-kid TD (that's jargon for technical director), got married last week (through no fault of his own) in an outdoor prairie setting with the wind blowing so hard it erased the minister's words and practically lifted the bride, veil and all, right off the ground. Or was that the groom. His obvious joy was contagious, as was his invitation to get all of us up on our feet on the dance floor, jumping up and down with him while we all screamed like three year olds,"I'm so hap-py, I'm so hap-py!"

Alas, that was the end of my happiness. All week long in Joe's absence we have been plagued by all manner of technical evils. The monitor in my studio started flashing like a strobe, I couldn't hear anything in my headphones, the guests were nowhere to be found, the music for the billboard was lost, the CD wasn't burned on time, and today, instead of a nice Italian version of Mama to roll meatballs by, we got heavy metal instead! or some scary thing I had to shout over in order to be heard at all! Joe, for God's sake, .....come home!!!! I promise I won't make obscene gestures at you for at least another week!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Yanamono Clinic - A Great Radio Story

May 4, 2007

Yesterday I had Linnea Smith on the program for the first time in years, a wild woman who when she isn't riding her motorcycle around Wisconsin's backroads, is treating snakebites and malaria and machete cuts at her clinic in the Peruvian rainforest - Yanamono Clinic, designed and built on the banks of the Amazon by Rotarians from Duluth, Minnesota, in response to my first interview with her in 1990.

It's such a great story, and one I never tire of telling. It says so much about the power of radio to connect people across the great divides - be they national, cultural, or racial. I got to spend a week in the Amazon some years ago, checking out the clinic in the company of a group of pharmacologists, many of whom went down there clutching well-worn copies of The Celestine Prophecy. I almost lost my mind that week. As much as I loved the idea of the clinic, I kept wrestling with the question, Was it really a good idea to build a western-style medical clinic in the heart of the Amazon? especially since I met several native healers and shamans while I was in the jungle. I have written at length about all this in the chapter called "A North American in the Amazon" in my forthcoming book. The last words in the chapter are "here on earth." And yes, that is a double plug.