I found Linjon, Saffron, and the diplomat’s daughter in the common room, as well as Anker, Ankit, and Linjon’s guide. Our lodge was a small place, so everyone seemed to be socializing. They all greeted me enthusiastically as I came in the room, and waved me over to sit with them.
Anker appeared at my shoulder almost instantly, offering a menu. I ordered a huge pot of Masala Tea, and extra cups so I could share with my friends. They asked why I’d been so late in arriving. I’d been walking with the diplomat, I said. They all nodded.
“She’s having a lot of trouble,” the daughter said. “Thanks for doing that today, I’ve been getting a little frustrated with her.”
“It was interesting,” I said. “I learned a lot! Your mom has a really cool job.”
She shrugged again. “I guess.”
It was something like 4 o’clock, and we had a lot of time to kill.
We turned to cards.
The Germans started by introducing one of their favorite card games: ‘Asshole.” A popular traveling game, Asshole is pretty simple, but can be a punishing game if you are losing. The player who loses the game is branded the ‘asshole,’ and forced to play at a serious disadvantage, as well as being forced to deal the cards and other menial tasks. This means it’s not a very fun game if you’re losing — and after a few rounds, our asshole decided she’d had enough.
“Let’s play something else,” the diplomat’s daughter said.
“I’ve got a game,” I said. “Do you guys know ‘bullshit?’”
I was met with blank stares from every nation at the table.
“Alright,” I explained. “The rules are ere easy. This is a game of lying.”
“Yes. Deception. Trickery. A game of bullshit.”
The faces at the table remained confused.
“I’ll divide up all the cards and deal them out evenly. You can look at your cards, but don’t show anyone else. Your goal is to get rid of all your cards.”
I dealt out the cards.
“OK, now who has the Ace of Spades? That person starts.”
After a bit of confusion, we found the ace.
“So that person plays aces, any number of aces they want, face down. Now, you can put down any cards you want — they don’t actually have to be aces. But here’s the thing; if someone thinks you’re lying, they can call “bullshit!’ If you were lying, you have to take all the cards in the pile. But if you weren’t lying, the person who called bullshit on you had to take the pile. Get it?”
It seemed like a pretty simple game to me, because I’d spent the better part of a whole school year playing this game in the high school library with my friends during my off period. It took a bit longer for the trekkers to get it, but we got there eventually.
The game progresses in a circle, with one player playing aces, the next player has to put down twos, the next plays threes, etc. This means that ultimately, the winner is mostly determined by luck. But a charismatic player can overcome their starting disadvantage, using a combination of lies, forethought, and by turning other players against each other.
Such a playful game is perfect for the Nepali, who were quickly side-eying each other warily between turns, hiding their cards under the table, and screaming “bullshit!” loudly in the crowded common room.
The game carried on, merrily. A snowstorm descended on the valley, and a chill grasped the lodge. We drank one big pot of tea between us all, and then another. At a break in the card game, the guides brought us blanket — a much needed gesture, as I’d been shivering.
“I like this game,” Anker said, as Ankit reluctantly collected a large pile of cards from the center of the table — Anker had just called his bluff.
“That must be because you’re a good bullshitter,” Linjon rejoined from further down the table.
Anker let out a bark of a laugh; all the other Nepali joined it.
The night passed quickly, our individual struggles, anxieties, and troubles lost in a warm haze of community.