I love all holidays, including those that were never part of my family traditions. Rich and I were once in India during the spring Holi Festival, where people celebrate the triumph of good over evil by throwing paint on one another. We wore old clothes and considered it a hoot to get spattered in honor of a reincarnated Hindu prankster god. Here in Spain, you can have similar fun ruining old clothes with tomatoes at the August fiesta of La Tomatina, which got its start when a youth fell off a parade platform onto a tomato-seller’s stall. I’ve never attended that one, but it’s on my short list, as is the city-wide water fight Songkran with which Bangkok residents wash away their misfortunes in April's New Year festivities.
My point is, holidays can be messy affairs, but they do add color and richness to our lives. They are the pivot points on which each year turns, giving us a sense of continuity with the past and momentum propelling us into the future. If you and your family have decided to spend the holidays on the road this year, how can you create a satisfying celebration? More to the point, how can you keep a bunch of kids entertained in a hotel room or Airbnb apartment? It’s hard to get in the holiday spirit when everyone is sitting around gazing glassy-eyed at their cell phones or a TV screen showing Love Actually in a language nobody understands.
So how do you energize the crowd? Back in the dark ages before we all carried electronic devices, people used to play parlor games, homemade entertainment designed to get everyone up off the couch and into the action. Here are a few of our favorites; click on each header for details and rules.
The Memory Game
This Thanksgiving, I had a crowd of almost forty guests to entertain, so I hit upon a variant of a game that’s been used for centuries to hone perception and recall. In the classic Kim, the Memory Game was used to train a boy spy, and it’s still taught in scout packs and the US military. You assemble 25 small items — hotel toiletries, matchbooks, photos torn from brochures, etc. — and cover them with a scarf or napkin. Remove the scarf for sixty seconds, let everyone look at the objects, then cover them up again while people write down everything they remember. The one who correctly identifies the most items wins. If you have a big crowd as we did, have them compete as teams. You’ll need multiple collections of stuff and should allow far less viewing time; 15 seconds for a team of six is about right. One of the beauties of this one is that people of all ages, backgrounds, and languages compete as equals. As you can see, the game held our guests utterly enthralled.
Photos by Randy Hulett
Who Am I?
In this one, participants try to guess whose name is written on the Post-it note stuck to their forehead or pinned to the back of their shirt. The rules are simple. 1. Pick a category, such as Star Wars characters or famous athletes; this year, I wouldn’t suggest political figures unless you are very, very sure of your audience. 2. Have everyone write down a name and attach it to the forehead (or shirt) of another person without letting them see who it is. 3. To figure out your identity, you ask questions such as, “Am I a woman?” Answers are strictly limited to “yes” or “no.” I’ve heard there are ways to compete and win, but I’ve usually seen it done simply as an icebreaker and to create a lot of convivial pandemonium.
My family loves this game and we always limit it to movie titles as this is the most common ground among a wide spectrum of participants. We split into two groups, and each team writes down movie titles and drops the folded papers into a bowl or hat. A player from the other side picks a title then acts it out without using any words; teammates attempt to guess what it is. I will never forget the time Rich drew Alex and Emma and decided to suggest the last word by pantomiming an enema. No one had a clue what the movie was, but his graphic enactment was unmistakable and had us all collapsed on the floor sobbing with laughter. Good times.
Not all holiday celebrations adapt well to rented lodgings. I’d advise against re-enacting Holi Day or La Tomatina in your rental apartment, and you might want to avoid Rich’s Alex and Emma approach if you’re playing charades in a busy hotel lounge. But including a few parlor games in your family’s celebrations is a great way to build memories together. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about?
Thanks & Praise
A week ago, I mentioned on this blog that my new book is coming out January 5 and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. Your response was amazing. Women of the American Resistance: You Are the One We Have Been Waiting For was pre-ordered so many times it shot up to a rank of #2 on the Amazon Best Seller list for its category. That is phenomenal by any standard and was the best holiday gift I could receive. My deepest gratitude to you all for helping launch the book and for being part of my readership. Your comments on this blog give me fresh insight, make me laugh, and keep me on my toes. Gracias, amigos. You’re the best!
To address a few questions that have come my way: No, Amazon doesn't allow pre-orders to be sent as gifts, nor can you order multiple copies. Yes, there will be a paperback version; it comes out on January 5 at the same time as the Kindle. Not a Kindle person but want to take advantage of the 99 cent launch price for the e-book? Download Amazon's new, free Kindle app and read the e-book on any phone or tablet.
Among the joys of travel are encounters with ordinary women living in extraordinary times who accomplish seemingly impossible things with minimal resources. Take the Kenyan village that Rich and I once visited on behalf of an American charity. Located close to ground zero of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the remote jungle village had lost half its men to disease, and most of the other males had departed to seek work, often disappearing forever. The women were left behind to figure out how to survive on their own.
The well-meaning charity gave them a bull, but — as the women later told us — that animal was of little use to them. The minute the charity’s representatives were gone, the village women sold the bull and bought a young cow to breed and provide milk. The milk money went to buy a sack of grain, which was sold off in smaller, more profitable quantities, with some held back to plant for themselves. With tremendous pride, they showed us their modest crops and small herd of cows. A calf was born during our stay in the village, and you can imagine how flattered Rich was to learn they’d named it after him.
On various assignments, Rich and I have spent time with Bosnian war widows, Salvadorian sewing collectives, and Kenyan women rescuing children from forced marriages to village elders. I've learned that in truly dire circumstances, it’s usually women who step up to do what needs to be done.
Now that my country is in dire political straits, I’m not surprised to find it’s our women who are mobilizing for action. A poll of 28,000 activists shows that 86 percent of those calling legislators are female, and 60 percent of those women are over the age of 46. Some 70% of people polled had participated in the Women’s March and/or travel ban protests, and 97% say they’re likely to protest publicly against the administration in the future.
These days, American women are everywhere, staging sit-ins, running for office, holding politicians accountable, registering voters, making the wheels of protest turn. I’ve spent the past year listening to Resisters, posting articles about their accomplishments, making videos about their work, and now writing a book called Women of the American Resistance.
Here's what I've learned: It’s likely to take 11 million active resisters to achieve peaceful regime change in America. That’s based on research evaluating every major effort to overthrow or replace a government anywhere in the world since 1900. Non-violent civil resistance proved the most effective method, and no campaigns failed once they’d achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population. In the US, 3.5% means 11 million people — approximately twice the number who engaged in the 2017 Women’s March and one sixth of the 65,844,610 people who voted Democrat in the 2016 presidential race. Clearly 3.5% is an achievable goal; in fact, since nobody knows how many people are currently active in the Resistance, it’s quite possible we’ve mobilized more than that already. Or maybe we’re poised at 10,999,999 and just need one more person to get up off the couch and push us over the tipping point.
And that’s why the subtitle of my book is You Are the One We Have Been Waiting For.
This book was written for the millions of progressive sympathizers who remain on the sidelines, unable to envision a role for themselves in the struggle. They are outraged and agonized but simply can’t connect with a specific task that seems meaningful and high-impact. The goal of this book is to transform those sympathetic onlookers into activists.
The book shares remarkable stories of ordinary women who have found extraordinary ways to address the challenges facing our nation. And it provides descriptions and contact details to connect readers with dozens of organizations seeking volunteers for fieldwork, online activities, and administrative support in offices, law firms, and clinics. Yes, you can make a difference — and these organizations are standing by to help you figure out how.
Altering the course of the ship of state is never easy, and it's going to require all hands on deck, starting now. This can't wait for a more convenient time, or the excitement of the run-up to the 2020 election, or for some leader to come along and save us, like Prince Charming rescuing us from the tower. We need to rescue ourselves.
Women of the American Resistance: You Are the One We Have Been Waiting For is now available for preorder as a Kindle e-book. The initial deep discount of 99 cents for the Kindle edition will continue until after the Women's March, in honor of all those who are mobilizing.
This book is the result of more than my research into the post-election upheaval and conversations with progressives working for change. Writing the book drew on perspective I've gained in a lifetime of travel to places where people faced challenges we Americans can scarcely imagine — for instance spending nearly the entire twentieth century under the successive rule of tyrants from the Russian Empire, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union, as so much of Eastern Europe did.
A Bosnian women once told me that when the four-year Siege of Sarajevo broke out in 1992, she was utterly blindsided. “We were a modern European country,” she said. “It was literally unthinkable.” Progressive Americans cannot claim that we don't see trouble coming from the current administration. The question is, what are we prepared to do about it?
Women of the American Resistance: You Are the One We Have Been Waiting For
Publication date: January 5, 2018
Formats: Paperback and Kindle e-book
All revenues from book sales: Donated to Planned Parenthood
I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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