Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Living on the ocean

Most mornings, I hear the sound of men fishing outside my window.

A simple dugout canoe is launched off the beach at West Point and drops hand-mended nets in a semicircle until it reaches our part of the beach. Young men wade in, pick up the end of the net--the start is anchored on the West Point beach with a similar crew--and start pulling the rope in with their hands. Meanwhile, the man in the boat beats the side of his wood vessel with a wooden oar or slaps the water. The sound takes a moment to travel and you hear the knock a split-second after you see him splash.

Early, I like to peek out the window and watch them.

Party at the Mama Liberia Sewing Co-op!

The Mama Liberia Sewing Co-op just had it's first party. I'm not sure why it took us so long, except that gathering all the women together seemed like a volatile event and I shied away from it for a few months. I think, despite a few hiccups, that it went well and they all had a great time. Parties like this are important for building their group identity and increasing their social capital. That, and they deserved it.
Here is Miriama, showing off the chicken stew they served with check rice, followed by pepper soup and fufu. I brought the chickens and soda, and the Co-op members all pitched in for the rest of the food. They had big pots with massive, rake-like spoons. Next time, I'll get to the party earlier so I can watch the cooking.
By the time I made it into the kitchen, the dancing had begun.
This is Joe, celebrating the Co-op by dancing happily in front of the Nana's bar. Thanks to Nana's Lodge for hosting our party!
This is my favorite photo, of the women looking at a slide-show of the photos we're going to use for their Mama Liberia website. As you can see, they like them quite a lot.
Here are Tina, Ma Bendu and Matilda (left to right), the three Team Leaders of the Co-op. They're each responsible for four tenured members and a wider team that is mobilized during big orders. These three wome have been with the Co-op since the beginning!
This is Jebbeh, who is using her sewing money to build her own house.
This is Miriama dancing with her daughter, little Bendu, named after Co-op Team Leader Ma Bendu. Miriama uses her sewing money to invest in her own transport business.
This is Josephine, who opened a bank account to save her sewing money. Josephine is trained as a nurse but hasn't found work in the local health centers. I'm not sure why and this puzzles me, as Liberian is in dire need of rural health workers. I intend to talk to her more about this in the future and see if she can't find a job in the area.
Tina, who organized most of the party cooking and serving, gets ready to serve the food. That's Jenneh next to her. Tina started a crab-selling business with her sewing money and Jenneh is building her own house.
I'm posting this portrait of rather happy looking Ma Bendu wearing lovely surfer boardshorts commissioned by some friends. They look good, right? She never managed to deliver them, probably because she likes them so much herself. You two know who you are, and if you want me to organize a duplicate pair, let me know.
Of course, someone has to do the washing up. Small Bendu and Jenneh volunteered, but didn't want to be left out of the photo taking.
And last but not least, the obligatory children's shot of little Bendu and friends.

To buy Co-op products, visit The African T-Shirt Company. Thanks to all for your support!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pics from the 2nd Annual Surf Liberia Contest

On October 24, a group of local and expatriate surfers gathered under the cotton tree at the Robertsport Community Campsite to convene the 2nd Annual Surf Liberia Contest. T-shirts were passed out and surfers registered, but where were the waves?

We waited until low tide then made the call for Shipwrecks, carried over chairs from Nana's Lodge and set up under an almond tree. We had 12 local surfers and 7 expats, including a few beginners and very new local beginners. You know you've succeeded in targeting youth when one of the contestants signs his name, "Baby Boy."

The contest lasted a little over three hours, with judging done by local and expat surfers as well as the visiting Surf Resource Network crew. We had over a hundred spectators, including Robertsport locals and weekenders, some UNMIL visitors, and even half of the Mama Liberia Sewing Co-op! The waves were a bit onshore, shoulder to head-high with some overhead sets on the drop quickly turning to mushy faces.

Of course, when it came time for the women's heat right before the finals, the swell surged to overhead plus and I got smoked--along with the relative and extremely brave newbie I'd cajoled into surfing with me. Better luck for the women's division next year!

Thanks to Robertsport Community Works partners Soul Surfers Foundation, Seren Clothing and Surf Resource Network. Thanks to our Surf Liberia contest event sponsors Nana's Lodge, Liberia Travel and Life Magazine, and Miss Boss Lady Entertainment. We value your support!

Here are some photos, courtesy of Surf Resource Network's Sean Brody, of the contest:

Alfred Lomax finishes a heat. Alfred is currently on scholarship courtesy of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and attending high school in Monrovia.

Alfred does a cut-back at Shipwrecks.
Alfred wins the contest and is chaired to the beach by fellow surfers. This is my favorite contest shot.
Alfred, 1st place in this year's Surf Liberia Contest, with a wooden plaque hand-carved in Robertsport.

Peter Swen, a university student in Monrovia, pulls into a little barrel before giving Alfred a run for his money and winning 2nd place.
Armstrong shows some local style on his newly-donated board.
Philip has gotten a lot better this year, thanks in part to a surfboard of his own donated by the Soul Surfers Foundation. Thank you!
Sam Brown Jr. looks remarkably like his father, Sam Brown, a member of our Community Board and an invaluable member of Robertsport Community Works. His board was donated by Surf Resource Network. Thank you!
For a full budget overview of Surf Liberia and the surf contest, check out the monthly budget reports on our Robertsport Community Works blog.

See you in the water next year!