Saturday, December 5, 2009

The 'Real' Egypt

During college, I signed up for a month long internship in Egypt over Christmas break. Half of the month took the form of touring the Suez Canal Authority and learning about how it operated. The other half was straight up tourism in one of the oldest and most fascinating countries on Earth. That's me in the picture riding a camel to the Great Pyramids of Giza.

If I ever had doubts that 'travel broadens the mind', this trip wiped them away. I learned an awful lot about myself and broadened my perspective beyond the borders of the United States. I think it really gave me a more balanced perspective on world events.

Anyway, years later, Jim and I went back to school to get our Masters of Liberal Studies at North Central College. One quarter, when Jim and I took different classes, I took a course called 'Creative Writing and Public Discourse'. This course was about transforming the creative process from one of introspection to one of looking at the world around us and addressing relevant issues using creativity. It was post 9-11 and, for one of the assignments, I wrote a piece of narrative fiction about my trip to Egypt and how that experience informed my reaction to the 9-11 aftermath. The piece ended up being strong enough to be published in North Central College's literary magazine and I'm very proud of it.

Narrative fiction is a genre in which the writer takes actual experiences in their life and tailors them a bit to create a story that dramatically illustrates an specific issue or theme. Writing this piece allowed me to dive back into my memories of Egypt and crystallize why my reactions to 9-11 - while full of rage and grief - were more measured than those of many people around me who seemed to quickly transform from sensible people into racist war mongers (e.g., 'bomb all those fucking Arabs' and 'Islam is a religion of hate'). I think this response was impossible for me after having been to an Arab country and seeing the wide range of people who live there.

I reread the piece recently, and I really would like to place it in another forum where others might be able to access it. I believe almost all of the experiences I relate in this piece actually happened. The 'fiction' part of the 'narrative fiction' is mainly the ordering of the events and my reactions to them, which are a mixture of what I felt at the time and what I realized years later in digging into those memories. So here it goes! I hope someone reads and enjoys.

No comments: