The Games People Play

speed scrabble  

People, the world over, love to play games … usually competitively. Games that are popular in one country are sometimes unknown in another. Folks in Fiji rarely play hockey. Folks in the US rarely participate in banana relays. Traveling from country to country as we do, we get a chance to witness games that are different and many that are the same.


fiji soccer


Football is an interesting sport. What we call football in America is not the same as Australian football. And actually, to most of the world, football is soccer and not at all like football as we know it in the USA, or Australian football for that matter. Then there's rugby, of course, which isn't like either American or Australian football. Soccer is certainly played in the US, but it's nowhere near as popular here as it is in the rest of the world.




Baseball is played in other countries, but its roots are here in America. Whitman said it's “America's game” and it's hard to find someone who doesn't have a favorite team. Oh, they play it in Asia and Europe, but it's nothing like the Americas (both of them). Little League is big here and if you grew up in the States you probably played sandlot baseball when you were a kid. On the other hand, we have no explanation for cricket. The bat is odd, the games last a long time and we don't understand the rules.


emberra basketball


Basketball, both men's and women's, is played in several places throughout the world although the rules seem to differ depending upon the country. One fond memory was a group of young Embera men in the Darien Jungle of Panama playing basketball in loincloths in the middle of their village. It's an image that stays with you.




We've watched polo, a rich man's sport, but it's definitely not a team sport that most folks will ever expect to play.


big chess set


Chess, checkers, backgammon and dominoes seem to be popular worldwide games. Cruisers in Mexico and the Carib were crazy for Mexican train dominoes, but we never caught the fever. We especially love those huge chess sets in downtown city parks where people have to move human size chess pieces from square to square.




In the Amazon, we played Sapo. Sapo in Spanish translates to frog and the object of the game was to throw a disc from a measured distance into a golden frog's mouth or into specifically marked holes with numerical values assigned to them. The person with the highest point score wins. There's some skill involved, but the novelty wore off rather quickly.


banana relay


In French Polynesia, we participated in traditional Polynesian games which included stone lifting, banana relays, coconut husking and outrigger races. Needless to say, though the locals provided instruction and encouragement, we were a sad-looking bunch. It was fun nonetheless.

Re-enactments are popular in many countries. Here in the US, we attended several Civil War re-enactments. Depending whether we were north or south of the Mason-Dixon Line determined who won the particular battle. In Vanuatu, we witnessed a different kind of re-enactment where a century ago locals had attacked arriving missionaries … and subsequently eaten them. The re-enactment stopped just before the “having missionaries for dinner” part, but the attack was definitely authentic looking.

On board, we play lots of card games. Cribbage and gin rummy are two of our favorites. We play backgammon on occasion and Speed Scrabble whenever I can talk David into it. As uncompetitive as we are between us, we still keep score and have been for years. At last count, David was ahead 5,345 to my paltry 5210.




We regularly watch young folks in their tiny Optimist sailboats racing through anchorages and adeptly maneuvering around the big boats and the race markers. Though we always claim we are not interested in racing, it is said that whenever two sailboats are heading the same direction, it's a race. Quite honestly, we truly are not racers and we don't care … but we do like to arrive first.