The Hash House Harriers is a drinking club with a running problem.
One person is appointed “The Hare” and lays out a trail using flower or spray paint. The group attempts to navigate the Hare’s trail trying not to get distracted by various false trails and dead ends. When the trail ends the drinking begins.
I went on my first hash in Cambodia after reading about an opportunity to “run through the countryside surrounding Phnom Penh” in the newspaper. I went. It poured. It was awesome.
Imagine that you live out in the countryside and you are sitting on your porch waiting out a torrential down pour. And then a string of soaked foreigners splashes by in running shorts. Trust me. You’ve never seen anything like it. I can tell because I’m one of the runners and that look on your face says it all.
If we got lost, the locals would point the way. Local children would practice their English and when you responded, “HI!” they would giggle and hide behind their mothers. The Hash is a great way to see the countryside and meet the people that live there.
It’s also great to be around other people who have some shared common experience and language. For me the Hash was an opportunity to escape my quest for a few hours. I didn’t have to use hand gestures to talk. Most people try to treat foreigners with the utmost of respect. This gets old after a bit. It takes another foreigner to put you in your place, “You’re full of shit.”
At its worst the hash is junior high – filled with immature sexual innuendos and drinking beer from bedpans (Ok, maybe not exactly like junior high). The jokes and songs do get old, but in all, the hash is a kind of therapy for expat professionals and anyone else who wants to run 4-12 miles and act silly.
I went on two Hashes in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and two in Guangzhou, China.
Paul Berton, a British comedian, went on the Guangzhou Hash a few years ago while taping a television show about his travels. His show (watch it now) focused on all of the ugly parts of the hash – the local women trying to meet a sugar daddy foreigner; foreigners looking to becoming a sugar daddy of a local woman. While this is apparent and something I will definitely address when I write my chapter on Cambodia, the Hash is also about positive interactions between foreigners and locals. But that’s not very good television.
The Hash is also about running and sometimes a little post-run, post-sushi bowling…