We’re sitting around several restaurant tables, some forty of us, and the conversation flows back and forth in German, Dutch, Indonesian, and various flavors of English.
Where are we? In Tirana, Albania. (Where they speak Albanian.)
Who are we? We’re old expat friends who got to know each other in far-away Indonesia more than twenty-five years ago as members of the local Hash House Harriers running and beer drinking club in the town of Semarang, Java. Can you believe this? Twenty five years ago!
Now we live all over the world and every year we come together somewhere in Europe for a reunion run and lots of socializing. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it does not actually involve that kind of hash (as far as I know). Yes, I deceived you with my blog title and for that I’m truly not sorry.
We’re in Albania this year because one of us is gainfully employed running a water project here and his fabulous German wife has organized the event. Kids and even grand kids have come along for the fun. How amazing is that? The ‘kids’ are grown now but used to play and go to school together in Indonesia. Now they’re bringing their own kids.
A couple of years ago we were in England. “Just look at us,” our Hash Master said to me as a group of us were drinking our fourth pot of afternoon tea in our hotel (you know, the English way). “Did you ever think that we Hashers would be sitting here drinking tea?”
No, I did not. Indonesia was far away and long ago, and our HHH rituals never involved sedately sipping tea. They involve gulping beer, quite unsedately — gulping beer as fast as you can manage, and what you can’t get down your throat you pour over your head. It’s the custom. Yes, I can hear your collective groans.
If you’ve never heard of the Hash House Harriers, you’ll think we’re crazy, and what can I say, you’re right. But trust me, you are missing something. Just click on the link and all will be revealed to you, even the ‘hash.” Hash House Harrier clubs are to be found all over the world, and are often unkindly described as drinking clubs with a running problem. Members go on group runs (often to great entertainment of the locals) following trails laid through rubber plantations, fields, mountains, deserts, jungles, villages and towns.
At the end of the run we gather in a circle and have a ceremony, which is a dignified word for something quite undignified.
Our HHH rituals include chanting of a non-spiritual sort, pouring beer over our heads (as I mentioned), singing really bad national songs from our various countries, and doing other dumb stuff. Really, I should not be telling you this because now you’ve probably lost all respect for me and won’t ever want to be seen in public with me. But so be it.
Our run here in Albania was a tough one through rough mountain terrain, and I must admit I’ve never felt more like a mountain goat.
Fortunately we got away without heart attacks or broken bones. And in the evening we even had energy left for dancing.
So here we are in Albania, our yearly run over, but we’re staying on for a while to enjoy time with old friends, have leisurely meals, lovely wine, and good talks. And of course we take time for walks around the capital Tirana and to explore the rest of Albania, a beautiful Mediterranean country with good food and friendly people. (More about that in another post.)
Next year we’ll all come to Holland, my home country, properly called The Netherlands. We’re already looking forward to it because, well, it’s so nice and flat there.
On On, as we Hashers say.
Note: If you want more indept info, here’s the link to The World Hash House Harriers Home Page.
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Have you ever been on a Hash? Please share your tales! Or do tell about other fun or eccentric sporting events you have encountered with foreigners or in foreign countries.
I truly enjoyed your excellent story! Looking forward seeing you all next year in the Netherlands.
Eric the Red (aka Erich Lechner).
Hi Erich, glad you liked the story. See you next year in the Netherlands!
I really enjoyed reading your article about the hash. I was the Grand Master of the Semarang H3 in 1985/86, and I had a wonderful time at the hash. I will try to attend the SH3 get-together in the Netherlands next year. Best regards and On On. Stein Lundebye. (Founder of the Kalahari H3 in Botswana and former GM of the Bahrain, Kalahari and Semarang hash clubs. For the last 20 years member of the Washington DC H3).
Stein! Fancy meeting you here in cyberspace!
I have never been on a hash but after reading this, I would love to! I think I would fit in!
Yes, I think you’ll fit in 😉 Check out if there isn’t one in your town.
My parents used to take my brothers and me to the HHH in Managua in the early 90s. It was great fun and we loved to down a coke at the end. Your post made me restart the search for a local group… too bad they seem to have closed! Oh well… guess the running+beer will have to be a personal activity.
I did wonder when I saw the post title! What a great occasion!
Hashes were very popular at university, but I’ve never been on one. Sounds like a good time was had by all.
That sounds like so much fun! I wouldn’t have minded being a fly on the wall. As long as none of you were wielding a fly swatter of course!
Wow, how lovely that you all manage to meet up somewhere in the world every year – and even better that the next generation is taking part. We’ve never been to any Hash House Harriers get-togethers although the small town next to us has a branch (if that’s what they’re called? 🙂 ) that turned 2 years old last week.
Ha, yes, I did think you were referring to the OTHER kind of hash 🙂
Looks like you guys had a wonderful time!
Oh and PS-I tagged you in my latest post to participate in the 7 Links project.
I must add…Guyanese are stranger than hashers…
I have a friend used to hash – she met her husband hashing. They’d just had a baby so my friend [hosting the hash], was home with the baby. I was with her, along with two or three other girls. We chatted on the patio while the hashers carried on, on the lawn. That’s all [and the bits I see on their Guyana blog] that I know about hashing.
Never heard of it before but it looks like a lot of fun and what a great way to keep in touch with each other. Hope you have many more
I loved this post! What I see in this post is the intensity of expat friendships. Because we never know how long our togetherness will last, and we’re all in this together trying to figure it out, it tends to break down barriers and really create exquisite friendships that last a long time. Thanks for sharing.
Yes, expat friends are wonderful, with the sad thing being you often end up spread out all over the world. I miss many of my friends and just wish we could spend more time together or live in the same place. That’s a big negative of the (serial) expat life!
Thanks for sharing. I wish I had been able to attend but it wasn’t to be this year. I’ll aim at joining you all next year in The Netherlands but it might conflict with other Hash events in Kenya.
I now have a new hobby…stalking the HHH and insisting they let me join!!! What fun! I can’t wait to check it out!
Yes, do! All HHH clubs have their own character, depending on the people, of course, and their sense of fun. They are a good way to make friends and get connected to a new foreign location. Let me know of your experience!
I’ve never been a runner myself, but am quite familiar with the HHH here in Lima. They call themselves “Drinkers with a running problem” 🙂
Drinkers with a running problem, yes. The HHH has a fun history, about a bunch of drinkers in a bar called the Hash House deciding they wanted to get fit.
You don’t have to be runner at all. Walking works. Kids go on “runs” as well. It depends a bit on the local flavor of the club. It’s a great way to find new friends when you are a new expat. It certainly has socializing aspect to it.
Never heard of this before but I am, frankly, totally jealous. I wish we had reunions of people I knew overseas. I miss them all (well mostly all) terribly, and we are scattered widely.
I so agree with you about missing the friends you made in your expat life. I wish we could all be together in the same place. It makes it hard to decide where we want to “settle” because we have no real roots anymore in any one place, and our friends are all over the place. Sigh.
Another Hash devotee. Great. I participated in several of the “runs” in Luanda in the late 90’s. I understand there was (in 2000-2002) and possibly still is a Hash contingent in Chisinau. If you are still interested, you can contact the British Embassy or the American Embassy. Perhaps a consular officer or administrative officer in one or the other might be able to let you know.
Yep, know all about the Hash in Chisinau. Meets twice a month on Sundays. We’ll go this coming Sunday. You lived in Angola, very interesting. You have a blog?