Posted by: sean | July 2, 2008

Roughing it in Liberia

Dear Uncle Ken,

I was in the forest, far from the hustle and bustle of Monrovia with its tin shacks, gnarled barb wire, free-flowing street sewage, and rampant armed robbery. The oppressive heat, even now, at mid-morning, suggested that the sun had saddled up next to Venus overnight. Sweat poured down my face. I pressed through the knee-deep brush, taking care not to betray my position with a careless step on a land mine. The dense forest densified with each step.

They were somewhere behind me, nearer now.

Minutes earlier I had been on the edge of the forest, on the Firestone rubber plantation, but had wandered away from the seemingly endless corridors of rubber trees and became disorientated. Lost, I stumbled across some youths who offered to guide me about the terrain, but it soon became clear that they had something else in mind.

We entered a clearing. It came so quick…they closed around me, put a fashioned iron club in my hands, and pressured me to “do it”.

Do what?

I whirred and saw him huddled on the grass, innocent. This made no sense. The youths whispered amongst themselves. They wanted me to hit him. No…I can’t. They began pressuring me. Finally, I realized that I had no choice: they had other clubs and outnumbered me. If I didn’t hit him, they sure as hell would; if I didn’t do it, what would they do to me? I closed my eyes and sliced him with the iron club, sending him screaming into the forest.

The youths stared at me in disgust. How had I let him get away? One of the youths suggested that I had done it on purpose. Another youth produced a second innocent and threw him to the ground.

Do it again, he commanded.

No. I was resolute.

The youths exchanged looks with one another. The head youth smirked. Fine. Then we will go into the forest and find him.

My mind raced with thoughts of what they would do once they found him there in the forest. Doubtless, they would drag him out and force me to hit him again, until it was ‘done right’. Thinking on my feet, I came up with a plan to save him…and myself.

No, I’ll go into the forest and take care of it, he’s mine!

And with that, I pushed through the gang of youths and took off towards the forest, disappearing behind towering trunks of trees no doubt filled with poisonous sap. I hoped that my bravado would dissuade them from following. Surely, I had convinced them of my resolve. I had not; the youths followed in hot pursuit.

And now they were behind me, closing.

I increased my pace, but still took care to place every step softly. In the eerie silence, punctuated only by the high pitched buzzing of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, even my most careful steps seemed to make as much noise as the UN tanks that roll through Monrovia late at night. I stepped on a beetle the size of a small child; the sound of its exoskeleton crushing under the weight of my shoe sounded like a cannon. Not far off, I heard rustling in the brush. The gang of youths. Deadly. Youthful.

I began a mad dash, a final thrust to find him before the youths caught us both.

In a flash, I remembered you, Uncle Ken, and your comment on my previous blog post about how I wasn’t ‘roughing it’ in Liberia. I made a mental note to write about this adventure…that is if I made it out alive. (I made a sub-mental note to make it out alive.) I even thought about a title for this post, right then: Roughing it in Liberia. I thought that this would convey the roughness with which I ‘ing it here.

In a second flash, I re-gathered my thoughts, wondering why I was thinking about my blog at a time like this. I should be thinking about finding him. Or about not catching malaria. Or not being attacked by a cutlass when I would walk home later that evening, assuming that I escaped from these youths and made my way back to Monrovia, city of a couple lights. Or the bucket bath I would take later that evening in my new house with no running water.

When all seemed lost, when I was about to succumb to the pursuing youths – about to give up – when I was ready to let the mosquitoes turn my skin into Braille, I saw him. Reprieve. Happiness. He looked up at my face. I hadn’t noticed his dimpled, youthful expression before. I bent over and whispered reassurance. Don’t worry, I’m here, this is going to be alright.

I reached down to help him up, to carry him out of the brush, but as I bent over, a strange sensation came over me. I was out here, in the middle of nowhere. The iron club was still in my left hand. What if I hit him with it? Who would know? I could slice him as much as I wanted, no one would hear him, and no one would see me. In the presence of the youths, I had been checked by my sense of humanity, my sense of dignity, but here, alone, I could do anything.

What would stop me?

I looked around to make sure no one was around. The mosquitoes ceased their high-pitched buzzing – the earth hushed in anticipation of my final act. I raised the iron club high over my shoulders and swung down with full force, catching him squarely.

He popped out of the forest, back onto the fairway. From there it was a mere forty yards to the pin. I was glad that I hadn’t taken a drop. Sure, I wouldn’t make par, but I had the satisfaction of chasing down my sliced drive. What’s more, I had the opportunity to take a shot without my caddy and two official ball spotter’s looming around me, judging my every swing, ensuring that every errant ball ‘miraculously’ found its way back on the fairway.

I don’t ‘rough it’, Uncle Ken? Is that so? On the Firestone golf course, I rough it all the time.


  1. Judging from the descriptions of your Uncle’s last couple of golf outings I am sure he would love to have two official ball spotters! Glad you are enjoying the ‘rough’ life!

  2. Fess up, your in the Bahamas lounging on the beach with little umbrella drinks being served to you by scantilly clad natives. I wish some giant mosqitoes would snatch my irons of death out of my hands before I hurt someone. Did I ever tell you about the trip I made to the Isle of Poastal. I passed the Checkpoint, Proper ID required ofcourse, only to run into many of my fellow soldiers hunkering down for a day of battle.All on edge for the danger that lurked on the steel contraptions we were assigned,heat beating down on us. Colonel watching our every move just waiting to procloaim how bad we suck at our jobs. IS IT ANY WONDER SOME OF US CRACK! Now thats roughing it, not like in cushy Monrovia or Freeport(WINK WINK). Take care, pray for my safety….

  3. Oh Sean, I hope you write a book. I would buy it. Stories forthcoming in an email. Champagne!

  4. Okay, what are you really doing in Liberia???? Concerts, parties, driving around the countryside, golfing, “laundry lady”…and here I am worried about you! Glad that you are enjoying life in Liberia:) Can’t wait to see your photos.

  5. Wait, I don’t get it. So did you maim the little boy or not?

  6. well he had to, didn’t he?

  7. You had me fooled, Sean. Sort of. Except you wouldn’t really strike a child. I believe. Glad to hear that Liberia is making a man man out of you. Keep roughing it, dude.

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