Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Hash

It's been two weeks, and trying to break the bad habit of comparison. It's drilled into my head now: Cambodia and the states are incredibly, incomparably different and there's no use bringing up these dissimilarities like an incredulous tourist. For example:

"Wow, at home a barefoot five year old girl would NEVER be allowed to ride a bike carrying her naked infant sister in the middle of traffic."

"Isn't it weird that I can bring my can of beer into this nice clean ice cream parlor in the middle of the afternoon?"

"I wouldn't normally think to make sure my hotel didn't have a crocodile farm in the backyard in the states."

"I've always wanted to douse a child in beer, but I would probably get arrested at home."

I didn't state the last one aloud, but who hasn't thought it before? Parents, come on! Fortunately, Cambodians have no qualms accepting all of the above as normal, everyday occurences. Participating in the Angkor Hash Harriers run last Saturday gave me a peep into many abnormalities that both shocked and pleased me.

Apparently, Hash Harriers is an international organization operating these insane events all over the world. Our meetup was just one thousands of meetup occurring regularly around the world. Our group of about 50 was mostly Khmer, and included a group of kids, men dressed inappropriately for a muddy run in work boots and jeans, and a small group of expats like myself. For $5 we got transportation via bus to the "boonies" where we were left in the countryside speckled with ride paddies, water buffalos, huts and rough terrain. After a briefing of the rules-see a water buffalo, stop; don't run on rice, etc, we were off on a mad Hansel-and-Gretel-like hunt for flour marks that denoted whether we were on the right path or had followed a false path.

I ran at the front meaning I logged more miles than the large group of walkers at the back. Moving through thick forest, most everyone emerged bleeding a bit, and after two hours we arrived at the halfway mark: a truck carrying hundreds of beers and soft drinks. Now you know why so many Khmer showed up: unlimited beer and a Japanese buffet at the end.

After a significant monsoon, the latter half was a little more confusing what with drunken Khmer and washed away flour compounding our search. We made it to the end and engaged in a strange, tribal circle tradition in which most of us were shamed into entering the circle while everyone sang lewd songs and forced us to drink beer out of green watering cans. Actually, I drank my beer out of my expensive Nikes, lending them a perma-bread smell.

Why did we douse this sweet child with beer? It's an honor. On his fifth hash, he had woken up early to set the course and now deserved a name. After some deliberation we deemed him "Frog Boy."

I borrowed most of these pictures, and after scanning the truly embarrassing photos of me, I considered leaving myself out of it. But, I'll laugh at myself and admit that this one is probably the best. What?