Growing up as the daughter of an Army colonel, Karen Timmons saw her share of the world. She learned the Spanish language in her adolescence living in Argentina and Ecuador. She saw the beautiful landscapes of Germany when her father was stationed there.
Even after she went out on her own, her love for travel, different parts of the world and the unknown intrigued the Bishopville, Md., resident. She backpacked Europe in her 20s with a friend from college. She taught English in Spain.
Soon, though, Timmons will visit the one part of this world she has not yet seen.
On Nov. 12, the English language learning specialist at Frankford Elementary — where nearly half of the students are Hispanic — will be one of 200 Americans to travel to Japan with the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program to learn about the Asian country’s culture.
After returning at the end of November from the three-week trip, she will educate those in the community, the school district and Frankford Elementary on the Japanese culture, which is likely extremely foreign to most here.
“I’m so thrilled to go,” Timmons said this week, about a month before she will travel to San Francisco to board a plane bound for the Far East.
Upon arrival in Japan, her and the 199 other Americans from 50 states participating in the program will tour Tokyo — and have their only day off of the trip. Then, she will be sent with a group of 20 teachers to Hiroshima. All of the teachers will be split into 20-member groups to tour a certain Japanese city.
For three days in Hiroshima, Timmons will stay with a Japanese family before retreating to a hotel for the rest of her stay. She will listen to lecturers, visit schools, and learn about Japanese education and culture.
Others involved with the program have already told Timmons a little about the Eastern culture and to accept a bit of culture shock. Timmons must bring slippers on the trip, for instance. She will have to substitute them for her shoes upon entering the schools.
Slippers are also worn in homes in place of shoes, and a second pair of slippers is designated for bathroom-wear, others have told Timmons.
Such facts will be among the unique reflections and lessons the teacher plans to provide students, teachers and the community upon her return.
Although there are only two Asian students currently enrolled at Frankford Elementary, according to Timmons, and the Japanese do not have a strong presence in local culture, her lessons will be invaluable in history classes and for everyone to better understand another culture, she said.
“We need to learn about other cultures,” Timmons said. “It will be good for the students as well as the teachers.”
Timmons plans to bring back authentic Japanese materials to be used in her classroom lessons, to develop presentations with pictures taken and to make a brochure to illuminate cultural attractions. Timmons also plans to present information to teachers and students in other classrooms across the district, as well as ideas to specialists, and to talk to other community organizations about her experience, including the VFW and her church.
It will give everyone she contacts, even months after her trip, a quick glance into the Japanese culture. Not to mention the trip will give the well-versed daughter of a military man another reason to travel.
“Being an Army brat,” Timmons said, “I get a little restless.”