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January 2, 2004

A Vacation Fantasy

While playing with the new Google Alert service, I decided to keep myself updated on what's happening in Bonthe, Sierra Leone, the small town I lived in during my Peace Corps stint. To my amazement, up popped a set of pages describing the Beach Hut Project, a plan to turn Bonthe into the next Fantasy Island for the adventurous. As I dug around, though, my BS detector began to light up. The picture on this page looks very inviting, but it's nowhere near my little town. The beaches around Bonthe are on the river, not the ocean side, and there are mangrove roots and a quick dropoff into dark murkiness rather than clean white sands. There are unspoiled beaches on the other side of the island, but no roads that get you there. They'd have to do something about the malaria, too.

It gets even more fantastic. The larger scheme of which the huts are a part envisions the tourist money fueling a boom that will make Bonthe look like Miami, complete with an international airport bringing flights in from London. Now my baloney detector is smoking!

Still, the thought of going back to Bonthe as a comfortable tourist tickles me. It would be wonderful if the money for something like that could resurrect that part of Sierra Leone but I just don't see it happening for decades.