Time passes so quickly here in Africa. The way is very simple… And I love it. I’m finding my African rhythm, but there always some nuances in culture that I haven’t quite mastered. I finally feel part of my host family, well mostly. Not so comfortable to walk around the house in my underwear, but comfortable enough to express myself and not have to constantly double check that I’m sitting, eating, living, etc. in a manner of a guest.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to The Gambia- it’s the smallest country in continental Africa and just happens to be right in the middle of Senegal. Bottom line, traveling in Africa is CRAZY! You can’t make reservations ahead of time, you cross your fingers that roads and boarders are open, and your math skills are stretched with currency conversion. There is a quote that I feel finally rings true after going to The Gambia:
“Traveling is a brutality. it forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. you are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things– air, sleep, dreams, the sea, and the sky- all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” -Cesar Pavase
Through my limited experience in travel, I’ve always felt that the quote was half true, but that’s mainly because I had plenty of money, several options in case of an emergency, and lots of resources. While in The Gambia, the unthinkable happened many times and at several moments I had about $2 left (credit cards are not a form of payment used here), no form of communication (no cell service, no wifi, no comprehension of the local language), no idea where to go, and as luck would have it, there just happened to be a national transportation strike. I really felt like is was at mercy of the local. Luckily, African people are very nice and a great resource to help in these kinds of situations. So I would add to the quote that traveling is a brutality, but people are a strength.
I have learned to let go of pride and seek help. Ask for directions (which is taboo for an American male) and be flexible; and I’ve always found at least one person that is willing to help. My host family and the other students here in Senegal give me strength to continue on this brutal adventure which allows me to learn, expand, and develop into a more humble, more confident individual. The brutality of travel is what I crave. I love having to reassess where I am and who I am and build into a better person. At home, I feel that change is lethargic (very slow and lazy) but add a little bit of travel to the mix and its like adding baking soda to my 3rd grade volcano- MAGIC! I believe everyone needs to travel in order to get a better perspective of the world but more to get a better perspective of who they are.
It’s nice to get back to the essentials.