No, not that kind of hash, the kind where you run around following a trail, which may be deliberately inaccurate, yelling various obscenities, stopping for a beer break midway through, and at the end, everyone gathers in a big circle and makes fun of everyone else and, natch, makes them drink beer — especially the hash virgins, as I discovered yesterday. That kind of hash is a run with the Hash House Harriers, a group that has branches in 1,238 cities in 183 countries, including here in lovely Tajikistan.
They bill themselves as a “drinking club with a running problem,” and that sounds about right to me and for me.
My boss is a regular hasher, as its called, and so is a pretty big contingent of the expat community here, especially the English-speaking part of it. So, despite the fact that it was 97 degrees in the shade yesterday, I sucked it up and decided to give it a try. This week’s course wended its way through a small Tajik village (name: unknown) just north of Dushanbe along the Varzob River. We crossed a rickety, to be nice, bridge made from discarded chunks of metal over the river and started running alongside mud brick walls. The residents of the village were a bit agog seeing us in athletic gear, especially the ladies, running a slalom course around the cow manure patties.
All was relatively well initially and I was with the runners’ pack up front, and then we started to head up, up into the hills. Not super-steep, but steep enough for me. I walked most of the rest of the way, which made it easier to appreciate the starkly pretty views. As I came towards the “Beer Check,” I saw a big group of folks gathered there and they were chanting and guzzling Baltika. I felt I had to oblige everyone, being new to the hash and all, so a sprinted the last bit, exaggerated arm pumping was included.
The American ambassador was at the Beer Check and was very concerned that I looked a bit red-faced from the run; I told her that was my regular m.o. Obviously I impressed her, as she later told my boss, “it’s so nice that you brought your intern to the hash.”
It was all downhill from there . . . literally. And thankfully. After a few more run-ins with the local populace, nothing that was fixed with a “salaam alechem” and a hand over the heart, came another rickety metal bridge. My mom would’ve loved that bridge, it swayed both up and down AND left and right AND it had nice, big gaps in it so you could see the rushing water beneath. Neverthess, the bridge was safely traversed and we all were trundled into cars for transport to a hasher’s house for the “On-In.”
After the ritualized hazing of the people who marked the trail (the “hares”) and the new folks (the aforementioned “virgins”), and then the ritualized hazing of a lot of the other people who ran the trail (the “harriers”) at the On-In came the refreshments. All in all, a good time and I even got a bit of exercise in the bargain. I’ll probably go next week, so there must be something to it. Some of you guys might even want to check it out at home, because yes, there’s a hash in Boston too (actually, there’s two!).