Several years ago my colleague Mary Griep accompanied my class “Sacred Places in Greece and Turkey.” Among her significant contributions to the course, that and subsequent iterations, was an article about looking at buildings. The author suggested two modes. In one we shine our prior knowledge on the building, in a manner rather like directing the beam of a flashlight. This approach tends to illumine what we already know. In the other we present ourselves to the building and allow it to make an impression on us, rather like what happens when photosensitive paper is exposed to sunlight. An impression is made on us.
The analogy to the ways we encounter and experience new cultures in travel is perhaps so obvious that I need not elaborate. Nonetheless, I continue to find the comparison useful for thinking about international travel. I present the two mode of seeing to students even if we do not read the article.
Today I was reminded of the options when a friend observed, “Nothing can prepare someone for their first arrival in India.” Photo paper! And yet, we (that is the leaders) try to offer some tools for making sense of those initial impressions, even if the new experience and information require us to revise our expectations.