Samuel James Conroy

Gill Chreia

Chreia Progymnasmata

            A.A. Gill provides a divisive piece titled, “America the Marvelous,” in which he describes why America is better than Europe. Gill himself is British so he is not writing this as an American praising America. The article goes into why America is better than Europe through Gill’s life experiences. The piece starts off with Gill recounting a time where he was at an elite liberal dinner party in Europe and a woman at the dinner was desecrating America. She would say, “Stupid, stupid. Americans are stupid. America is stupid. A stupid, stupid country made stupid by stupid, stupid people” (Gill). This is a common take among Europeans, that America is uneducated, loud, annoying, spoiled etc… However, Gill disagrees with this. He believes that America is everything Europe wishes it was, and that the sly remarks are mere jealousy. He backs up his claims by providing evidence of America’s successes, such as having 14 out of the top 20 schools in the world, winning more Nobel prizes than Germany, France, Britain, Japan, and Russia combined, and having 22 peace prized with 12 being for literature.

This is another common diss at America that our literature is not intellectual. Gill states, “It was Camus who sniffily said that only in America could you be a novelist without being an intellectual” (Gill). This attack is misguided as in America, writing is much more straight-forward and plain, there is not a hidden meaning behind every writing that needs to be solved. This is no way means that the writing is of lower quality, it is just simpler to understand. Gill then goes through America’s sudden rise to becoming a world power, and that those who contributed went to America as they knew it was better than the old world.

Gill’s thoughts obviously clash with just about everyone who is not American, however, his evidence more than backs up his claims. He ends the piece with a fantastic jab at Europeans, he states:

“There is in Europe another popular snobbery, about the parochialism of America, the unsophistication of its taste, the limit of its inquiry. This, we’re told, is proved by “how few Americans travel abroad.” Apparently, so we’re told, only 35 percent of Americans have passports. Whenever I hear this, I always think, My good golly gosh, really? That many? Why would you go anywhere else? There is so much of America to wonder at. So much that is the miracle of a newly minted civilization. And anyway, European kids only get passports because they all want to go to New York” (Gill).

This bit of banter is a brilliant way to conclude the piece in stating that the reason Americans do not leave America is because why would they? It is better than anywhere else and that Europeans who travel just come to America anyways.

Samuel E Evans

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Progym: Chreia

“In the Antigua that I knew, we lived on a street named after an English maritime criminal, Horatio Nelson, and all the other streets around us were named after some other English maritime criminals” (24).

Jamaica Kincaid’s writing in A Small Place provides a brilliantly snarky and firm, though very enlightening, perspective on the post-colonial experience. She describes how during the colonial days Antiguans were taught “good behavior,” meaning submission to an oppressive system, as were other colonial subjects. They were exploited and maltreated, only to be left, stranded, once the colonialists decided they’d had enough of the place. This left the Antiguans, as many others, with only a poor, and continually exploitative framework of a government, and an economy that operated much the same.

Kincaid’s writing serves to provide some contrast to more gentle pieces on the subject, as coming from her firsthand perspective, it packs even more punch. She provides an excellent, gripping analysis of the continual mishandling of her home nation by the government and foreign actors. She describes how tourists and foreigners, arriving by plane and escorted to their seaside hotel palaces, employ a highly selective tourist’s gaze, managing to ignore or even find some sense of quaintness in the island’s troubles. Kincaid strips any tourist or foreigner lens away, providing the most direct and wonderfully sarcastic commentary possible to do so.

In some ways similar to A Small Place, I have previously enjoyed reading Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River. Naipaul’s novel, like A Small Place, is a kind of account of post-colonial Africa, in this case from a fictitious first-person perspective, and set in somewhere in Central Africa. However, Naipaul appears to argue somewhat in the favor of the colonizers, saying that post-colonial Africa descended into a kind of Hell, and largely attributing this to the locals. This could be attributed to the protagonist, Salim, being an Indian-African man who is a foreigner in the land he now finds himself in, though the novel still certainly takes a differing stance overall than Kincaid does.

There are innumerous examples to corroborate Kincaid’s argument, from the struggles of post-colonial India to the division of the Middle East to Russia’s many invasions into and long-lasting subjugation of Central Asia. It seems to be the norm, not the exception, that colonized peoples are left with far less than they started with after their colonizers recede. Also, Kincaid’s description of the foreign exploitation of less developed nation is even easier to point out, especially in our now massively globalized world, as well as our ease at overlooking this fact when we buy Bengali-made clothes or travel to stay in luxury resorts built next to shantytowns across the tropical world.

Kincaid has been massively praised for her writing in A Small Place, and in many other works, and is a professor at Harvard University. Her writing is widely applicable, though is also highly specific and personal to Antigua, and her experience there. This makes it both very moving and memorable, and certainly something to ponder on your next voyage to the pink sand and bottle-blue seas of the Caribbean.

Phillip Wade Wilson

Anthony Bourdain No Reservations – Chreia

In the Anthony Bourdain No Reservations episode where he eats his way through Egypt, I found his tourist gaze to be quite unique. Throughout the entire show he makes references to the pyramids and other famous tourist destinations, yet also includes that he will not be visiting because they are touristy. A common theme among “travelers” but he seems to be unfit of this categorization as well. While he is the host of a television show, so his itinerary is most likely created for him, the way he goes about his Egyptian travels is more along the lines of Iyer than one fully immersed in the tourist gaze.  

A few things led me to this conclusion. First, was his way of talking about delving into the consumption of local delicacies even if they seemed unappealing at first. The pigeon eating, I found to be closer along the “rats with wings” description he gave yet once they showed the preparations my thoughts changed. It looked delicious with all of the spices and rice and even his own description (visual rhetoric at work). The second was the way he went through all walks of life and their consumption of food. He went to the city to eat with businessmen and city folk, then to the rural areas to try local foods from a different Egyptian region, and even to the desert to eat with the Bedouins. All three were very different styles of food, and even more different to the way food is served and eaten in America. 

Catherine Dodd Corona

‘‘Parachute Artists’’ or ‘‘Tourists With Typewriters’’

The Authenticity of Guidebooks

Progymnasmata: Chreia

“In the golden age, writers personally knew the companies’ owners, the companies’ offices were convivial spaces for rest in-between travels and everyone was interested in travel and culture first and money second.”

This is a beautiful point. As travel became more feasible the commercialization of travel also increased. It is a well known concept of the non tourist traveler. The person that wants the local dives and hole in the wall treasures, but in an age of rapid communication that is becoming harder to accomplish. But how can anyone find those places without research. Nowadays that research is tainted with companies paying to put their restaurant or attraction in a travel guide, (regardless Lonely Planet recommendations are still pretty good). It in a way is no longer the only locals dive bar that your cousin found on his trip to London, but that does not mean a tainted brochure is a tainted trip. In ways it is good that money is no longer second. It allows people from more walks of life travel. That being said the aim of this quote is to illustrate the authenticity of older guidebooks and how the connection between writer and companies gave the book/brochure some merit. 

Nathan Ryan Reeves

Shipping out

“Shipping Out” was one of the most fun things I have read in a while that is related to any kind of vacation. Maybe it was because I had been on a cruise once before and felt the same vibes from the text, or maybe it was just entertaining to me. One thing that I’ll praise the author for is that he didn’t stick to one lane in terms of writing about the cruise. Going from his joys to people being depressed brings the tone from happy and joyful, to somber. Truthfully, I think that what he had said in most of his story was accurate since I had experienced it with other people when I had gone on a cruise (the only one I’ve ever been on).

“The universal topic of discussion is “Why Are You Here” Nobody uses the word “pamper” or “luxury.” The word that gets used over and over is “relax.” Everybody characterizes the upcoming week as either a long-put-off reward or a last-ditch effort to salvage sanity…”

This stood out because it had felt real when looking back at my trip, I felt that groups of people were there have fun and getaway, but you could tell who had been a regular traveler since they didn’t care too much for what was happening during the whole things. I had asked people how many cruises ships they have been on, and some were as low as their first time and as high as 6 times in a row. The ones who did not care could be compared to Mona in the text.

“Mona is eighteen. Her grandparents have been taking her on a Luxury Cruise every spring since she was five. Mona always sleeps through both breakfast and lunch and spends all night at the Scorpio Disco and in the Mayfair, Casino playing the slots…”

This brings me back to the question that Wallace had written which was, why are you here. It could be to relax; it could be that it is an occurrence and it then does not feel like a relaxing time. The people that do want to be there will be there for a fun time and take their time seriously. If not, it could lead to a few different outcomes that can make or break a vacation for some. I had talked about this topic with other friends and they too have seen the similarities to Wallace’s experience.

This article touched upon many different themes and topics that could be talked about, but I rather touch upon the concept of the “why”. Why do we go on trips or expeditions? The word relax is overused and is used to describe the week of salvation, when the trip or week could be nothing from salvation if you don’t consider your experience as a joyful experience. I end this off by asking, is this cruise ship experience something that is in our control, does the number of times we experience a trip make it less meaningful, or has capitalism and life blocked our ability to enjoy these kinds of trips?

Samuel E Evans

“Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia” by John Frow

Progym: Chreia

Frow’s writing highlights an idea that has seemed to linger at the back of my mind, though I couldn’t ever have put a finger on. Why do we travel? Culturally, I mean. It seems as though we are all in search of something, thinking that each trip should fulfill something within us, that each moment away from home should be a new page of our enlightenment. Frow takes a spin on this, saying that it in fact nostalgia that drives us, be it of a real historical period, or because of some feeling that a location is more wholesome, enlightened, or real.

“Nostalgia for a lost authenticity is a paralyzing structure of historical reflection,”

he writes, and this reflection leads us far and wide to find authenticity (135).

Frow asserts that nostalgia is an essential part of the tourist experience, in large part because it is central to our modernity. He writes that modern society at large, though often not even knowing it, is constantly longing for some lost, fictional past in which things were better. We long for “simpler times” indicated by childhood or happy days, and we think that somehow we have collectively undergone some kind of cultural decline. For example, every election cycle you hear calls that “oh this could never be worse,” or “I’ve never seen something like this,” and people long for the Obama or Reagan or Kennedy years when things were better, easier, or simpler, when in fact you heard the same calls at those times. It is this kind of eternal nostalgia, Frow says, that contributes to our tourist culture.

In his writing, Frow briefly references the popular idea of traveling for exoticism. The idea is very similar to his concept of traveling for nostalgia, in that from both perspectives we are in search of something as travelers. Both, to some extent, seek authenticity: something that is authentically foreign and exotic, or something that is authentic because of its relation to a better era. We may also think of traveling for the exotic as a kind of nostalgia, as we ride the gondolas in Venice or the tuk-tuks in India because they are both foreign and almost from another time from our Western perspective. The two ideas are not contradicting, but rather reinforce each other.

The souvenir, Frow says, is a prime example of nostalgia in travel. He says,

“the souvenir has as its vocation the continual reestablishment of a bridge between origin and trace… it works by establishing a metonymic relation with the moment of origin” (145).

We are so attached to this kind of nostalgia, that not only do we travel to fulfill our desire for it, but we must also buy tokens to remind us of our journeys to do so, to satisfy our following nostalgia for the trip itself. This is almost a kind of cycle of nostalgia, and it is a perfect example of the travel industry capitalizing on this concept. I, for example, traveled to my hometown of Green Bay driven by nostalgia and then bought a t-shirt in anticipation of future nostalgia for that trip; the same can be said of my trip to Germany, I traveled there almost for a kind of cultural nostalgia for the Old World, and I returned with beer-hall coasters.

Frow’s thesis in this piece represents the most convincing argument for why we travel that I have read thus far. Nostalgia is abundant in our culture, and the more I consider it the more I see it around us. It is no doubt then that we would choose our destinations based on nostalgia. Few people choose to travel to brand-new landmarks, because they do not have the cultural history to make them relevant, and many popular new landmarks are built with some kind of historical grandeur in mind. Frow’s argument seems to be the most logical conclusion based upon this. We don’t leave behind our culture of nostalgia when we travel, but rather our travel is one output for this nostalgia.

Samuel James Conroy

Chreia Progymnasmata

Chreia Progymnasmata

            Pico Iyer has put out great work on not only his personal travels but traveling as a whole. His experience as being a foreigner in multiple countries has given a great insight on the intricacies of travel.

In his article, “The Foreign Spell,” Iyer goes into the life of being a foreigner and what it truly means. He gives his personal experience of being a foreigner in Britain and America due to his family originally coming from India. He states,

“I was a foreigner on all three of the continents that might have claimed me—a little Indian boy with an English accent and an American green card” (Iyer Para. 1).

Iyer would even be considered a foreigner in his “home” country of India due to not being born there and having an English accent.

Iyer goes into the minutiae of what it means to be a foreigner due to the ever-growing number of foreigners in the world. Iyer mentions about how there will soon be more foreigners on earth than there will be Americans. He also describes how in most major cities you will find people on just about every corner speaking a different language and dealing with different customs than yourself. Due to this growing population Iyer wants to give his insight on what it means to be a foreigner in order to bring more familiarity to the matter and explain the benefits rather than draw on the negatives.

Iyer warns of not assuming we have common values or feelings in our global world just because we are simply more connected than ever. He relates his own life to this sentiment by explaining his travels growing up. Iyer was able to travel between England and California numerous times a year unlike most humans had ever traveled before, yet, he never felt comfortable settling in just one place due to this constant movement. This is not all bad as Iyer says,

“all I thought then was that nearly everywhere I knew was foreign, which meant that nearly everywhere had the power to unsettle and surprise me, forever” (Iyer Para. 29).



Paula I Arraiza

Being a Foreigner at Home

Type of Progym: Chreia/Anecdote

Iyer’s article, The Foreign Spell, mostly talks about how no matter how much time we spend in a country that isn’t our home, we will never get to know it and understand it as much as a local in said country. He uses anecdotes from his own travel experiences, sharing stories from trips to Bali to living in Japan for more than twenty years, to help us understand his claim that we’ll never truly know a place unless we’re from that place. Iyer uses these anecdotes to teach us about how traveling should be about embracing the unknown. He concludes his article by saying that

“It’s a blessing to be a foreigner everywhere, detached and able to see the fun in things.”

Iyer believes that being a foreigner is a good thing since it gives you a different perspective on the place you’re at. Even if you’re not from a place that is heavily visited by tourists, like New York or Los Angeles, we sometimes tend to forget the beauty of the place we live in. This is because we’re so used to having certain things close to us that we take them for granted.

 I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of taking my home country for granted. Growing up in Puerto Rico, it’s easy to become somewhat desensitized to the beautiful sights around you, or the year-round tropical weather. I never understood the beauty this island has to offer until I moved away, and the beach was no longer a five-minute car ride away, or I had to wear layers of clothing to keep myself somewhat warm. If someone asked me a year ago if Puerto Rico was worth visiting, I’d tell them there’s nothing worth seeing here, and they should rather go somewhere else. I hated the place I spent basically ninety-nine percent of my life in because I had become so used to all the exotic sights around me. This hate of my country got to the point where I would cry every time I boarded a plane to go back home, it would frustrate me to have to go back to what I considered to be such a boring place. There was nothing I hated more than spending a weekend away at the beach, which sounds completely crazy when you hear it. It wasn’t until I spent time away that I came to realize the privilege I had of living in the middle of a tourist destination. When coming back for winter break during my freshman year of college, I was so excited to experience all the things I hated about my hometown before. For the first time in years, I didn’t cry on the plane to Puerto Rico, I felt the same type of excitement you feel the night before a big trip. I spent the two weeks I was at home going to the beach nearly every day and enjoying the weather I so badly wanted to get away with. I experienced first-hand what Iyer mentioned. Coming back made me feel like I was a tourist, I began to be excited about things that had always been there, taking pictures and Instagramming every chance I got. Even though I wasn’t technically in a completely foreign place, going away for an extended period made me feel like a foreigner in my home once I came back. It gave me a different perspective of the island I grew up in and helped me learn to love it instead of hating it. I had grown to be so accustomed to certain things that I forgot how lucky I was, and moving away made me able to detach myself and see the fun in my hometown, just like Iyer mentions happens when you visit somewhere new.

Catherine Dodd Corona

Why we travel. In the eyes of Iyer.

The nonreligious religious aspect for why we travel.

Progymnasmata: Chreia

In a world full of social media, selfie sticks, and full camera rolls it is hard to emphasize the magic of travel. It seems today that a large group of people only go on adventures for the pictures and audience that will see them. But I would argue that regardless of their aim internal growth is stapled to the experience. Iyer, a well known author on travel, highlights this romantic perspective on why we travel. While he has other aims in his essay, Why we travel, one of them is clearly the aspect that different cultures cause an internal awakening. He states, “in some sense, that all the significant movement we ever take is internal.” In this he exemplifies the significance of moving internally and growing. Not only do different cultures emphasize this internal movement but it places it on fast forward. Placing oneself in an uncomfortable, unknown is essential for internal growth. He also discusses meditation, and in a way how traveling can make reflection explode and speed up. Not necessarily reflection on the differences and similarities between culture but instead reflection on the inner being. This is a very religious, especially Buddhist, practice. He makes this point by first stating that he is not religious but this practice in a sense certainly is. He writes, “I’m not religious, but one beauty of a religious practice, I sense, is that though it does not infallibly give one solace or wisdom. It almost always leaves one with a greater sense of humility.” In a romantic sense he highlights this external, larger entity that we sense and feel, when we practice inward reflection. He also states that reflection caused by travel often does not instill solace or wisdom but leaves a person humbled by the grander entity. Which contradicts the reason lots of people travel, to gain wisdom and separate yourself from the well known. Even though these aims contradict themselves they are both good reasons to step into the unknown. This greater entity is the indescribable feeling of connection between different cultures. We travel for that reflection and connection to the greater world.