Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Robertsport

Less than 50 km south of the border with Sierra Leone are arguably some of the best point breaks in Africa -- smooth, sandy-bottomed waves that catch almost any angle of Atlantic swell and break for up to 200 m. I was there last weekend, and I'll probably be there every weekend, camping under the cotton trees. The one on the left is estimated to be about 500 years old and the place where Joseph Jenkins Roberts and members of the American Colonization Society landed to "found" Liberia.

Day before yesterday, I was surfing Shipwrecks and cut my foot when I wiped out too close to my fins. I walked to the lodge next door to get vodka and their first aid kit, and as I was sterilizing, cleaning and bandaging, I made friends. First, there was Beatrice, who made sympathetic noises as I cut away the shredded skin and sponged vodka on the sand that had collected around the wound. Tina downed half the shot of vodka I got gratis, which I thought was admirably forward for 11:00 am on a Monday. Vivian asked me what I was doing in Liberia, and the conversation went from there.

Nate and I are working here as consultants in education and health, respectively, but we also spend most of our free time surfing, and Liberia has world-class waves bordered by rainforest, with no sharks, no rocks, no reef, and people who have been through a 14-year civil war to emerge resilient, focused and motivated. Since we're going to be in Robertsport on our weekends and be part of the community there, it makes sense to start an NGO focused on environmental management and community-based tourism. Right?

When I explained this in three sentences to the lodge staff, they asked if we could meet with them and other members of the community next week after the weekend crowd had dispersed, to hear their ideas and talk about how we can work together. This is awesome. I'll get Samson, the 11 year-old who wants to be a surf photographer, to take pictures.

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