From filippo in sierra leone:

It is one thing is to talk about it and plan from abroad, quite another is to live every day on a virgin beach, with no amenities and
a lot of rain.

The rainy season is dragging on longer this year, and we have rain
most of the night and at various parts of the day.

It has been an adventure so far. Full of successes and headaches…

Shortly after Ben and I camped our tents at John Obey beach, the
international crew arrived:

We have Alejandro Arango, perma-culturalist from Costa Rica
Hooman Fazly, American-Iranian earth-bag builder from Cal-Earth
Mark Ax, from Sea Bright Solar in New Jersey, donating his time and solar panels

Our days on the beach are full,

We wake up shortly after sunrise, breakfast consists of porridge,
bananas, coffee or tea boiled over a wood and charcoal fire on the

After breakfast, for about $1 per person, we buy fresh fish straight
from the fisherman who have just returned at dawn; we buy fresh
bananas and coconuts from the village and many other fruits and
vegetables from nearby market for daily use.

The most impressive thing has been the effort and work ethic of the
John Obey community and the local leadership of Hasan Marah, chief of
John Obey, age 35.. Every day, about 30 of them arrive at 8:30 am,
work under the sun or in rain-showers, making sure that the fresh
water well, compost toilets, kitchen and beach cleanup is completed
before the first tribemembers arrive. There is a kitchen team, a
cleanup team, a building team, a perma-culture team and a security
team. Our next door neighbor, Mary, married to a fisherman, has a
three month old baby and asked for employment, she has been doing all
our laundry in the river upstream.

We all lunch together at 2 pm, a big plate of country rice and spicy
groundnut stew or kassava leaves sauce, and then back to work until

At 4 pm, I head up to John Obey village, where most of the local crew
lives. While we wait for our solar panels, the only mean of charging
cell phones and laptop is through the only village generator; 5,000
leones ($1.25) will buy you a liter of juice, enough to charge for an
hour or so. My extra-slow internet key is the only way to stay
“connected” to the outside world, usually as I work in my makeshift
office under the mango tree, a dozen or so kids stare amazed at my
endeavors… it takes a couple of hour to go through 20 daily emails,
forget attachments or skype…

The best time of the day is around 6:30 pm, after work. Where the
river meets the ocean, the waters form a natural sand bank island
along the beach; here, I swim and work out and let the waves and
current take me around until sunset. Fresh water on one side, the
ocean on the others, nothing but green lush rainforest hills all
around and miles of virgin beach all to myself. I sing at the top of
my lungs just because I can.

In the evenings, after a bucket shower, Elija and his kitchen team
cook us amazing fresh fish and salads purchased in the morning, with
fried plantain and his “special sauce”.

We fall asleep early in our tents after “bush tv”, a.k.a. sipping
local pojo on hammocks around the bonfire. The pouring rain and
thumping waves are our only nightly rhythms until sunrise.

Logistically, it’s hard. Most of my time is spent on survival mode:
how do I get drinking water? How do I get basic supplies? How do I
charge my cell phone and laptop? How do I go online? How do I get
transportation? How do I stay dry?

Compost toilets and fresh water well are behind schedule. We have
changed 3 pistons so far to no avail, and it is more and more likely
that the “professional” drillers dug a dry hole… so for now, we have to resort
to bottle water to drink and fresh river or rainwater to cook and
wash. The bush is our toilet. You have not tried anything in life
until you go to the toilet in the bush under a rainstorm holding an
umbrella with one hand, trying not to get the toilet paper completely

Communication is hard. Cell phone will send the same message 20 times,
internet and electricity are luxuries. The rain, the seawater, the
humidity and the sand take a toll on all electronics, and I already
“lost” a cell phone to the sea.

Most of the headaches come from Freetown. Our container with our
solar panels and all our kitchen/toilet/bedroom supplies sits at the
port, as does our vehicle. We have been told by various ministries
for months that we will receive duty free concessions, as we should,
according to their incentives to promote tourism and sustainable
development in the country. But unfortunately bureaucracy at its
worst is at play here, and in a couple of days we need to clear
customs, duty free or no duty free, which can cost up to 40% of the
imported value. Its really discouraging when you have to pay $1,000
in taxes on donated solar panels that have been brought for local
community development, but alas… T.I.A. (this is Africa), or as they
say in Krio, D.N.S. (Dis Na Salone)…

I look forward to spending weeks on end on John Obey beach, rather
than having to schlep back and forth to noisy and sweaty Freetown,
always stuck in traffic. I look forward to a dry night.

In 10 days, we expect our first 10 tribemembers and journalists. Will
we be prepared? Will it be a success? Tune in for our next blog…. Or
better yet, come join us! or