Monday, November 10, 2008


This is the kind of thing I love. 3:00 PM on a Saturday, a group of people meet up by a large jungle area. Someone, a hare, has come earlier to create a trail in the jungle. A leader distinguishes himself by telling some jokes and shouting GO! and then the group takes off running to try to find the trail. I think I giggled the whole time because it’s a little ridiculous. I love the whole: “Wait just a second, how did I get here?” thought. A hash is when you walk/run through a jungle, up and down mountains without having any idea where you’re going but you’re following the person in front of you who you just met. You’re usually dripping in sweaty sun-block, covered in scratches from long-armed plants and shouting back and forth to see if anyone found a trail. There are a few things about Trini hashes that you won’t find in the States—littering (the hare leaves a paper trail every quarter mile or so), creating your own trails in national parks (there are no “Stay on the Trail” signs here—it’s all up for grabs), and, debatably, walking through murky, waist-high rivers for longer than 20 minutes at a time. But it’s good fun.
Apparently hashing is something that started in Malaysia with a group of ex-pats, but like all good things, it has since become an international phenomenon. We heard about it through the people we play pick-up Frisbee with on Thursdays. A few weeks ago, Aaron, Tom, three folks we met from the Clinton Foundation, and I drove three hours to the northeast corner of the country, about 45 miles. We found the beach and ran into the water. We then realized we should grab something to eat before the hash, so we tried to find a store or something. Nothing was open, and honestly, nothing really looked like it had ever been open. We started asking around and found out that there was a roti place that was open in the next town. It sounded like that was our only option, and as we are getting used to curry at all times of the day, even before running events, it worked. The roti was tasty, but the chicken only came with bones, so most of us went vegetarian. It’s tricky eating a burrito with bony chicken. Then we went back to the beach until the group of people started gathering. Changing rooms, bathrooms, big trees—there weren’t a whole lot of any of those either. So I wrapped up in a towel and went from bathing suit to running gear, full of sand and salt.
I got to the group just as people started running, dividing, and running in all directions. After a minute, somebody shouted that they had found the trail, “On on!” and we all followed up a huge and muddy hill. Soon, the people in front of me stopped climbing. “Not the trail” someone said and we made our way down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, the hare told us, “No, that’s the right way.” So we ran back up it. There’s a lot of “On on?” and “On on!” back and forth to signal that we’re all together and we’re all going the right way. Groups form, but it’s tricky to stay with your group because the fast runners are at the front, but then when we go the wrong direction, they are at the back and have to run back to the front, so there’s lots of pushing. It’s interesting trying to run through a jungle with your thoughts a combination of: I’d better keep up with the lady in front of me since there’s no one in back of me, where’s the nearest place I can get a terry cloth sweat band and where’s Aaron?, and man, I wish I could look up for a longer than a second but I know as soon as I do, some root is going to jump up and trip me. There were some open parts on larger trails that looked like they had been roads, but mostly we stayed in the jungle, holding onto plants whose leaves were green on the top and purple on the bottom for support and avoiding spikes so long from an aloe-vera-looking plant that they bent after a few feet and laid on the ground for a few more feet. At one point, when I started to get tired, a truck appeared with water and beer. That made me realize this was much more organized than it seemed. It was a little like the TV show Survivor or something—sure, there was danger, but not as much as a first glance told you. A bit later, we came out onto a large field and saw the sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea where we had started, exhausted, sunburnt, and pumped at the chance to run like a little kid for a few hours.
Hashers say that they are a drinking club with a running problem. As everyone reassembled, speeches were made, awards were given, and then virgin hashers were asked to come forward to guzzle beer. On my best day, guzzling beer in front of a large group of people I don’t know isn’t really my thing, especially after running when my face is inevitably tomato red. So I stayed back with Tom, who agreed with me. Aaron went forward and they told him to say his name and who he had come with. He said his name and then he pointed at me and said, “I came with Katie and Tom, who are virgins too but won’t come forward.” Then we got heckled until we came forward. I wanted to say, “I am Katie and Aaron is sleeping on the couch tonight” but of course I didn’t think of that until later. They gave us fizzy apple juice and sang while we drank it. Lines appeared for the blue crab and curry that materialized. We tried to eat some, but we just wanted Gatorade so we said good-bye to the people whose backs we memorized and said we’d see them at the next hash.
Chagaramas, the national park by our house, hosted our second Hash. One of my favorite students, a kid whose accent is half Trini and half German (a wicked combination) was there. This hash was a little less organized and much harder—it had rained all day so the ground was super slick, which made a difference because the trail was never level. My student beat me and when we finished, Aaron sat on an ant hill, so we didn’t stay too long for the party afterward. But the next hash is in two weeks…

1 comment:

jenbaum said...

Hashing sounds like fun! You would probably still be out in the mountains searching for me from the first hash, but hey! It would be an adventure! :)