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I’ve recently become obsessed with a game we play at recess called Majiwe. The game pieces include pieces of broken tiles that we gather off the ground, one bottle cap, and one rock. We use a piece of tile draw a circle on a slab of concrete, which becomes the game board. We put all the broken tile pieces in the middle of the circle, and then take turns throwing the rock in the air, moving tiles in and out of the circle, and then catching the rock.
I’ve quickly put to use my swahili in saying, “Kila siku, ninashindwa!” Everyday I am defeated. At first I noticed how strict the kids were about the rules. If you try to pull a tile out and it lands on the line of the circle, your turn is over. They say “Bife!” which literally means- you FAIL! But after I finally fully understood the rules, and was good enough to actually participate in games… I realized quickly how terrible I am at this game, and how the kids pity me so much that they let me cheat and cheat a little for me. I usually get the very popular in America, “do-over,” the first time my tile lands on the line… or if I miss it all together. Not only that, but when my pile of tiles gets low- I often catch the kids trying to be slick by sneaking some of their tiles into my pile. At first I didn’t WANT their pity gifts… but after refusing a few times and getting out of the game in the first round I realized, maybe it’s better if I just accept them.
A little tolerance for corruption sure goes a long way for my game-playing reputation at recess. I tell myself- It’s just a little bending of the rules, right? Just until I get good enough to really win Majiwe on my own… I never thought embracing corruption could feel so good!