Pinyin Minion and I have decided (kind of on impulse) to learn mah-jongg – a 4-player Chinese tile game. We need one person for each of the four cardinal directions, and we're slowly gathering possible Glyph players for some kind of weekend escapade.
It makes me smile to know that people at a translation and localization company, at which we handle the content of digital games, want to start playing a tile game from the Qing Dynasty (19th century).
This is also a nostalgic attraction...I think I'm having dangerous expectations about mah-jongg bringing women friends together for 40 years at a time, as it historically has, and I'm conjuring scenes from movies such as Joy Luck Club. I keep wondering whether the sharing of time is what created those lifelong bonds, or whether the shared culture of those historic women had a much bigger impact. Glyph people came here from all over the country if not the world – we share underlying philosophies, but we also have many cultural differences.
Will mah-jongg have the same magic for us? Will it stop time and mark time? Will it give us an opportunity to build love and community? I'm drawn to living slowly, practicing Being exactly where we are, and pulling back from our frenetic lives.
Pinyin Minion and I didn't grow up knowing how to play mah-jongg, either...In our families, as in many others, the game itself had connotations of gambling. It also requires more strategy and patience than the average kid can muster. And when the game pieces are a choking hazard, this rules out households with very young children.
I'll track down a set of tiles this fall. Meanwhile, interested parties can get started on their homework of learning the basic rules of play, which look pretty complex (page includes a link to download the international rules e-book).