Tonight we learned how to play mahjong (má jiàng) with Lao Zhao, something we’d talked about doing for a long time. We brought some snacks, including some small pieces of fruit cake for him and his wife to try – they hated it. All the more for us! We learned the names of all the pieces, how the game works, and played some rounds. He has a real mahjong table, with little drawers to stash your money and swing-out cup holders for the tea. We used a can of $1 coins for money (about 3 cents US each; they look like pennies). By the end of the night Lao Zhao had won $1, Jessica broke even, and I was $1 in the hole. But we each won a round (Jessica won two), and had a lot of fun. It forces us to count faster in Chinese, too. The basics at least aren’t all that complicated, but you have to be able to read Chinese numbers: 一二三四五六七八九. It’s like a card game with blocks, where you hold 16 cards in your hand at once and draw from more than one pile It’s the same word in Chinese for playing cards or mahjong tiles: 牌. You want to end up with sets of three of a kind or three in row, and one matching pair. There’s three “suits” plus some other tiles. And there’s all kinds of extra things. I’ll be pretty happy if I can manage to remember the names for everything and the gameplay next time we play. We’ll be back to Lao Zhao’s for more practice when we get the chance.