The most restful weekends…

I had so much fun this weekend…I’ve been doing this for the past two

weekends and it’s turned out to be really wonderful: my flatmate

and I get up at around 11:30 on Saturday and we eat a

leisurely brunch, then talk about the whole week and catch up.

Slowly we start shuffling the cards that are conveniently within reach

somewhere on the dining room table and progressively we start playing

various games for the rest of the afternoon. It starts out with

Telefunque, a sophisticated, tiered approach to Rummy, and just goes on from there. Today we had my delightful Peruvian friend over to make us

laugh and teach us tons of new games, so we played this speed game

called Nervioso (Nervous Wreck), where we laughed absolutely

hysterically for about an hour…we even played Uno (just one

round….not as exciting as the rest) and a few rounds of Rummikub

(basically rummy with domino-sized tiles) and “Our Friend Ming’s

Grandma’s Solitaire Number Game” which we all became obsessed with, and

both of them attempted to get me excited about Poker. It didn’t

work and I decided after they explained Blackjack to me that the betting games are a LOT more boring than the regular card games.

We drank industrial quantities of tea and water and listened to

everything from Bjork to Juan Luis Gerra and Cesaria Evora, not

forgetting our dear Coldplay as our musical accompaniment for the

afternoon. The strange thing is that playing games for an entire

afternoon is actually an excellent way to spend a weekend. Your mind

gets some exercise, trying to think fast and creatively and you have

fun, so you relax, while at the same time not vegging in front of a TV.

I hope I can play games like this until I become decrepit. I read an

article once that crossword puzzles, number games and jigsaw puzzles

help in the prevention of Alzheimers, and I swear, I’ve developed a

passion for crosswords since I heard that. I don’t mind my body going

to hell, but not my mind. Hell no.

Along the same game lines: last night I was introduced to Mah-Jong and

absolutely loved it, I have been thinking about it all day. It’s sort

of a Rummikub/Rummy/Canasta/Telefunque game, (in the vague overly

generalized sense that you basically have to get rid of your tiles by

arranging them in suits and runs) but two of it’s most interesting

characteristics are the physical design of the game and the way the

tiles are dealt out.

The game comes in a little wooden chest, complete with a little lock,

and are about the size of a small piece of fudge, actually, short and

stocky :-). They are nice and hard, the top part being made of bamboo

and the bottom part of bone, engraved with various exciting-looking

Chinese symbols.

The pieces are noisily mixed on the table by all four players and each one then stacks up the tiles two by two in a row of 18. (I played

around with how to word this and this is the best I could come up

with). The dealer then determines with the help of a dice, from which

part of the four “walls” the players will start gathering their pieces, and they do so by taking four pieces at a time, in a clockwise

direction, until each has 13. It’s all so organized and particular,

it’s absolutely charming. And there are so many wonderful cheeky quirks about the game that it keeps you thoroughly entertained throughout. And when you’re done, you just want to keep playing! For me it was just as much the intellectual exercise, as it was the playfulness of the game and the little rituals associated with it. I felt like I was being introduced to a little cultural gem. One little cute thing is that the dealer automatically becomes East and each player then occupies the other cardinal directions. We had a fun time trying to remember which direction is after East clockwise, when one of our Ostraylian buddies shared the mnemonic tool Never Eat Soggy Weetbix…along with a few other random Aussie expressions that made us all laugh (the dog and the grandfather in the pharmacy or something about the weather) but now it’s too late to remember and I was busy keeping my Chinese characters straight!

Speaking of Aussie…the Australian Film Festival starts tomorrow and

I’m going to the Premiere!!! I’m so excited! It’s a movie called “Two Hands”.


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