Slip sliding away

Monday, March 19, 2018

Two weeks into Jakarta life and starting to settle. I’m in my permanent apartment now which, thankfully, is a more manageable size than the temporary palace / bowling alley I told you about last time. I’ve moved some furniture around and bought a few more supplies and I can see how this can work for the next six months. Though I do find the cutlery drawer depressingly parsimonious.

Note to self: Do not invite more than one person over for food. Or if you do, tell them it’s BYOFork.

And another for the WTF Files: This is my washing machine. The first time I tried to use it I had to call for assistance because there are literally 23 choices on that dial, along with the 8 buttons and 22 indicator lights and the digital display. And no manual, of course. (And yes I did try googling it…)

So home life is calming down, but work is quite busy - more so than I’m used to this early in a gig. Prepare yourself for an even more haphazard blogging schedule than usual. Luckily, I found a bit of time before my Sunday afternoon meeting, and during my Monday evening meeting (see above comment about being busier than usual…) to tell you about my first hash run in Indonesia. (For those not familiar with the Hash House Harriers, you should really check this out.)

As is often the case in Southeast Asia, there’s more than one hash group in Jakarta. This is the part of the world where hashing started, so I guess it’s just much more established here than in other places. Jakarta seems to have about four groups, with another starting up in the coming months. I got myself onto the WhatsApp group for one of them and was offered a ride to the run on Saturday. This was crucial because whereas in London all runs start within walking distance of a train or tube station, in Jakarta it’s not that simple. The city itself is huge and the heat and pollution and traffic all mean it’s just not a great place to run. I’ve managed to devise a 5k loop that I’ve done a few times in the morning, but it’s not exactly ideal. In Baku I used to put in my headphones and set out at 6:30am for a quick trip along the pedestrianised seaside Bulvar. Easy. Here in Jakarta I leave the headphones at home because even early in the morning there’s still road and pedestrian traffic and you need all senses tuned and alert. The footing alone requires at least intermediate-level parkour skills, but I console myself with the knowledge that running on uneven surfaces is good for all those little stabiliser muscles that don’t get a workout on the tame and level towpath at home. (This will remain a consolation until the inevitable misstep that turns some of those little stabiliser muscles into mince.)

But back to the Hash. I’ve probably mentioned the traffic in Jakarta, but it’s hard to overstate how bad it is. It’s virtually impossible to accurately predict how long a journey will take. You can be optimistic about a 3km trip and end up sitting in traffic for 90 minutes. Or you can compensate and get lucky and end up arriving an hour early. So when I learned that the Hash started at 4pm, I wasn’t entirely surprised that my ride suggested I get to her place by 1:30, meaning I had to leave my apartment at 12:45. It’s a bit tedious. But that’s how I found myself in the backseat of a large black SUV in the middle of a thunderous rainstorm on a highway in Jakarta, en route to an unknown location, accompanied by two friends I’d never met before and a Siberian husky named Dennis. (Aside: I was too polite to mention it, but Siberian husky seems an odd and somewhat cruel choice of breed for life in an equatorial climate. I’m sure poor Dennis has never sniffed so much as a flake of snow, and must sometimes wonder what all that fur is for.)

Dennis, with his stunning husky eyes. But really, why?

The Jakarta Traffic Gods smiled on us even if the Rain Gods did not, so we arrived at the run site an hour early. This gave me a chance to chat with the only other westerner at the run, an ex-pat New Zealander who’s posted to Jakarta for the next 2-3 years. (He’s working on sustainable transport solutions, poor bastard!) It was nice hanging around and chatting with him, but I’d rather we could have just got going.

Here’s our starting point, complete with shelter, cooler, water, etc. Later on there were even more amenities, as we shall discover.

Hashing here is a fairly major undertaking. The people who set the trail arrive hours ahead of time and set up camp before going to mark the trail. On the sidewalks of London we make trial with chalk and occasional blobs of flour. In rainy Indonesia the trail was marked with small amounts of shredded paper (which resist strong rainfall better than flour) supplemented by white spray paint applied right onto the leaves of plants. Not terribly eco-friendly, but needs must I guess.

At some point before the official start of 4pm a large group of walkers headed out, but the small number off runners hung back so as to minimise the waiting time at the end of the trail. And what was it like when we finally set out? Astute Go Stay Work Play Live Readers who are also experienced hashers will be familiar with the term “shiggy”. It’s a used to describe muddy, mucky or otherwise wet and unpleasant trail conditions. Considering it’s rainy season and there was a significant storm just hours before the run, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the amount of shiggy on the trail was roughly equal to the amount of humidity in the air, i.e.: about 85%.

This stretch was within the first 100 yards.

It was slow, slippery, wet and muddy. For a while I found it frustrating and all I could think was, “I’m actually not really enjoying this.” That feeling persisted for the first kilometre and a half of what we were told was a 7km trail. By that time I guess I’d accepted that my shoes would never be the same, and I’d probably lose a couple of kilos of water weight, but at least I couldn’t actually get any sweatier, and there would be cold beer at the end.

Also, this was a quite family-friendly event, meaning I spent some time stuck behind a couple of little girls who were about 7 and 9 years old and who, when descending this steep, muddy slope, ended up on their butts laughing their heads off. So when a 7 year old girl can suck it up and have fun in the shiggy it’s hard to get a real sulk on.

Plus once we got through this rice paddy, there were actual paved roads! And yes, this was a real terraced rice paddy. The things that look like small white cloths hanging on strings in the air are, in fact, small white cloths hanging on strings in the air.
They’re for scaring the birds away.

By the time I got to the end of the paved road, a mere 3.6k into the run, but 45 minutes after setting out, I was feeling pretty good. Then a few us discovered that the hares who marked the trail had a lavishly overambitious notion of the length of their own run and we’d actually reached the end of the trail. So naturally we elected to do a second loop. This turned out to me a lot more fun than the first loop and was certainly the only time I’ve ever run someone else’s trail more than once. It also made me feel quite smug.

This is the second water crossing on the trail, which turned out to be useful for washing off muddy shoes. On the opposite bank in the foreground you can see a splodge of white spray paint marking the trail.

By the time my Kiwi friend and I trotted back into camp, most of the rest of the pack and been back for ages and were tucking into a generous feast of rice and tempeh and other tasty treats that I was happy to try. There was also a big cooler full of a sort of fruit juice called sirsak, which is made from the soursop fruit, one of many many new fruits in my life now. The juice is white and creamy and sweet and a bit like apple and strawberry and lemon and coconut all together. I’m also turning into a big fan of the slivers of golden fried garlic that appear frequently as a topping for basically anything.

Happy to be finished running, and happier still to be clutching a large bottle of beer.

Betawi Hash are particularly well-equipped for tropical hashing. After the run not only was there food and drink, but several people had large jugs of water to use for washing up, and there was even a pop-up shower stall tent! This was a level of luxury I’ve never seen before, and was much appreciated after that much muddy sweaty running. By the time I’d eaten, washed up, changed into dry clothes, and had a large bottle of the local lager, it was dark and things had degenerated in a friendly but typically hashy way. I was grateful to climb into the back of another air conditioned car for a companionable ride back to Jakarta.

Hashing in Jakarta is a lot different than hashing in London. Considering the travel time and the trail conditions and the heat and the half hour of post-run shoe-washing, I can tell I’m going to have to psyche myself up to make the effort each week. And I’ll probably try a few of the other local groups before I find the one I’m most comfortable with. But as usual, hashing is already providing a welcome break from work and work colleagues and the general low level of background stress that comes from living somewhere that’s not home.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go try another of the 506 combinations of variables on the washing machine.

1 Comment:

Kathryn Davies said...

Should we just send you new clothes every couple of weeks? Might be easier than that washer!

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