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Tiana: Spring Break Diaries III

April 11, 2010

We were dropped off and waited at the village of Lompoul for our ride to the desert encampment.  Off-roading through the sandy and sparsely vegetated slopes, and passing camels, cows, and goats along the way, we became more and more able to see the site and the dunes, frightening in height and, we soon found out, incredibly uncomfortable to walk on in the heat of the day.  Unloading the truck upon arrival, we were escorted to our Mauritanian-style tents.  We dropped off our baggage and trudged through the scalding sand to the common area, a space shaded by tall, thin trees and situated atop a small dune.

Undeterred by said heat, Kelsey and Laura hit the desert for some dune jumping, and Kenta and I soon followed.  There’s something frightening about running to the tip of a dune, gathering as much momentum as possible to throw yourself off the point, when you can’t at all see the other side where you’re going to inevitably land, but that makes it all the more fun.  We tried to get cool pictures, but believe me when I say that it’s really hard to capture such dynamic, ephemeral moments.

The first word that I would like to say about camels is that they’re tall.  Second word, they’re not very attractive animals (in my opinion), but they’re ugly in a really really cute way. Allow me to digress for a moment to give you a small piece of advice.  If ever you are given the opportunity to ride on the back of a camel, opt for a camel that is not visibly drooling at the mouth.  Because if you do get on the back of said drooling camel, the saliva will find its way to your foot or your leg during the journey, especially if you’re headed into the wind.  Just an FYI…

Post-camel adventure, we jumped a few more dunes, collecting more and more sand in our jean pockets in the process, and then settled on tiny benches placed in a circle around the common area while camp staff gathered around tam tams and played traditional mbalax music as the sun set before us. Soon, several people were up dancing, or rather, trying to dance in the middle of the circle right up until dinner time.  The short dinner tents were just behind the circle of benches, and we enjoyed an incredible meal together, all eleven of us.  Surrounded by brightly patterned fabrics and feeling as if we were in the middle of the movie Hidalgo, we dined on couscous with sauce and accompanied by an excellent selection of meats and vegetables.  Dinner was followed by dessert, sliced pineapple soaked in pineapple juice.

While some among us went on a nighttime walk through the dunes, Devyn, Zawadi, and I situated ourselves right outside of our tent and spent the next half hour or hour staring up at the night sky watching for meteors and singing random songs.

What I loved about break this year was that it was an actual break.  I remember taking time at La Louisiane, for example, to sit on the balcony and reflect on the fact that I’ve been all-go, no-quit, study hard, never sleep Tiana since probably before my freshman year of college.  Even when I’ve taken “breaks,” I’ve always had pressing concerns or scheduled agendas.  This week, the agenda book was thrown out the window.  Disconcerting, to be sure, but more necessary than I ever imagined.  I also loved the various, precious, and plentiful “Oh my gosh, I am in Africa right now riding a camel” or “face to face with a crocodile” or “riding on a rickety cart behind a horse” or “singing Disney songs at the foot of a giant sand dune under the stars!” moments.  I wish I could explain it all more eloquently, but despite my efforts, I know I could not do it justice.

The closer we came to Dakar that final day of our journey, the more excited I became at the thought of seeing my family.  I anticipated a bittersweet weekend ahead.  I had two and a half days to spend every possible second with my family and prepare myself mentally for an entirely new element of my journey in Senegal.

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One comment

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