Japanese students try their hand at curling

Perry
Perry Bergson
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Published on March 24, 2014

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Curling may be on its way to becoming an international game but the smiles it created on Monday morning transcended cultures.

Volunteers from the Senior Men’s Curling Club volunteered their time to teach the roaring game to 17 young Japanese visitors who arrived in Prince Albert on Friday.

Marvin Erickson spoke for the senior curlers, who offer classes to local students all winter at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club.

“Our senior group looks forward to this,” he said. “This is kind of our wrap-up; generally they’re here within the last class or two. And the gals that come rarely speak much English but they mimic what they do. Their excitement and the pictures that they take and the smiles are a really nice ending for us.”

The Japanese visitors have been a spring tradition in Prince Albert for nearly a decade.

The program is set up by Global Partners Institute (GPI) between Rivier Academy and its sister school Kenmei Joshi Gakuin, which is located near Osaka.

Seventeen students and their English teacher and a tour guide arrived late Friday.

GPI Saskatchewan regional manager Jeannette Eddolls said the students are also thrilled to try curling.

“The girls are really excited about it because it’s a new sport for them,” Eddolls said. “Some of them haven’t even seen it on TV. A few of them did because the Olympics just happened but it’s new to them. To experience Canadian activities is very exciting.”

The curling program, which is co-ordinated by Jim Churchward and Morley Harrison, isn’t aimed solely at the visitors. A group of 17-19 senior curlers do a Learn To Curl program on Monday and Tuesday mornings that see each class get three or four sessions.

In all, the volunteers offered 300-400 hours of instruction this winter.

Rivier, which is hosting the Japanese students, is one of the participating schools.

“At the end of the season when the Japanese come, they incorporate their students and bring the Japanese for a curling experience and a Canadian Saskatchewan experience while they’re here,” Erickson said.

“It’s amazing how well they do.”

The time on the ice involved a lot of hands-on instruction. There were plenty of gentle mishaps on the ice as the girls delivered their rocks, invariably ending in laughter as they picked themselves up.

The young women are kept busy during their 13-day school trip.

They billet with host families in Prince Albert and attend classes at Rivier. They will teach origami and calligraphy at the school plus answer questions on life in Japan.

They will also share that information at Arthur Pechey School on Tuesday afternoon.

As a result, the learning goes both ways.

“Everybody gains,” Eddolls says. “Actually there are two girls from Japan that came here at the end of August to start school they are going to talk to them about what it’s like to go to school here so they’ll get that from their own people. So that’s another wealth of information and resources for both sides.”

GPI had 18 girls arrive in August, with 14 of them placed around Saskatchewan and four in B.C. for a year of high school.

The girls who just arrived were spending their first morning at the school on Monday.

“It’s also meaningful because we have them matched up one on one with a Rivier student,” Eddolls said. “They had an extra 15 or 20 minutes to converse before we got here so now they’re paired up like that on the ice too.”

The girls this year are better English speakers than some years, which will make the transition a little easier on both sides.

Eddolls says that after a decade of doing the program, one thing is clear for the Japanese teens.

“It will go by in a blur.”

Organizations: Global Partners Institute, Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club, Rivier Academy Arthur Pechey School

Geographic location: Prince Albert, Osaka, Japan Saskatchewan B.C.

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