As I bumped down a dirt road in West Africa for the first time, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. Eager to escape New York City and do some surfing, I'd accepted a teaching job at Trinity Yard School on the isolated coast of Cape Three Points, in Ghana's Western Region. The Ebola outbreak was all over the news, and although the disease hadn't been detected in Ghana, friends, family members and colleagues had urged me not to go. I was still undecided when, after a harrowing day at work in New York, I got a call from Rory Jackson, the school founder. A surfer himself, he had been searching for waves when he discovered the land where the school now sits. I ticked off all of my concerns about taking the job, including the Ebola epidemic. "Don't worry about any of that, man," he said. "You are headed for paradise." So I packed up my comfortable life in the West Village, zipped my surfboard into a padded bag and flew across the world to Accra, Ghana's sprawling, chaotic capital city. The trash lined streets and open sewers were a far cry from my idea of paradise, but I pushed on, eager to reach the coast. From there, I took a five hour bus to the relatively smaller but just as hectic town of Takoradi, where I piled into a cramped van, known locally as a "tro tro." After an additional three hours, we rolled down dirt roads past ramshackle huts and sprawling banana plantations. Finally, at night, we arrived to the coast, where I'd be spending the next nine months. I was shown to a small shack tucked into the trees at the corner of a small clearing. I was both excited and terrified as I fell asleep to the cry of bush babies, the chorus of crickets and the roar of waves. As the sun rose the next morning, I stumbled down a small path surrounded by almond and palm trees to the beach. Then I spotted it: a beautiful wave – a left hander – peeling perfectly off the point, without a single surfer in sight. The empty palm-fringed coast stretched out on either side, while dense green jungle carpeted the hills behind. The only manmade structure I could see was the faint lighthouse of Cape Three Points far up the beach. The place looked a lot like paradise it's true, but its isolation was daunting, and I couldn't help but wonder how the following nine months would go. As the days passed, I fell into a rhythm of teaching, reading, writing, running and surfing. I found myself in Castaway-like moments, catching crabs that scuttled across the beach to use as fishing bait. I wandered along the coast, discovering small coves that I later learned were empty because they were believed to have juju (voodoo). I hand-washed my clothes, took bucket showers and used composting toilets. I learned how to pound fufu, a dough made of cassava and plantains to be eaten uncooked with my hands and accompanied by palm nut soup. I got used to sharing footpaths with snakes, scorpions and spiders. And I surfed every day. Sometimes, giant waves rolled in and I was thrown to the ocean floor among the urchins and rocks. Other days, I sailed across small, glassy faces at sunset. The area was so remote that the only people who saw me surfing were the fishermen who launched their carved wooden canoes at the far end of the beach. The place was definitely isolated, but it was beginning to feel like home. Two months into my stay, I decided to visit Busua, Ghana's unofficial surfing capital, 27km north of Cape Three Points. I was immediately surprised by the number of obrunis (white people) there, all of them tourists, reading in hammocks and sipping frosty beers at beachside bars. The place had a relaxed, surf town vibe. I rented a board from a young Ghanaian, Kofi Aidoo, who welcomed me with the customary handshake: a finger click and a fist to the heart. We paddled into the surf and I commented on the many tourists here, explaining that I was living in Cape Three Points, where there were far fewer visitors. "Ah, man, not so much here, too," he said. He shook his head and looked out to sea. "People too scared of Ebola, you know? They stop coming." He laughed. "We don't even have it!" That night, a massive bonfire party erupted down the beach to the soundtrack of West African dancehall music. I decided to check it out. Obrunis spilled onto the sand and the music competed with reggaeton wafting from nearby bars. I thought I'd be grateful for the taste of civilization, but the truth was that I couldn't wait to get back to my empty beach. I woke early the next day and caught a tro tro back home. That evening, I grabbed my board and hit the beach, walking up to the point. As I prepared to paddle out, one of the fishermen I'd got to know stopped me. "Listen for the lobsters," he said. I had no idea what he meant. I nodded politely, paddled out and tucked into a few peeling waves. Then, as the big red sun sank behind the dusky palms, I slipped off my board and sank into the sea. That's when I heard it: a chorus of crackling coming from the submerged rocks. As I listened to what sounded like hundreds of lobsters crawling around the ocean floor, I remembered the chaos of New York City, the confusion of Accra and even the booming bonfire party in Busua. I didn't miss any of it. I was grateful to be here with the fishermen and lobsters, paddling into wave after perfect wave, with no one else around.
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