Hashing (Not what you think)

I am hoping to upload a video of our Hash adventure in a week or so, depending on how long it takes me to finish editing it. But in the mean time, I thought I’d share a little bit about it, as a kind of introduction to the video, but also as a kind of introduction to the ‘Mzungu’ community that can be found in Moshi.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the word, ‘Mzungu’ is a Kiswahili term used to denote any foreigner who is also usually white, as far as I know.

Don’t quote me, as the following theory is not cited, but it would seem that the word Mzungu is derived from the Kiswahili word ‘kuzunguka,’ which means ‘to go round’. There is also ‘zunguko,’ which means ‘a circuit; revolution.’ Perhaps the first white foreigners the East Africans saw were explorers who seemed to simply walk around with no outwardly apparent purpose or direction. Or maybe they just assumed these foreigners were out of their minds, since their dress and mannerisms were so markedly different, especially in the tropics. Either way, it makes me laugh to imagine what those East Africans were thinking, to come up with the term ‘mzungu’ for these strangers.

Even more intriguing is the contrast of Mzungu with the term ‘Mbongo,’ which I hear is used for local Tanzanians. ‘Mbongo’ is derived from the word ‘ubongo,’ which means ‘brain.’ I think you can figure out the rest from there!

Anyway, on to the Hash. I will let you look it up on Wikipedia for a more detailed definition and history, but a Hash is essentially a kind of run (or walk, depending on your physical abilities) in which the group follows a trail that has been made ahead of time. The trail is usually made by throwing flour on the ground in intervals. Depending on the Hash, there can be various tricks or detours to this trail in order to make it more challenging to follow.

The trail ultimately leads back to the place from which it began, where there is food and drink and a time to socialize.

(… And as I describe the Hash, I am just realizing how this activity serves to further solidify our ‘Mzungu’ identity. A bunch of people walking in a huge circle… you get the picture.)

I didn’t know this, but apparently there are many Hash groups around the world. And once a person is on the lookout for Hashing, they will most likely find that the opportunity to Hash will be available in any place they visit.

A lot of Hashing has started to gain a poor reputation – one slogan that is attached to Hashing is “Drinkers with a running problem.” This Hash group in Moshi, however, was started as a more family-friendly Hash, and mainly as a place for Wazungu (that’s the plural form of Mzungu) to hang out and connect. And for over 250 Hashes, now, it has continued on in the spirit with which it was begun. I saw families with small children, a number of individuals in their 60s and 70s, and a majority of young adults. I met people from Germany, Australia, Canada, the US, Holland, Sweden, El Salvador, and Tanzania. And I’m sure there were more countries than that represented. Some people had lived in Moshi for most of their life; others were here for just a few weeks. All were engaged in various levels of lively conversation by the end of the Hash.

As first impressions go, it seems to me that this Hash community is a microcosm of the greater Wazungu community that can be found here in Moshi: people from many countries; a lot of young people who are here very briefly; a few older people who have put down roots. And though we are all from quite different backgrounds and cultures, for some reason there is a common bond, I guess in the fact that we are all still slightly out of place here.

OK, let’s have some interaction this time around. Anyone ever been on a Hash before? Post about it in the comments if you have – I’d love to hear about it!

8 thoughts on “Hashing (Not what you think)

  1. I’ve never heard of it before–ever–but it sounds like a fun social event, sort of like a fun run? I think I’ll look into it and see if there’s anything local here in Seattle.

  2. This is exactly the kind of experience that made Korea so great to me. I think we both went about it in a similar way. Though you are more traveled than I, getting to the real culture of a people….one of the most exciting things in the world! ^_^

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