Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Searching for Gold

On Saturday, I was invited to go “gold mining” with people in town. This was translated by my JTE. It also included a bit of a historic tour of half of town (next year is the other half).
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We started in the parking lot near our michi-no-eki. We did the greetings and heard a quick overview of what we’d be doing that day – most of which I didn’t understand at all, but I just smiled and nodded along, figuring that when we got to an important part of the day, someone would make sure I knew what I was supposed to do.
2011-11-06 Searching For Gold 003After the beginning intros, we headed inside and upstairs to the small town museum. I was surprised at how relaxed it was. My students who were along started picking up and touching stuff and they weren’t scolded and told to put things down. They were even allowed to take one of the things with us so that it could be used while we were out “gold mining” later that day.
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This man was leading our tour, he used to be in my Eikaiwa class and is super friendly. I think he must be a pretty good teacher of all levels because all of my students seemed quite interested in the mini-history lesson he seemed to be giving about my town. In fact, they seemed to have longer attention spans than I did.
I knew that in the past, farming had been a major industry in town, because it still is. I also knew logging and woodworking had been because I had seen pictures. But I had no idea that gold mining had also been a major thing back in the day.
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Here are some of the things they used to do in town.  2011-11-06 Searching For Gold 013
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Could you imagine Snowshoeing or even having to go for long walks in the snow in shoes like these?

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An old-fashioned Japanese type writer, because there are so many characters, they had to pick out the ones they wanted and then put them in the thing in the back that
2011-11-06 Searching For Gold 032picked them up. No wonder type writers and computers took so long to pick up here, if you had to do that every time you wanted to write a simple note, it’d be so much easier to just grab a pen and start writing.

And, of course, an old English book! So glad I wasn’t an ALT in those days. Though, I do think they might have done a better job of teaching kids simple words before they start to move on to tougher ones.

After our walk around the museum, we set off!

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Apparently we have a suspension bridge in town. It was fun to walk 2011-11-06 Searching For Gold 039across it with my students. It made me laugh a lot that they all came in red hats. They were three of my first graders. It was fun to talk with some of them in a non-school setting though.

I was glad to have not gone by myself though, between the red signs with a line and the signs declaring “d2011-11-06 Searching For Gold 041anger,” on my own I would have guessed the bridge wasn’t safe for walking on and that it wasn’t ok to go on it. Instead, we had a good laugh at the kids adventuresome spirits and the moms being scared of how much it moved.

After a bit more driving and showing us a few more historic places 2011-11-06 Searching For Gold 054(often from the bus), we headed out to start gold mining. My friend from eikaiwa showed us how to do it and we got to work. My students were so excited to try their hand at finding 2011-11-06 Searching For Gold 062gold.

The adults, of course got to try too. I’m not sure 2011-11-06 Searching For Gold 060any gold was found, but we all managed to get our fingers pretty cold in the November waters. By the time we finished, my fingers were like ice and one mom passed out hand warmers to all the kids. One of my students shared one with me and then proceeded to show me how to get it to warm up so it would keep my hands warm.

On the way home 3 of my students, one mom and I played shiritori. Shiritori is a word game where the word you say has to start with the last letter of the person before you’s word. I realized as we played that, while I have a lot of Japanese words in my head, I don’t have them connected by first letter, so some letters were incredibly hard to think of words for. It was an interesting realization as a Japanese learner.

I don’t think anyone went home that day with any gold, but it was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.