Xīnnián kuàilè!!!!!!!! (新年快乐), Chinese for “Happy New Year.” This has been my catch phrase for the past week. With Chinese New Year here, Mallory and I were feeling a little left out. Most of our fellow expats are taking the time off to go on vacations around the island or even to places like Hong Kong and the Philippines. Most of our Taiwanese friends are busy with family. We decided to stay close to home and immerse ourselves in Yilan, although we were getting a little lonely and it’s hard to get out when everything is closed for the holiday.
Before the break started however, our friend promised to teach us how to play mahjong. The day after the main family celebration we called our friend and we asked when they wanted to get together and teach us a thing or two. They said “How’s right now?”
We accepted the invite and hurried over (FYI it is very rude not to accept invitations in Taiwanese culture, unless you have a really good excuse). It was a good time. There was food, wine and lots of our friend’s crazy relatives to make it a really memorable night.
Maybe you’ve played Mahjong on your PC. Real Mahjong is nothing like that. You need four players, and it’s kind of like Rummy meets Dominos all in Chinese.
There are 36 different tiles, four rows of 1-9. The basic idea is that you take 16 tiles for yourself and try to get either three of a kinds or runs of three by taking one tile and discarding one tile each turn. There are really intense betting rules that are way over my head, but if you get a chance to play with some friends it is really fun.
We didn’t start the night off with games though. The first part of any good Chinese New Year party is Karaoke. I sang House of the Rising Sun, Summer Time and Should I Stay or Should I Go. There weren’t many English songs. Our Taiwanese friend and her French husband sang an epic Taiwanese rap that I wish I knew the name of.
After a quick refreshment it was time to get serious. It was time for mahjong. It took us a wile to get the hang of it but after maybe five hands we (Mal and I) could play with little to no help. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, a friend invited us to go play on a real Mahjong table, as opposed to the lumpy one we’d been playing on. This invite meant we had to play solo. If we were playing for money we would be so broke! That’s all I have to say.
We played for four plus hours and it was time to go. Between Mal and I we won maybe four hands out of a lot. It was a real kick in the pants. I hope I don’t have to wait ‘til next Chines New Year to play.
This is my first winning hand!!!