My fellow teachers were insistent. But was it fair for me to play?
When they ask me, I smile, and politely decline.
"No, join us," they say. "We like to play each day at lunch."
These are my fellow teachers at the high school in Mokhotlong, up in the eastern mountains of Lesotho, a tiny enclave surrounded by South Africa. Mapola teaches math; Ntheola, chemistry; Duma, civics; Mothibeli, English; Makheta and Makashane, computer science. These six friendly Basotho are trying to get me into a friendly game of Scrabble.
"It is so important," they tell me, "to refresh the mind during lunchtime."
These are men I have known for only a short time, and they have been very kind in welcoming me to the high school. I feel it would be impolitic for me to waltz into the lunchtime men's club and dominate the Scrabble board. But they are insistent and I finally cave, not wanting to seem standoffish.
I decide on a few personal ground rules: No showoff words. Definitely no challenging anyone's words. Don't win by too much. Have fun, and be gracious in victory. I take a look at the game. The board is held together with masking tape, and the racks for the tiles are missing. Duma holds his pieces cupped in his hands. Makashane has his tiles tucked into the felts of an upside-down chalkboard eraser.