Degrees and Certifications:
B.A. English LiteratureM.A. Teaching, Secondary
Degrees and Certifications:
Taiwan and China
By LYLE GOULDING
Daily News Staff Writer
August 11, 2010
Traveling in Asia for the first time, Ketchikan High School teacher Sarah Campbell learned a valuable lesson: "Follow your ears."
Following that advice given by a graduate student from the University of Hawaii earlier in the trip turned into greatest experience for Campbell during an "incredible" 17-day trip to Taiwan and China.
Campbell and four of her colleagues on the trip were in Tainan in southern Taiwan. They had been given some free time by trip organizers and started hearing firecrackers going off down the street.
They followed their ears to find a group of men carrying a likeness of an ancestral god down the street.
"There were probably 30 people blocking traffic, letting off firecrackers in the middle of a busy urban setting," Campbell said. "Nobody was honking their horn, nobody was yelling out their window. They would simply wait for the parade procession to go by, or they would go around."
Turns out the procession was part of a once-every-three-years celebration honoring a god and goddess from one of the local temples in Tainan.
As Campbell and the group of American teachers followed the festivities, they were invited to participate. They joined the group for lunch in the home of one of the temple's followers.
"It was a great honor for us to be there, so they fed us lunch and they told us all about their beliefs," Campbell said.
The parade had started at 6 a.m. and continued throughout the day -- in 100-degree temperatures -- visiting homes of believers until the god and goddess were returned to their places in the temple around 8 p.m.
Campbell's group met back up with the procession and participated in the temple ceremony that night.
"It was maybe just what you would envision out of a storybook or see in a movie," Campbell said. "It was in a back alley in Tainan. They had the beautiful red Chinese lanterns strung all throughout the alleyway. It was swept clean; it was just immaculate. The temple was just candles and energy."
The day before the celebration in Tainan, Campbell's group heard a lecture from a professor in Taipei talking about ghosts, gods and goddesses and Asian beliefs.
"The very next day we got to see it in action," Campbell said.
People in Taiwan embrace all kinds of religious views. Campbell didn't know the names of the particular god and goddess being celebrated in Tainan, but taking part in the event was a great way to learn about people and customs.
One of the worshippers at the temple had attended school on the East Coast of the United States for six years and was familiar with American customs and beliefs.
"He was almost like our ambassador for the night and explained everything to us," Campbell said. "Not only did he translate, but he could use analogies and compare American belief systems to what we were seeing and help it make more sense for us."
The hosts were happy to have the teachers participate at the temple.
"It was just a great experience," Campbell said. "They noticed us again and they were so glad these teachers from America came back to witness their local temple."
She was thankful for the graduate student who had given them the early advice.
"He said, 'When you are in Taiwan, follow your ears and it will lead you to great things.' He was so right," Campbell said.
The trip was part of a seminar through the Program for Teaching East Asia at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Campbell was chosen along with nine other high school teachers to take part in the trip. She has been teaching Asian literature at Kayhi for the past five years.
This was the first time she has visited Asia. The trip lasted from June 27 through July 12.
One thing she said surprised her about visiting the region was not feeling outside of her comfort zone in cities of 7 million to 24 million people.
"I wasn't uncomfortable at all," Campbell said. "As a world, we're more connected and interlinked than I would have thought. There were little moments of indigenous culture -- thinks that are unique to their culture or to the land -- but there is definitely an overriding dominant global culture."
One place that reminded her more of Ketchikan than any other location on the trip was a stop at Jinmen. Population on the island is around 45,000 and just 2 kilometers from mainland China, Campbell said.
"It was quieter, the architecture was different, definitely not as much commercialization, it was more insulated and protected and that was unique and I really enjoyed that contrast from a big city of 24 million," Campbell said.
The island was a strategic location during the civil war in China and occupied by Japan from 1937 through 1945.
Campbell said the beaches still are dangerous because of land mines. During the visit the teachers toured extensive underground tunnels which were built for military purposes.
In spite of the problems of the past, the low population density and natural beauty made for a relaxing stop during the trip.
"It was just kind of this beautiful oasis, except for the land mines all over the place, of course," Campbell said.
Teaching students about Asia is important because of the continuing and increasing influence the region has on the world, Campbell said. One in five people in the world is Asian.
"China is a growing economic and a big political force in the world," she said. "I think understanding that region of the world, understanding ideology and belief systems, how we're different, but also how we are the same, is of value."
The Program for Teaching East Asia is funded by the Freeman Foundation and Campbell's trip was all-expenses paid. One of the conditions included her creating a lesson plan based on something she gained from the trip to teach at Kayhi.
Campbell said she likely will focus on the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan. She will introduce the subject through literature including some short stories she already has selected.