Aug 12th, 2007
I took my first trip to Europe, using the excuse that my sister was studying/interning in Italy and stopping in Copenhagen for the 2nd OEMC. This was the first tournament I ever attended that used the Chinese Official rules and also the first tournament I attended that offered no cash prizes for the winners. The organizers are all volunteering and this was amazing to me, coming from a background where playing Mahjong for money is not only accepted, but considered to be the norm.
I knew this would be the first time that I would meet many people that I had been in contact with via e-mail for the past year (like Martin Rep and Tina Christensen) and some that I had heard of but never gathered the courage to contact (Tom Sloper) and some that I had met before for brief periods (Benjamin Boas). This was my first trip to a place I had never been where I knew no one. It took me forever to figure out how to get to my hotel and even longer to get over the fact that the internet wouldn’t work and the place itself was much different (meaning worse) than the picture on the internet.
Somehow I found my way to the venue for registration. I waited outside and was greeted by the Taiwanese team! They had seen me on the news in Taiwan after my participation in the WSOM (Macau) and started speaking to me in Chinese (even though my interview had been in English). I took this opportunity to practice speaking a bit of Mandarin and make some very good friends from the place I used to live.
Although I wouldn’t be competing, I did have a package waiting for me as a companion. Walking in, I saw the legendary Tom Sloper. He was busy passing out his newly published book to those deserving but he managed to find time to greet me with, “So you’re the famous Jenn!” This coming from the famous Tom! I was surprised and very pleased that he knew who I was and we became fast friends. I also met the rest of Team USA and enjoyed my first Danish meal with some new friends from Austria and France. All I can say is why didn’t you tell me there was horseradish in it??
One thing that surprised me in the opening comments was the emphasis that mahjong should not at all be associated with gambling. This is an opinion that I can never agree with. While I do not believe that all mahjong games must include gambling, I have a great appreciation for the fact that it is easy to incorporate a monetary incentive for winners. I have never considered gambling to be a bad thing and think of it as an important part of my life. To be quite honest, I get a little bit disappointed when people tell me that gambling is bad and should not be associated with the game I love since they are both such huge parts of my life, together and separately. I wonder if it would be something like telling a sommelier that alcohol is bad and not be allowed with meals? I guess I’d have to ask a sommelier… Can someone introduce me?
There were a few interesting occurrences, for instance, the player from Team Osaka that was caught with extra tiles in his lap. I have chosen not to comment extensively on this subject because it was not something I witnessed. I would, however, like to commend Mr. Oda, who continued playing on the 3rd day without a team for support and took 2nd place in the competition. Also, I was granted the honor to ring the gong on the final day. Very excited, I waited by the stage for my cue and when it was finally time, I rang it! But, oh no! I was too quiet! So this time, the gong was rung twice to commence the session. Everyone had a good laugh at my expense (including myself) and it made a great memory to tell all of you about.
Those feelings aside, I enjoyed the entire event. I met amazing people, got to see my first witch burned in the bonfire, learned how many friends I had not only with mahjong as a common interest, but poker as well. I do feel like this trip accomplished a lot and gave me a good understanding of what Mahjong is like outside of Japan and the US. I hope that I can keep in touch with everyone that I’ve met there and that some of you are reading this as well. I was incredibly impressed with the devotion and passion demonstrated by both the organizers and the participants.
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