Well, my goal to see more of Liberia is coming to fruition one month at a time. December is looking particularly promising. First up, Buchanan. I took a day trip to Buchanan for the Dumboy Festival and much like dumboy, it was short, sweet and sinfully gratifying. This was a great introduction to this gorgeous city in Grand Bassa County & I definitely will be returning; possibly to make a kid by those long stem coconut trees that I’m absolutely obsessed with now.
So, the Universe hijacked my trip. Barefoot Liberia announced a few weeks ago that they would be organizing a weekend of fun to celebrate the upcoming and glorious dry season.
I thought this was the perfect opportunity to shoot some images for upcoming projects. A little work and pleasure, you know. I called up my fellow creative and planned to hit the road.
Here’s the thing, I don’t drive a SUV and the road to Cape Mount, about a three hour drive from Monrovia, is not a smooth one. Well, about 80% of the road is paved but the last 20% is tumultuous to say the least.
Being the overly optimistic & ambitious person that I am, I had decided to tough out the last stretch of dusty road with my silly little Camry. This is where the Universe decided to intervene.
Hours before we were supposed to leave and get to shooting my car was towed. Ok, you have to understand that cars basically never get towed in Liberia. In a country where many people are living on about $2 a day, there are (and should be) bigger concerns at hand than double parking. I learned the time and effort it takes to get your car back is an unbelievably frustrating array of crooked cops and as-the-story-unfolds rules. There was no way I’d be driving that day.
Although I was utterly frustrated, I accepted an offer from a group of friends heading to Cape Mount (the county in which Robertsport resides & where my grandfather is from). As fate would have it this was a God send. After a 45 minute ride of prayers I realized I would have been hitchhiking in utter darkness in the bushes of Liberia. Not a good look. Just another example of how the Universe continues to move us out of our own way if we’ll just let it.
After said prayers, we arrived to Nana’s Lodge where I had the best time I’ve had in a long time. I danced in the rain in a bikini and swam in the Atlantic Ocean under moonlight, rainfall and stars. A priceless moment beyond words.
But the Universe wasn’t done. After a blast of a night, Latifa and I weren’t quite in the mood for hair and makeup or shooting. At first I thought how irresponsible of me to not complete the shoot that I traveled hours for. Then I went to the ocean. I’ve been swimming since I was three and am a self diagnosed beach addict. I love the ocean but that day I got to know it in a different way.
She is beautiful. He is powerful. It is beyond gender. Just like me.
That lesson superseded any plans I had for that day. What I did get was a beautiful shared experience with a fellow creative spirit. These images are the result of that. In all, I got to see more of my country, of myself and of God. An awesome weekend indeed.
All photos by Latifa Cooper.
There’s no place like home, really. Even when you haven’t been there before you know what it feels like. A wise man once told me that the first time he stepped onto African soil, physically he had never been there but his spirit had been there and was happy to be back. For the thousands of immigrants living away from home, the holidays present an opportunity to return for a few days.
I had been away from my home, Liberia, for 13 years when I returned in December 2009. It was an amazing trip that ultimately led me back to Liberia to live last year. For those that will be making the pilgrimage to Africa this holiday season, below is the list I wish I would have seen before my first trip.
Get To Sewing If you are a fashion lover like me, you’ll be wanting to get some African, one of a kind pieces done during your trip. Having something tailored is very affordable in most of Africa. You need to get a tailor, days, if not hours, after arriving to your destination. In Liberia for instance, there are many tailors so finding the right one might take a while. I suggest getting recommendations from locals. Be clear on what you want and communicate your vision with pictures. You will need a lot of patience to deal with the schedules of tailors and possible unforeseen alterations to your pieces. The key word here is time, use it wisely and you will be leaving with a suitcase full of fabulous pieces.
Diversify Your Experience Partying on a beach never really gets old, does it? However, you will be happy that you saw all that your destination had to offer if you get out of the party and into a waterfall or a museum during your trip. A diverse experience will leave you with an eclectic set of memories, including some sober ones.
Give Back During the holidays many organizations and individuals host events for local families, so there are many chances to do something great for someone in need. To leave any place knowing you did something positive is the ultimate souvenir.
Capture It There is no such thing as too many pictures on a trip. Beaches, old buildings, crowded markets; capture anything that moves you regardless of how silly you feel when you’re taking the picture. You can even find a local photographer for a great price to get those shots you couldn’t get and stimulate the artistic economy all at once. All year long you’ll be able to reminisce on the good times and those pictures could be great conversation starters on your desk at work.
Note to Self I acknowledge everyone does not love writing as much as I do but little notes to self are a great way to revisit a feeling and/or an experience for later analysis. Reading the notes I have taken on trips afterwards have has led to amazing self discoveries. So even if it’s a couple key words, jot down something from your trip. I promise it will make for a great read on the 10+ hour plane ride back.
Hope that helps. Enjoy and I’m looking forward to seeing some of you in Liberia for the holidays!
One of my best friends moved to California a few years ago. Since then, I make it out to Los Angeles to see her at least once a year. As she has evolved and changed neighborhoods I’ve gotten to experience a tiny bit of the greatness that is California, particularly Downtown LA and Hollywood.
This trip I got to explore tasty bad food at The Waffle, the effortless cool of Abbott Kinney and much more. Check out my Nyk Picks below.
Art: Street Art
There was some of it all over the place. Silly quotes, abstract paintings and unexpected inspiration. It really gives the city a striking element for the art lover.
Sweat: Runyon Canyon
A previous lover of mine travels a lot for work & is a fitness junkie. He would run local trails anywhere he ventured; I borrowed that idea from him. The first of my trails being the Runyon Canyon in LA. I loved this place! Great views of the Hollywood hills, dream homes and a hell of an incline for my booty. I found out from my good friend, FourSquare that they also offer free yoga there a few times a week. Namaste to that.
Lesson: The Who & Where of Packing Appropriately
Let me tell you a little about my friend Rachel. She is a beautiful petite girl that lives in flats but has some of the most ridiculous heels you can think of. I should also mention that she’s a Gemini and therefore very spontaneous. Because of this packing to go see her is always a little bit of a challenge. My trips to LA with her have been a mixture of rooftop parties, lots of scenic walking and dinners.
I say all this to make a point to be mindful of not only where you are going when traveling but who you’re going with. You don’t want to be the cranky because you’re the only one in heels after everyone decided to take a scenic stroll through the park.
Culture: Sneaker Heads
I got to meet Rachel’s awesome new boyfriend on this trip. It’s always a little daunting meeting the person you’ll either love for your friend or that you’ll have to cut if they hurt her. Joey passed with flying colors. As a bonus he put me on to a culture he’s a part of and that is quite foreign and fascinating to me; sneaker heads.
I know these people. They stand in line for Jordans or pay rent like prices for them. They often are incredibly well versed in various sports and can be quite well dressed in a completely unconventional way.
Sneakers are the one part of urban culture that has always eluded me. A few days of discussion with my new brother and I realized it’s a complex world with its own norms and standards. From heated eBay sales, to respect for tradition and history, the sneaker head culture has an entrepreneurial spirit and a demeanor of loyalty that has now peeked my interest. I intend to learn more about the behaviors of this interesting subgroup.
Deal: Free Ted Talks on Delta Flights
Anyone that knows me knows, I love Ted Talks! So much so that I aspire to have one before I hit 30. As I prepared to swipe my card to get my fix in Economy class I was pleasantly surprised that they were complimentary! I took notes and created some promising ideas on my 3+ hour flight back to Atlanta. An efficient use of time if I might say so myself.
Another great adventure on this tour. Until next time…