Monday, April 14, 2008

Hashing

When James picked me up at the airport, one of the first things I noticed were his bumper stickers on his Jeep. One of them, "Hasher" piqued my curiosity. "What is Hasher?" I enquired. "That's only the greatest thing ever." James explained the basic concept of Hashing.

Hashing is half sport-half subculture. Beginning in the 1930s in Malaysia, Hashing is still practiced across America and all over the world. Someone could describe Hashing as a cross country running/drinking club. Essentially Hashing is an overland run with several important nuances. A Hashing group meets once a week at a predetermined location. 2-3 people serve as the week's trail setters or "hares." At the rendezvous, the hares give directions on where everyone is to drive to begin the hash. Upon arrival the hares post the final destination of the run and then begin to set the trail. The hares have five to ten minutes head start before the rest of the group begins to chase them. The hares "set trail" through the jungle periodically leaving markers for the group to find. It behoves the hares to make the trail difficult and not easy for the rest of the group, the "hounds," to follow. After everyone makes it to the end of the hash, beer is ritualistically consumed around a bonfire where songs are sung and people are ridiculed.

On Saturday, after spending all day hiking around, becoming severely dehydrated and exhausted, I decided to go to the Hash anyway. It began in the northern half of the island, near Anderson Air Force Base. We ran down a road a ways and then into the jungle. Running through the jungle was difficult. At times we could manage no more than a brisk walk as we stepped over the roots, vines, plants, trees, and coconuts. After twenty minutes, I was again exhausted. I could run no more. I hiked through the trail in between the runners and the walkers.

After an hour the trail emerged in grassy clearing. I could not believe my eyes, I was in an abandoned city. It was once a housing complex that was part of Anderson Air Force Base. Now abandoned for many years, it looks as if the Apocalypse had occurred and the jungle was quickly reconquering the large dormitories, smaller apartments and family houses on once busy streets and once neatly manicured lawns. There were also wrecked cars and bullet casings everywhere adding to the post apocalyptic vibe - the military now uses the complex as an urban warfare training center. It was an amazing place to behold. Later I asked how long the place had been abandoned - it looked like decades. I was told, however, it was abandoned only ten years ago. The jungle can take over in a matter of years and decades later the place will have ceased to exist.

The trail veers back into the jungle and then into sword grass before heading down into a gorge. The sun is setting and the jungle is very dark. But I can hear voices - the end is near. The end of the trail - called the 'on home' is next to a large cave with an amazing freshwater lake inside. We all take a dip in the cave lake and begin to drink beer. A fire is started and many people leave. Most, however, stay for the fire and beer which is another story. After my first hashing experience, all I can say is, wow.

2 comments:

Wide Blue World said...

Ben, you get an A+ for sharing. Thanks so much for painting such a colorful picture of your adventures and your new home. While I understand that Tennessee will always be home, I hope you are glad for the decision you made. Of course somewhere between the booney stomping and the hashing, there is that little thesis...Enjoy!

Angela J. Smith said...

I concur. Thanks Ben for sharing--it is great fun to read.

Regarding the thesis, think of it as three big research papers and it won't seem like such a daunting task. It is very doable in a couple of months. Plus there will be a time when you have explored the island and become accustomed to your environment, and rather than get island fever you can write.