The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

PBPL 85 Travels to Robertsport, Liberia

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The 2017 PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership class in Robertsport, a Liberian town located right along the beach a few hours out from the capital.

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The 2017 PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership class relaxes on the beach in Robertsport, Liberia during the off-campus portion of the course. 

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The 2017 PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership class walks on the beach in Robertsport, Liberia during the off-campus portion of the course. 

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The 2017 PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership class interacts with locals on the beach in Robertsport, Liberia during the off-campus portion of the course. 

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The 2017 PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership class plays a game of soccer in Robertsport, Liberia during the off-campus portion of the course. 

During the weekend of December 2nd we travelled to Robertsport, a Liberian town located right along the beach a few hours out from the capital. On Saturday morning, we scrambled to store our luggage and squeeze into our four-wheel drive, terrain-adaptive vehicles. Deciding on which vehicle to enter proved to be a fateful choice for four students in particular, myself included. Thirty minutes into our sweaty excursion, our good friend Steve, the driver, pulled over. The imaginable had happened: the AC in the car was broken. After about half an hour of work on the car, Steve claimed the AC had been fixed. This was hardly true, but we scurried along our path anyways.

Then, the imaginable happened again: our vehicle broke down a couple hours outside of Monrovia. We were stranded, surrounded by nothing more than a “bus stop” (we later learned that it was not, in fact, a bus stop – it was just a place where buses occasionally stopped to be searched…). There we were, the four of us, as the rest of the class was far ahead in their journey to the beach. Fortunately, the “bus stop” featured a place to sit with a ceiling of sorts, so we were pretty lucky all things considered. After being told that we would only have to wait around an hour for another car, we optimistically set up camp. The optimism faded sharply. We were there for over three hours, doing essentially nothing in what seemed to be Waiting for Godot with more sweat, insects, and paranoia. Fortunately, we weren’t alone – there were a few locals also waiting in the area.  They asked about our marital statuses and group hierarchy, but really had a blast laughing at our sensitivity. During hour two (or three?), they picked up on my fear of bugs and started launching large beetles my way. I’m not sure how one is supposed to respond to that. It was a surreal moment, and at that point I did question whether it all might have just been a vivid dream induced by our anti-malaria pills.

Luckily, our rescue vehicle eventually arrived and we joined the rest of the group in Robertsport. We enjoyed the beach with beautiful weather and welcoming hospitality, including a small dose of pickup soccer with locals. Beyond the beach, the trip to Robertsport also served an important educational purpose as we gained insight into Liberian life outside of Monrovia. This included a visit to the town’s medical clinic, where we toured the facility and learned about the area’s public health capacities. Additionally, we observed the ways in which the community was dependent on subsistence food gathering, as they locally fished a large portion of their supply. The commute itself also provided a helpful perspective, with there being only one major paved road on the route that branched off into a difficult-to-navigate dirt road. This highlighted the level to which basic infrastructure acts as a significant obstacle to widespread development in the country – regions lack convenient connectivity, resulting in relative isolation and therefore pockets of communities operating separately. Ultimately, it was a great recreational and educational experience, despite the minor delay.

Written by Anthony Marquez '18, a 17F PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership course participant

This is part of a series where student reflect on their experiences during the field research portion of the PBPL 85:Global Policy Leadership course. The 2017 PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership class is conducting two weeks of research in Liberia during the off-campus portion of the course, in order to produce a comprehensive policy memo. During Dartmouth’s winter interim, students meet with local policy leaders: politicians, academics, civil society leaders, journalists, business leaders, diplomats, and other in-country experts who help inform their analyses.

 

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