Hashing (a la Hash House Harriers) has been a popular expat leisure activity for the last 50+ years, beginning in Malaysia, and it’s easy to see why. Completely adaptable to all environments, situations, able bodied people and attractive to all layers of the economic strata. Effectively, you get a trail to start with, in any place… a city street, the jungle, a desert canyon, whatever you got. From there, the leader or “Hare” devises the trail and puts in a few curves. Forks that lead nowhere, challenges if desired, the kind of stuff that you must overcome and thus make the journey itself far more satisfying. As a “turtle”, you must follow the trail, which is somewhat marked with something… paper, paint, or identifiable material. This is sometimes left a significant distance from the prior, and so when one is spotted, the spotter says “On-On” to identify that he is indeed on the correct trail.
So we arrived for our first family Hash a few minutes late at 10am, park under some Rambutan trees . We are at the edge of some light jungle and the Hare is already back at the starting point. He guides us to the beginning of the trail, or to the beginning of a shortcut to our abbreviated start. Bingo, we’re already winners. We pass by a 50+ foot well (baby Jessica has nothing on this!) and cut through a hole in a fence and it’s on. See our first confetti and it’s On-On. A couple of kids are just behind us and see our slick entry. We’re clearly in the know, so good company, right? We go a little ways and find ourselves next to a river, at a 3 way fork with no confetti present to give us a hint.
Take two of the wrong paths, crossing some precarious bridges and realize we are on the wrong trails. Our friend is over enthusiastic and takes a spill into some muddy bits, and we find our next confetti and On-On, with Ellie shouting them off for the rest of the event.
We make our way up a challenging hill, past some shallow graves (seriously) and suddenly we are in a village and all the locals are seeing us pass though. We meet their goats, tell everyone good afternoon and give a few more On-Ons. Passing the next local sustenance-agri village or two and realize that the bananas grown here will be the village supply for the next few weeks, we are up close and personal with the slow food movement, and there is no use of the word organic, although, there is no way it is anything else.
Before I know it, my eye being so preoccupied in my surroundings, the trail is over and we are back to the Rambutan grove by 11:15. Everyone is enjoying a beverage and cooling off. Take a beer or two and meet a new friend at the finish. Kids get chips and we give a little bit of money for the pleasure of cold drinks on hand and to cover some of the Hares expenses. Someone makes a speech and the Hare is thanked. Last, this fulfills the need for a mixer and you meet the participants, who identify as predominately Dutch, British, Irish, Aussies and a mix of family/locals.
So this was the family event, only a pair of beers on the final tally and a ton of kids around. The usual Hash events are traditionally more fraternal. It was originally a way to get just enough fitness into justify another hangover the following day. Drinking might be more of a rule for most of these events, the standard chugging-beer-challenge, in given geographies, under duress. It has this collegiate feel, doesn’t it? Further, the longer you do it and more involved you get in Hashing, the more they remember you, but not by your given name. You get a Hash name, of course. Most hash names are a bit more than insulting, given for a character flaw or observed failure. Finally, the last thing I find is that these frequently begin at about 4pm on M/Tu. These guys are committed, they make time for this… I now see why.
I’m going to find a way to do it again. I did the fraternity-thing in college, which this clearly is a surrogate. So, it appeals to my adolescent-male sensibilities, which are fleeting at the age of 33, but and I still like to exercise them in the correct environment, such as this. It’s fully international, a true mix of characters from all over the globe, and the mix of accents and perspectives is what I want more of. I dont want to sound misogynistic, a Neanderthal, but there is just some outlets that I relish as a male: being lewd in an garage, petty gambling on a billiards table, challenging others and being challenged with a beer in hand. You get it, sometimes we enjoy making poor decisions in a controlled environment. These are things that we should do, in order to maintain our composure when professionally called upon. I can see how this is a sensible way to the delicate balance.
So what’s not to love? I would do this in the States. I’m a bit ashamed I didn’t already.