When Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traveler interviewed me about Cambodia, he asked me what memory made me laugh and think: “Only in Cambodia.” The question made me nostalgic for my very recent trip, while my answer made me nostalgic for childhood games.
Rock, Papers, Scissors
On the beach at Sihanoukville, while I was trying to read my book, a little girl selling string bracelets challenged me to a game of Rock, Papers, Scissors. She wouldn’t quit. I played her under the condition that she would stop harassing me to purchase a bracelet if I won. If she won, I would be required to purchase two. “I’m the international bronze medal winner in Rock, Paper, Scissors,” I explained. (Full Disclosure: I lied.) This bluff, however, worked to my advantage. She lost her cool and I was able to read fist, flat hand, or peace sign in her countenance. I easily defeated the child, taking three games out of our first four. I decided as an ambassador of the game that I should still purchase the bracelet that I had won from her. This was a bad decision because her friends started requesting games of Rock, Paper, Scissors. They figured the challenge was a win-win, since even their friend’s loss resulted in a sale. “I’m too tired,” I lied again. (I can easily play ten games of Rock, Paper, Scissors without even requiring a nap.) One little girl threatened to slap me in the face if I didn’t play her. I held my ground and she cursed me out. Like a child who had been bullied during a competitive game of hop scotch, I wanted to run home and tell my mother, but this was Cambodia.
Hide and Seek in Sihanoukville
Later that evening, a little beggar child, no more than three years old, played Hide and Seek with my wife from behind a concrete post. Some traveler from Germany had told us that you should not give money or food to these kids because it encourages their parents to continue to send them out on the streets, where they’ll continue to beg, foregoing an education. I doubt that the unsuccessful beggars are told by their parents: “Hey, your begging could use some work. Why not go to school until you figure out how to be a better beggar?” So since we felt that it wasn’t going to forever alter her future, we rewarded the little girl, who had clearly beaten us at Hide and Seek, since we had been too lazy to move from our chairs, with a slice of pizza.
Angkor Wat Tic-Tac-Toe
At Angkor Wat, there were so many saleschildren that the cleverest had figured out methods to differentiate themselves among the competition. Some counted to ten in multiple foreign tongues, some sang songs, others recited Knock Knock jokes. But one little girl had the intelligence and audacity to challenge me to a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. It’s brilliant because adults haven’t played the simple game in so long that after a few rounds they get bored and lazy, and their creativity gets them into trouble. Even though I hadn’t played in a few decades, the child could only force me into a draw.
When’s the last time you got the chance to play games from your childhood? Feel free to write comments below, especially if you’ve recently challenged European kids to games of 7-Up, African kids to Spud, or Latino kids to Running Bases. Engaging penguins in snowball fights does not count and is frankly just despicable.