Connections: Linking with Our Past to Help Us at Present and
Enriching the Students' Futures
– Norm Moline, Edward Hamming Professor of Geography
This fall's East Asian Fall Term was the thirteenth since that first Asian program in 1974. Five classes were offered (art, economics, history, sociology and the cross-disciplinary Seminar in East Asian Cultures) by professors Ma, Ericson, Symons, Smith, Shearer and Moline respectively. We visited nineteen cities, some for two-week stays, some for only a day: Kyoto, Hiroshima, Matsuyama and Tokyo, Japan; Taipei and Keelung, Taiwan; Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Guilin, Wuhan, Suzhou, Shanghai, Xi'an, Yan'an, Luoyang, Zhengzhou, Chengde and Beijing, China, and Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition to the classes, sixty-two special group events were scheduled for afternoons, evenings or non-class days.
In trying to capture some sense of this program in a few words, I believe the word “connections” fits: mental connections with East Asia for students as their worldviews expanded in ways which should inform the rest of their lives and institutional and personal connections which enabled some events to occur.
Some examples of new “mental connections” for the students are the following:
- Familiarity with the different population issues in Japan , Taiwan and China
- Sensitivity to the incredible damages of the atomic bomb and the subsequent desires for a nuclear-free peaceful world as conveyed at Hiroshima 's Peace Park
- Awareness of the complexity of Taiwan-China relations through the guest lecture of Mr. James Huskey of the U.S. Department of State office in Taipei
- Knowledge of the immense impact of globalization in the region as particularly evident in our boat trip by the containerized shipping docks in Hong Kong (no. 2 in the world) and in the technology and economic development zones in Shanghai , Suzhou and Wuhan
- Understanding of China 's long history and of the linkage of that historical record to understandings and interpretations of contemporary China and to the character of the specific cites and regions visited on the trip
- Recognition of the mixed “stories” of China with its extremely rapid economic growth and urban modernizaton, evident in the culture landscape at every stop, but clouded with an increasingly unequal distribution for most social and economic variables revealed in our trips through more remote locales and with unacceptable levels of environmental disruption in countless ways, all leading to characterizations of “many Chinas”
- Understanding of China 's dedication to education improvement evident in our visits to Huazhong Normal University , Wuhan Performing Arts school and an elementary school in Hua Shan Township Village .
- Existence of beautiful natural landscapes and human-created gardens and buildings in each culture
- Renewed sensitivity to issues of war and peace through our visit to the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and at Pearl Harbor navy base where a new American navy ship shared docking space.
With expanded understanding of these and many other issues, the East Asian term students now have new connections with what's happening in the larger world around them.
In a different context, we are grateful for the benefits we receive now as a result of the institutional and personal connections that have evolved with individuals and agencies within the region over the past thirty-three years. In Japanese and Chinese cultures “old friends” mean a great deal. Individuals and institutions which pay attention to these cultures for a long period of time become worthy of special attention. Our connections with Japan Air Lines, the Asai family at the Higashiyama Youth Hostel in Kyoto , the Yoyogi National Olympic Center in Tokyo , the national government and government-run national youth centers in Taiwan , and the YWCA Guest House in Hong Kong yield wonderful benefits in reduced costs, special services and personal friendships. Likewise, our reputation as the first U.S. college or university group of students allowed into the People's Republic of China in 1977 after it began to “open its doors” and an institution which has continued to bring students even in some difficult years has qualified us to be considered “old friends” and, accordingly, yields valuable benefits.
One example illustrates the values of institutional and personal connections. We always time our visit to Taiwan to be at the time of October 10 (“Double Ten”), the national holiday celebrating the origin of the Republic of China. Beginning in 1989 and continuing to the present, I have been able to secure seats for the morning event, complete with special invitations, hats and badges, for our entire group in the honored guests section adjacent to the Presidential Building. Our eighty-five seats represent about one-sixth of the seats available to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This year each member of our group also received an individualized invitation to the special afternoon reception for domestic and foreign dignitaries and leading business executives at the government state house. Dressed in the best clothing brought along on the trip, we were being greeted at the door by the official national hosts when we were asked to step aside a few feet for the President of Taiwan, Chen Shuibian! For the next two hours in the hallways and rooms of the magnificent late Victorian building and the large inner garden, we were treated to a complete array of delicious Chinese, other Asian and Western food and drinks, a string ensemble, folk music groups, acrobatic performances, conversations with other guests and dignitaries, including the colorfully dressed African heads of state. As spotlights on the building and small lights along the garden paths came on to add even more fantasy to the atmosphere, many of us speculated ‘why were we, mere students and faculty from small Augustana College, at this event, one of the most impressive receptions we will experience in a lifetime?' Students and colleagues said that I must have used my “magic” to get these invitations for our group. While I did work hard for these special privileges on Double Ten, instead of “magic” I would say connections. We want students to understand and enjoy that country with its version of Chinese culture just as we want them to enjoy and learn about the People's Republic of China across the Taiwan Straits. By sustaining this interest for thirty-three years and by maintaining regular contacts with foreign affairs officials at its Chicago office between our programs, I have shown the Taiwan government that we value our connection with that country as we do with Japan , Hong Kong and China . Recognizing and rewarding this commitment, that government seeks to expand the connection by treating us as special guests for the 10-10 celebration every three years.
These examples and countless others almost daily for our three months in East Asia illustrate in various ways the values of (a) mental connections for the futures of these students as they link these 2007 experiences to subsequent international events and personal adventures and (b) connections with Augustana's institutional history in the region which bring special benefits to our programs. It is a privilege to be a co-director of this program!
Please send suggested essays to share through the newsletter to Mary Koski