By Cameron DeVries

A vortex can open instantaneously. Swirling, looming, attracting all it finds. Only by escaping yourself, can you escape the pull of the vortex. To those on global trips such as us, the vortex is an ever present danger. One’s personal desires or complacency in their normal lives is what stirs this vortex. Take a moment to reflect on the things you think about every day. Do you want to go to the fridge and grab one of your favorite snacks or drinks? Go out with your friends? Relax in your own bed and turn on a movie? These are a few of the most basic aspects of life that we tend to not even think about, but have the ability to do all the time. Even more negative thoughts pertaining to home fit into this picture. Thinking about issues at school or home, and what you have to worry about as soon as the plane grazes the runway upon arrival back into the states, is a vortex. Any little thought is the beginning of an individual vortex which, in multitudes, can drag you into the larger vortex of irrelevant thoughts. Giving into these thoughts becomes a distraction the present moment, a clouding barrier causing you to miss out on the turning gears of the world around your very feet.

The last couple of days have been spent bouncing around. From Tambacounda to Touba to Louga and finally Dakar, each location is a piece that offers insight into change and regional diversity in the puzzle of Senegal. Starting in Tambacounda and moving Westward, it was interesting to see the progression. A more typical portrayal of Africa is what we saw as we cruised out of Tambacounda towards our next destination – vast, flat, expanses. A sea of dirt and sand, dotted with Baobob trees and populated by families of goats and cows led by their human guides. Scattered villages and rows of stone walls and houses made up the largest towns in the vicinity.

Touba and Louga were the duo of cities we visited in the middle of our journey. They both felt more like a city, but definitely gave off a different vibe from the eachother. Touba is a holy city, and we saw the importance of Islam and culture here as we walked through the largest mosque in West Africa, its parapets scraping the sky. Louga is where we saw more of the importance of family and connections, visiting the home of our very own Khoudia for Thanksgiving. As always, everyone was consistently accommodating towards us, and it was great to see get a sense of where Khoudia is from and see her in a state of happiness with her family and friends. One thing we noticed was how compared to the village we had previously inhabited, we definitely had more of that “outsider” feeling, like people were watching us more amidst the shuffle of city life.

Departing once again, we reached the final stage of our trip on Sunday night, in the city of Dakar. Dakar definitely seems to be one of the largest and more influential cities so far, sitting along the enticing coastline. Looking out at the ocean from the top of our 3 story AirBnB, something definitely gives me the feeling that Dakar has more Western accommodations and influences than any of our past stops. Resisting the vortex of our phones and other irrelevant outside thoughts has been hard, but it allows us to immerse ourselves and pay attention to the shifting diversity of Africa around us. Even between locations, just drifting through the country, we saw change happen around us. Hues of brown and yellow morphed into green as vegetation and life sprouted around us as we moved West. Thundering our way down an undeveloped, pothole filled road seemed like a distant memory as we rode down a perfectly smooth, paved road just 15 minutes away. Such change in such a short time is a testament to human adaptability within any environment, and the diversity of a land. Even thinking about driving through America, the land shifts dramatically depending on where you are. But back home we tend to divert our attention into other things, living life within ourselves and not even looking around past our own concerns. We all are guilty of this, and it’s ok. But I would encourage you to stop every once in a while – think about what you have now instead of what you want later. Get out of your vortex and appreciate the moment, because those moments are what truly stay with us the longest. Although I could really go for some apple juice right now.

3 responses to “Big Vortex Guy”

  1. Lynn Penati Avatar
    Lynn Penati

    Excellent reminder to be present, and to avoid the vortex. Thank you very much for your impressions Cameron. Hope you all will get rest and enjoy the downtime after such an adventure, once you arrive in Dakar at the bnb.

  2. jbyersccs Avatar

    Thanks for that good reminder to “drink in the life around us” and “seize the day”, Cameron. You are paying attention and hitting all the right notes in your writing.

  3. Haley Avatar

    Cameron!! My advisee!! The vortex is real and you describe it so well here. It’s really striking to think about how complacency and selfishness are what lead us into those very passive or somewhat mindless moments of living. What do think it is about Senegal that makes the idea of “passive” vs “active” mindsets so poignant? What skills or techniques have you learned to resist the vortex there, and how can you apply those skills when you get home? What about the feelings of true engagement and presence – how can you remember and hold onto those so you carry Senegal with you when you return? Also, can “vortex” can be a verb? I hope you have a great last few days!!!

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