Last Saturday marked the end of China's National Holiday. Most locals usually make the most of the last couple free days, and the Li's, Yi's and Hu's were no different. I had the pleasure of joining my student and his family (the Li's) for a day trip to Chengdu's North Lake. We were joined by family friends the Yi's, Hu's and little dog Mimi. The North Lake was actually quite beautiful. It looked pollution-free, had no boats and didn't smell like a toilet. There were many Chinese-style gates and gazebos nearby for many photo opportunities. The ground was set up like a resort, complete with mini-amusement park, midway, junk shops and family restaurants. I was happy to find a little squirt gun at one of the junk shops. Now I can discipline my cat successfully! After we explored a bit, it was lunch time. We ate at the center restaurant of the resort. The food was traditional Sichuan and the drink was baijiu. Baijiu is one of the harshest Chinese liquors. I was curious why we were drinking this at lunchtime, but after the first glass, I understood. The next activity on the slate was tea-drinking and finally....Mahjong! Ever since seeing locals playing this tile game in the street, I knew that I had to learn. Today was the day!
All of the Chinese moms took turns hovering over my shoulder, telling my which tile to play. It took a few rounds, but I was starting to get the hang of it. I would characterize Sichuan Mahjong as a cross between dominos and Rummikube. The tiles comtain three suits and are numbered from one to nine. Some of the tiles are difficult to learn because instead of a number they have the Chinese character. It really is a pretty fun game. Especially after you learn some of the associated Chinese words like: 'La' and 'mao' and my favorite: 'Peng!' After i was pretty good at the game, it was hard for the moms to stop giving me advice. Later, I noticed that they weren't always having me play the best tile as their children were also playing, giving them the upper hand. I look forward to bring Mahjong back to the states, look out world series of poker.