For fifty years or more my family has been involved in the game of Mahjong; at every family gathering the tiles and dice would come out and the Chinese oaths would begin. Now days, however, Mahjong players are hard to find. So about 15 years ago when an English college student taught me the new game Shithead, it became the game of choice for family events. Plus Karin and I played best two out of three hands most nights after dinner instead of immediately jumping up from the table.
It did not take long for this infectious game to spread among family and friends. The rules appear complicated at first look but when you have played three hands you understand the game. The hands go quickly and are exciting because the outcome is undetermined until the last hole card is turned over. The leader can quickly become the loser. By the way, there are no winners in a Shithead game, only losers.
Speaking of rules. A quick browse on the internet produces as many variations as there are locations where the game is played. This appears to be the natural course for a game popular among young drinkers and smokers(not tobacco).
Now the point of this is to point out a major benefit of long term travel. You have the time to find and experience off beat, out-of-the way festivals, events and activities. So I first searched for Mahjong in Prague and then for Shithead and turned up Jičin International Shithead League on Facebook. We arrived in Prague on 31 March and on 20 April we caught the bus to the quaint town of Jičin(Jitz son) about an hour out of Prague.
We arrived early enough to explore the town and have lunch before arriving at the
Grand Hotel Praha for the tournament. Both Karin and I had difficulty adapting our game strategy to the local rules which were very different than those we had used in thousands of games over 15 years. The main benefit was spending an enjoyable afternoon with a mixture of expats and Czech students practicing their already good English.
We did not make it back for the May event but did for the season grand finale on 27 June, the last day of school for the Jičin college students. The mood was festive and many had dressed up for the occasion. I wore a tie for the first time in a couple of years. I did play better but consistently lost to one of the best student players. Karin not only won her table to enter the semi-finals, she came close to beating the player with the highest win percentage and finished second out of 22 very experienced entrants.
How many tourists can have this kind of experience?