Timothy Kenny, a former University of Connecticut journalism professor and foreign correspondent, has had quite the career traveling to places like Kosovo, Afghanistan and further as a reporter, resulting in a memoir of his travels entitled, “Far Country: Stories from Abroad and Other Places.”
Kenny presented a reading of “Far Country” at UConn on Tuesday night, explaining why he decided to write the book.
“I wrote this book for three reasons: the first because I’ve been to a lot of places, and I think some of the places I’ve been are interesting,” Kenny said. “The second is that I was hoping that people who read the book will get a sense of how different we are in this country compared to others… The third reason is just to leave stories of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been to my kids.”
Kenny emphasized that different cultures around the world have vastly different worldviews and do not experience life the same way that Westerners do.
“When you scratch the surface of other cultures… we don’t see the world the same way at all,” Kenny said. “It’s not obvious until you try to fit in in a place that’s so completely different.”
Before he began reading from his book, which is a collection of stories gathered from Kenny’s travels overseas, Kenny explained the first time that he was sent overseas on an assignment. His first trip to another country to cover a story was at the height of the “Intifada” in Israel.
“I jumped at the chance, not really knowing what it would all be about…Then my editor said, ‘why don’t you stop off at Belfast, it’s the twentieth anniversary of British troops arriving there,” Kenny said. “So I spent a week in Belfast, wandering around, trying to get a sense of what’s going on, as both sides of this religious issue started heating up. It was the beginning of what I was going to do the next few years.”
Kenny’s first story, however, was about his time spent in Eastern Connecticut during Hurricane Irene, drawing comparisons to countries that he had visited.
“Powerless for six days, it was not long before Eastern Connecticut morphed into places I had been - like Bucharest…No one knew when the power would die. Its return brought relief and some annoyance that it had gone,” Kenny said.
Kenny quickly got to main appeal of “Far Country,” which is the numerous candid and informative stories that cover Kenny’s experiences in Afghanistan and Kosovo. In one passage, Kenny recalls how his hotel in Kabul was the victim of several bomb threats.
“Bomb threats forced people out of the hotel in the middle of the night, but no bombs exploded while I was there. I was too lazy to change hotels,” Kenny said.
In another passage, Kenny recalls how a woman on the street saved him from getting into a taxi cab being operated by a drug-addled junkie.
“The middle aged woman looked at me with reproach, and told me, ‘you must be more careful.’ I shed my sense of security,” Kenny said. “Anyone with a lick of sense keeps their eyes on the road ahead, looking for police checkpoints and steering clear of military convoys.”
Kenny concluded the reading with a brief description of the government in Azerbaijan, and how Americans should be grateful that we live in a country with tolerance and democracy.
Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.