Tomfoolery

Hashing Things Out in Dushanbe: Street Romance and Other Mishaps

This past week has been all over the place, but that is not too unusual, as life here likes to keep people on their toes.

First and foremost, there was the Great Melt. The entire ice cube that was my toilet melted, meaning that one morning I woke up to a flooded bathroom. Not something a person hopes to discover when down with a stomach bug. Fortunately, the plumber came in the next few days and also “fixed” my bathtub by carrying the out huge sheets of ice that had frozen in there. Although a nice gesture, it was one whose significance I did not fully grasp until later that night when I realized I could once again take warm showers. It had been over a week of improvised cleanings, and afterwards, as I sat around marveling at how clean I felt (which means I clearly had not noticed how dirty I must have become), I decided nothing would ever fully take the place of a warm shower.

Secondly, there was Valentine’s Day. I still have the gift my valentine, a Tajik high-school aged boy, gave to me on the streets:

Classy on the outside...

Classy on the outside…

And within?

...salty on the inside.

…salty on the inside.

Qurut or the really salty chalky-looking thing that some people munch on around here. Because nothing says true love like a half-gnawed ball of salt. Sadly, I have not seen him since, but I could definitely see this developing into a nice rom-com.

But in order to explain the main feature of the weekend, I need to explain the Hash, or the frattiest thing that I have ever done.

The Hash or the Hash House Harriers has a long history tracing back to the British troops stationed in what is now Malaysia in 1938 and is based off the British paper chase “hare and hounds”. Essentially, someone sets the trail and then the others later find and follow the convoluted markings. The end of the trail is then followed by the circle and drinking. Now days, hashing occurs all over the world, each place generally with its own quirks.

Here in Dushanbe, the Hash group consists mostly of expats and students. Each official member has a nickname, which is why I may never learn anyone’s actual name. Each Saturday, after following a hodge podge of a trail, we all gather at the house of whoever is hosting dinner and form the circle, in which the singing, dancing and drinking commences. I would never be able to do the Hash full justice with words, so I borrowed some pictures from the Facebook page in order to help paint a clearer image (or you can just imaging me running around town and engaging in drunken frivolity with a group of people, of which half of them are old enough to be my parents.)

Running. The Hashers in action.

Running or Hashers in action.

The circle.

The circle.

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My first time inside the circle.

Back inside.

Back inside.

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Mostly just because I look like a fool in this picture.

This past weekend though, the trail was exceptionally exciting. Coming back from setting the trail, one of my friends was covered in mud (always a good omen). After setting off in the wrong direction, multiple times, we were finally on our way up, when a dog tried to attack another friend. In order to avoid becoming dog food, he nearly fell off a forty-foot cliff. Fortunately, he managed to catch himself a few feet down and was eventually pulled to safety by an old belt.

The trail then became even less marked and more confusing, but eventually after running and slipping down a muddy hill nicknamed “the stairway to heaven”, we found our way back in groups. While waiting at the rendezvous point, two hashers came running up, Revere-style, to announce that the British were not coming. My poor friend, who had almost fallen into the ravine, had managed to scrap his shin, to the bone, on a tin roof and was bleeding profusely. Although I missed the excitement of trying to find someone to stitch up his leg, the group eventually ended up in the Iranian hospital where the doctors managed to fix him up (albeit a brief power outage mid-surgery).

Aside from the recent excitement, mostly life has fallen into a pattern of Farsi classes and Russian Café, but I’m still holding out hope for a reunion with my favorite salty admirer or the day when I can finally stomach chewing the stuff.

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