The Hash House Harriers of Taipei
by Dave in Texas
Several years ago as a result of having really pissed somebody off, my company sent me to Taiwan to start up a distribution logistics branch. This involved several month-long trips over the course of three years.
Taiwan, the Republic of China is a fascinating place. The people are friendly, but reserved, which I’m told is common in Asia. Taiwan is an island nation, about 120 miles long, and about 90 miles wide, but two thirds of it is uninhabitable mountains, so its population of 22 million people is pretty densely packed.
My favorite thing about Taiwan? In Taiwan, Dave in Texas, all 5 foot 9 inches of him was a tall man.
Weekends tend to be long, unless you know your way around (and I didn’t), so you look for things to do. The guy I was working with asked me “do you want to go on a hash this weekend? It’s a blast”. I had never heard of a hash, and as he explained it to me, I didn’t feel any better educated about the whole thing. But I will try to explain.
A hash is a group run/jog/walk/slog by a group of runners called “harriers” through a trail and a route set up by one or two runners (hares) ahead of you. The way is marked by them, usually with a handful of flour and some red dye, or chalk markings. The idea is to keep the group together, so that runners of different physical ability keep up, and to have fun. The prize at the end of the rainbow is a big beer fest. More background info here.
It’s been said that “hashers” are drinkers with a running problem. It’s been said a lot I’ll bet cause it’s the damn truth.
Now, I wasn’t in the best physical shape back then. I’m not now, really, but I am considerably lighter than I was then. So running didn’t sound all that appealing to me, but it was my third week there and I was bored out of my mind. I couldn’t stand the thought of watching anymore episodes of Scooby Doo in Mandarin.
Incidentally, Scooby sounds very Chinese to me. I never really thought of that before.
So anyway I agreed. In a car with my friends, we drove up the side of a mountain. It had been raining and it was cool and overcast. After an hour we arrived at an old beat up pagoda. There was a family there, burning something and saying some prayers. And there were about 65 Chinese dudes with a few Brit expats. And me.
The trail was spotted, and off we went. Hoo-hah!
I only saw a few markers, but I stayed with everyone. Barely. We were at about 3000 feet, where the thin air and the Marlboros were screwing with me something awful. The terrain was slippery, very muddy. I fell down so often I quit caring how much mud I got on myself. The hillside was covered with jungle-like growth, fronds and palm leaves and stuff. I sliced my finger on something and later had to treat it with some iodine (couldn’t find antibiotic ointment at the witch doctor’s shop).
At two places we had to cross a chest deep stream. I was a mess now… soaking wet, muddy, my shorts and shirt all ragged and dirty. I had to stop about every 200 yards and breathe. My smokes were wet and falling apart in my pocket, and I lost my Zippo. My chest felt like Rosie O’Donnell was standing on it. And giggling. We hit this one spot that I kept trying to climb, but I kept slipping and falling down, about 15 feet. I lay there, sucking wind, my eyesight clouded, thinking “there aren’t enough of them to carry my fat ass down this mountain. I’m going to die here, and they’re gonna leave me for the tigers to eat”.
I don’t think there are any tigers there but I was despondent so I wasn’t thinking clearly. I’m sure something would have eaten me, and back then, that would have been a meal fit for a king.
Somehow I rolled over into the weeds and used them to drag myself up the hill.
And wonder of wonders, we crested it, and there was the pagoda. I made it.
In last place. I found out later that three guys went back to look for me.
The beer trucks rolled in, and we hosed ourselves off, shucking mud and gunk that was ground into my hair, my shorts, everywhere. But there was cold beer and life was good.
An older Chinese man came up to me, pointing at my shorts, then his shorts, and saying something that sounded waaaaay too serious. I held my hands up, like “hey, thanks papa-san, but Davey don’t roll that way” and he kept pointing and gesturing and crap. Finally one of the Brits came over and said “he’s telling you to check you privates for leeches”.
Hell, I didn’t want to look. “What do I do if I find one”? I asked. Guy says “No worries mate, we’ll burn it off. They’re all over these streams”.
Oh shit. Took a deep breath. Pulled my shorts out. I peered down and saw a clump of something dark on one of the twins. And I damn near fainted. Upon further examination with a shaky right hand, it was nothing more than a bit of muck and mud, having been crammed up there during one of the slipslides.
The beer and the exhaustion set in, and I needed to go relieve myself, and someone pointed me to the bathroom. So I walked in. And I found this.
I was a little disturbed that the floor is wet. I convinced myself it was the humidity. But I wasn’t takin off my shoes. I did look around to see what else they had for number 2.
Nuthin. That was it.
So I took a wide stance, kinda like you would with a 2-iron, and aimed for the target. Can’t be any worse than at home.
Oh, and I highly recommend the jade markets.
Leeches. Ick. I found one on me after swimming in a creek when I was a kid. Nasty fuckers.
I am so glad you wrote about the run! Why? Because for about a year now, I've been considering getting into the HHH down here (there are a lot of groups), and I'd about decided I was going to just go and do the next one.
Now I really am inspired. If you didn't die, I might not either.
Posted by: DR | March 27, 2007 9:43 AM
Great story DinT.
Sounds like a memory you will cherish forever. Something you're glad you did.
Question is, would you do it again? Especially knowing you could lose a couple o pints of blood due to a herd/pod/school/flock/pride of leeches munching on junior and the twins.
So how was the beer?
Posted by: compos mentis | March 27, 2007 10:48 AM
I didn't die, but there was a moment or two I wasn't all that confident about the future.
cm, if you told me there were f'n' leeches in that stream, I'd have turned my ass around right then.
Oh, and I recommend Taiwan Beer.. Green Bottle.
Posted by: Dave in Texas | March 27, 2007 11:44 AM
Good stuff, Tall Dave.
I bet you're in such good shape now, you could run with the best of them.
Or shoot their sorry asses.
Posted by: Retired Geezer | March 27, 2007 11:53 AM
Oops, it never said the comment posted.... just 'waiting'.
Posted by: Retired Geezer | March 27, 2007 11:55 AM
Did you pay Geezer to come over and build up your stats? Good tale.
Posted by: skinbad | March 27, 2007 12:41 PM
"friendly but reserved"? I should have gone to taiwan! On the mainland I was beating vendors away with a stick and trying to make the old ladies stop touching my (mouse brown) hair.
Posted by: Meg | March 27, 2007 12:45 PM
Geezer is always lookin out for me.
Meg, maybe it's more "reserved with white guys" than women - the culture is a bit male dominated (I'm sure you noticed). I know the men don't like big expressive arm gestures, it's a little threatening, or better said, impolite.
They do love other hair colors, don't they?
Something else that freaked me out (being a little claustrophobic), how they cram so many people into an elevator. Can't tell you how many times I closed my eyes and tried not to scream "YOU FUCKERS ARE SUCKING UP ALL MY OXYGEN!!! AAAIIEEYYYEEEE!"
but I didn't.
I wanted to though.
Posted by: Dave in Texas | March 27, 2007 12:52 PM
Great article Dave!
Posted by: Jenn (from A Lady Laments) | March 27, 2007 7:27 PM
Hashing is all over Asia, not just in Taiwan. It's a big deal for expats, but the locals get into it also.
Dang, I miss those crazy business trips to Asia. I've actually got a direct report there. I'm going to finagle a trip.
Posted by: Michael | March 27, 2007 8:12 PM
Mikey, Hashing in EVERYWHERE. Even in Central Texas.
Those peoples are cwazy!
Posted by: Dave in Texas | March 27, 2007 9:38 PM
I hashed once. Once!
Crazy doesn't cover it. The one I did had beer throughout the run.
That's a very bad idea.
Posted by: Timmer | March 27, 2007 10:06 PM
Oooh, I'm going Hashing with a Boston group in the near future. Awesome story.
Posted by: cindy | March 28, 2007 2:43 PM
Have fun cindy. I hear the toilets in Boston are much nicer.
Posted by: Dave in Texas | March 28, 2007 2:55 PM