There are some things you never want to hear before going into a really old building.

“Wow! We definitely don’t want to be here if there is an earthquake,” is definitely one of them.

That is exactly what my leader, Philip, said as we climbed the steep metal stairs of this ancient-looking two-story structure to play mahjong.

Inside I was greeted by the sight of square mahjong tables surrounded by teenagers and old people alike and the smell of cigarette smoke mingling with the aroma of the open outdoor toilets.

I had never played this game before and it took me a while to get the hang of it, but luckily the fact that I am Western attracts a lot of attention and I got some coaching from a random Asian man who just started grabbing my tiles and playing for me.  Needless to
say I emerged victorious!  At the end of the night I can truly say that I experienced the game of mahjong, one of Asia’s most valued traditions, in a unique and memorable way.