April 7, 2010

Lovely Leuven Day

In the center of Leuven is Europe's longest bar - Oude Markt. Although, it's not really a "bar" in American context. It's actually more like an open space, the size of a football field, filled with chairs and tables - outdoor extensions of the caf├ęs that outline the space. 
On a beautiful day Oude Markt is filled with people - sunning, sipping coffee, drinking beer and hanging out with friends. Yesterday was a gorgeous day sunny day in the 60's, a break from the 40 degree weather we endured all weekend.  I met some friends at a table and learned how to play Mahjong.

We played a simple version from the Chinese province where my friend is from. The first step in the game is to "wash" the tiles.

Next, you build up walls between the four players. These walls are about 13 - 15 tiles across and two tiles high.
This is fun to do with architects.

Now, we are ready to play!

The dice is rolled in the center of the walls (the courtyard). The highest number is the dealer, or the one who goes first. The first tiles that are to be dealt out are determined by the number rolled on the dice and counted on the walls in a counterclockwise direction, and then by the number of tiles on the wall in a clockwise direction. Did you get that? 

All four players take turns taking four tiles until they have 12 tiles, and then the dealer delivers one more to each player for a total of 13 tiles. 

The object of this version of mahjong is to be the first with four sets - there are many combinations - but the one I was striving for was four sets of three and a pair. It's a lot like gin rummy.
The characters that we played with are stones, bamboo and ones (100,000), but there are more in the set. Maybe next time we'll play a more advanced version and use all of the other tiles. 

It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Chinese characters for the numbers 1 - 9. 

Mahjong is also known as the silent battle, something I understand now. It's a fun game especially when played with friends (good teachers) and refreshments.
Nothing like a Hoegaarden on a gorgeous sunny day,

and Chinese cookies, also known as Want Want.

A fun day in the sun!

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