A child of the world

About a year ago, I wrote about taking the family to an international festival. This was the event where I won happiness by transferring M&Ms between dishes with chop sticks.

At this festival, two Indonesian ladies showed us a traditional marble game called Congkak. They skillfully moved the marbles between wells cut into a wooden tray as I futilely attempted to follow the strategy. It seemed like a fine game, but it involved more thinking than I like to do at my age. My wife was rather taken with it. She continued to watch the women play as I wandered off to enjoy my first taste of Gangnam Style on a large screen Samsung at the South Korean exhibit.

Later in the day, we noticed people at the Malaysian exhibit playing their own version of the game. This redoubled my wife’s interest. I had to agree that if the populations of two countries so culturally distant, and separated by so many thousands of miles, as Indonesia and Malaysia both enjoyed this game, it must be an exceptional entertainment. Having contributed my requisite wise crack on the subject, I forget all about Congkak in the accompanying flash of euphoric smugness.

Congkak board

A traditional Congkak board – not available at Target. (Image: Tropenmuseum)

My wife did not. A year later, she found something that looked like it at Target. It has a different name, so we can’t tell if it is indeed the same game, but the picture on the box shows marbles on a wooden tray, and that’s good enough. She put the game into the cart, declaring that one of the boys would give it to her for her upcoming birthday.

Can't go wrong with wood and marbles

A game that is available at Target, which we bought on the strength of its wood and marbles.

That night, our son found the game on the kitchen counter, where all things we buy that don’t have a preordained spot in the fridge or the pantry sit until we figure out what to do with them. The marbles in the picture must have reminded him of Chinese Checkers. “Is this a Chinese game?” he asked.

“No,” I replied. “I think it’s Indonesian or Malaysian.”

“Can I play it?”

“It belongs to Mommy. You’ll have to ask her. But I think it’s for her birthday, so she probably won’t open it until then.”

He thought for a minute, then put together a statement constituting a powerful argument for letting him play. “Well, I’m Indolaysian.”

“You are? I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah. Just a little bit. But it’s mixed in with the German and Polish and American and all the other stuff, so it’s hard to see.”

“Oh. Well, even so, you’d better go ask Mommy.”

He let it drop. If his lineage bombshell didn’t move me, it sure wasn’t going to do anything for Mommy.

Now, whenever I take a good look at my boy, I try to pick out the Indolaysian traits. He’s right though. The Indolaysian is mixed in seamlessly with the German and Polish and American, and especially all that other stuff. I can hardly pick it out at all.


7 comments on “A child of the world

  1. I can totally see his Indolaysianness!

    Did mommy enjoy the gift she got from the boys? Just because I’m curious, I looked and there’s totally an app for that game. Lol. You’re welcome.

  2. Traci says:

    My Indonesian friends tried to teach me this game, but every time I thought I had it and might actually win a round, they’d throw another “exception rule” on me. That’s when I asked for the Indonesian word for “sucker.”

  3. pieterk515 says:

    So let me understand this… Your kid has the ability to conjure a word like Indolaysian? (which I have difficulty spelling correctly) Is he a child prodigy or something, or does he just take after his mom? 😉

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