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Hash in Hell

By Marc Gérome

When I arrived at Makassar (on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia) the place presented itself as a city of lies, false spouses, would-be-hookers and real ones. That was before I joined the Hash. Afterwards it was, of course, a lot worse.

Finding a Hash can be difficult. A Hash is a sort of cross-country running event, loosely organised and very popular among expatriates in Asia. I was new in town. I had managed to find a house, I had a good job and I had even flown in my bicycle.

So I was set. I just didn't know anybody yet in my new hometown. "Go to the Hash to meet people" somebody had suggested.

Very well but how do you find a Hash? I finally met somebody who knew about the Makassar Hash. He did not know where it was though, but he knew somebody who surely would know. A phone call clarified that.

No, not where the Hash was but that that acquaintance also had no idea about its whereabouts. He did not even know somebody who would surely know.

The change came when I met Fifi (not her real name) at the Gelael Supermarket. She asked me to hand her a pack of baby diapers from the top shelf. As I hate any subspecies of children I quickly gave her the incriminating article (imagine somebody seeing Marc the child-hater with a pack of diapers in his hands) and I was heading off.

Still she managed to drag me into a conversation. In about a split second she had told me half of the story of her life. It made me listen up. She might have had KB (the widely advertised contraceptive campaign) problems but she also was married to a Dutch bloke and she knew everything about the Hash, it seemed.

She gave me the number of her friend since she for some reason had no telephone. To make the story short, she also did not have a baby, as it became clear the second time I met her. And, by the way, her beloved husband whom she had told me so much about was also not only 'not here right now', he was not going to come back at all. And of course she had never been to a Hash in her life.

Nor had her friend from Toraja who entered the house totally confused while we spoke. Her husband had died three days before and she had just found out about it. The reason she did not seem to be too grieved was that her husband had been in Yogyakarta visiting his girlfriend when it happened and also she had already somebody else in stock. And also he was not her husband.

I left before any of them could get the idea of seeing in as a handy replacement for the deceased or the fled 'husband'.

I still had the number of that other friend of hers so I called her. Nita (also not her real name) was at home. She knew where the Hash people met and she was willing to show me. After work I went to her house. While I was driving down the street, looking for number 35 (you guess it, not the real number) some people came up to help me.

For some reason they knew immediately who I was looking for and directed me to the house with a silly smile. Nita opened the gate. Wow, she was really pretty. Conspicuously pretty, a little too much I thought. She lived there with her husband and child, she told me.

That the husband did not exist did not bother me any more at that stage, at least she knew about the Hash and we went to a joint called Kios Semarang.

The place was almost empty, only one expatriate was sitting at a sea view table with his wife. He was very friendly but alas no Hash goer. His wife was not his wife, as I learned later. But at least I could get hold of some leaflets that seemed to have some relation to the Hash. I read them and tried to make some sense out of it.

There was a map, which was obviously meant to show where the Hash would take place, but it did not show where the point of origin (Ujung Pandang) was nor did it seem to contain the destination. One spot was marked on-on, whatever that meant.

I was still not sure whether I should go or not. I asked a German working next to my office if he ever went to the Hash.

"No I don't like these kind of things. The running part is only an excuse for drinking excessive amounts of beer, he said, letting some contempt shine through.

So maybe I should not go. But then again this German guy was a family man who didn't even like parties, at least not the wilder ones. And worst of all, his wife was not only really his wife, she was also the same person he lived with (after the last few days people with real spouses deeply disturbed me).

So if he does not like the Hash, then someone who hates family stuff, loves parties and has lost any belief in real marriages probably likes it, or not? I classify myself as the latter type but still I was not quite sure if I should dare it or not.

"They will make all newcomers drink huge amounts of beer and moreover douse them with it", Fifi had said. I do not like beer, so maybe I had better not go. But then again almost everything that Fifi had told me so far was of the husband, baby, Nita-is-a-perempuan-nakal-but-I-am-an-angel type. So if Fifi says the Hash is wicked it is probably quite nice, or not?

Finally I went. I was allowed to drink water, not doused, no excessive drinking but I also got wet, muddy, scratched legs, misled by false trails, etc. It could only get better the next time, I reasoned. Since then I have joined the Hash more or less regularly always hoping it will finally get better the next time.

Marc Gérome is running the Indonesian language site Flirting in Indonesian

© Marc Gerome