In last week’s model essay, “Appointment in Istanbul,” (Links to an external site.) we saw an example of what we now know can be referred to as a “contact zone”: a space in which two people from different backgrounds and positions of power came together to interact and shift each other’s perspectives.
Similarly, this week we saw another short piece, “Slow Train to Kandy” (see course pack) in which a travel experience–albeit a bit more distanced this time–caused the author to shift his understanding of both himself and the place in which he was traveling. (Note: If you are not otherwise familiar with the setting of Theroux’s piece, he was traveling through Sri Lanka towards the beginning of that country’s civil war.)
Certainly, these kinds of “conversions” or “ah ha!” moments happen during travel all the time. Last week, we focused more on the story aspect of these kinds of experience. This week, we’ll focus on reflection. For instance, after much description, Paul Theroux reflects on his experience by offering the insight that “War is weird in that way: time stops, no one thinks of the future but only of survival or escape.”
He does not over explain the reference, but we can clearly see that he has learned something from his experience, and he is now seeing the world differently. Whereas he began his journey in a pastoral way, enjoying the countryside and thinking about his own personal insights, he is, by the end, unable to ignore the realities of the place in which he is traveling.
Week 3 Assignment:
In 2 double-spaced pages, write a brief recollection of a travel experience that caused your outlook to change in some way. As in the past two assignments, be sure to use plenty of “showing” details to describe your journey and the things you saw. At the same time, offer us a sense of your thoughts along the way.
How were you thinking about things at the beginning of the experience? At the end? Finally, how had your perspective changed as a result of your experience/observations?
Model Essay: Amanda Field’s short, descriptive reflection on her experience riding the Metro in Cairo, “Cairo Tunnel” (Links to an external site.) is an excellent example of descriptive personal reflection.