I am Deanna, one of the editors here at Stitched Smile. A couple of weeks ago, I told the big bosses here that I would have to take last week off for a vacation, and I was told that would be fine, as long as I blogged about it.
So strap in, because this blog post is going places.
Before I delve into this year’s epic adventure, I should probably explain a little about how I got involved with this event in the first place.
In June of 2013, I lost one of my very close friends. He was 27 years old. It’s really hard to explain how hard it is to rebuild after something as tragic as this was; to feel like life it worth it without that person there to laugh with. Not long after his passing, I discovered that the sign ups for a super weird scavenger hunt were open. I had seen a little bit about it the year before, so I figured, why the hell not, and signed up on a whim. After signing up, a did a little googling to see what it was that I had just gotten myself into; and let’s just say that I was not fully prepared.
The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World has Ever Seen (or Gishwhes) is an epic event created by one of the actors from the CW show Supernatural, Misha Collins, who plays the Angel Castiel. The first hunt took place in 2011. The following year, the year before I got involved, it became the GishWhes as we know it. The basics are as follows: there are teams of 15 international players. Some teams are formed beforehand; others are created at random by the GishBot the week before the hunt begins. During the hunt, players have to create or find the items on the list. It’s a mixture of classic scavenger hunt and the most absurd arts and crafts you’ve ever done. There is a countdown clock on the website; when the clock strikes zero, the list is released, the website promptly crashes for a half hour. This happens every year. Once the website is back up, you have 7 to 8 days to complete as many items on the list of between 150 to 200 items as you and your team can. Sounds easy right? That’s enough time and enough people to do all those things? Yeah no.
Items on the list have included things such as: Get an astronaut in the international space station to @reply you on twitter. Get a mountain on Mars named after your team. Make a dress entirely out of cheese, wear it, and pose next to an antique car or motorcycle. Make large animals out of feminine hygiene products (animals have included a dinosaur, a safari animal, and angel, a dog, and a panda), Create a portrait of Supernatural actor Jensen Ackles out of skittles. Must be at least 4 feet by 4 feet. (Funny story, Mr. Ackles entered an electronics store after a day of filming and discovered one of these masterpieces in progress. This is him talking about it). There were also kindness items, like donating blood with a friend, donating hair, joining the bone marrow registry and becoming and organ donor.
Needless to say, when I first actually looked into what I was going to be doing that week in August 2013, I was terrified about what I had actually gotten myself into.
However, the week came, I was paired with 14 other first timers, about 6 of us actively participated, and I met some amazing people and did things I never thought I would ever do. Partly because who builds a lion out of maxi pads? And partly because they push my comfort zone.
For the first time in the months since I lost my friend, I felt like everything would be okay. I could hear his laughter as I lay on my deck in a bathing suit covered in chocolate. I felt whole again like I could laugh again. Gishwhes did that.
I’ve never been one to be “normal.” I enjoy being weird and doing weird things. I’ve always felt like I was a little bit on the outside looking in, but that week, and the weeks after once I became part of the GishWhes network on Facebook, I felt like I found my people. I had never felt more at home than when I discovered the Harry Potter fandom on the internet when I was in middle school.
In 2014, I joined a team with someone I had been mutuals with on Tumblr. I had another amazing year. That year William Shatner, yeah, Captian Kirk, joined. Durning the 2013 hunt there was an item that involved him, and then Misha got a cease and desist letter from NASA for bombarding the astronauts, and Mr. Shatner was curious, to say the least, so he created a team to try to win. (He did not win). I have a fantastic year that year as well. We were a laid back team, a fun team. We created dressed in kale and items only found in bathrooms; we cosplayed as famous landmarks. It was wonderful. Time of my life.
Last year, I decided to get serious. I applied to a “competitive” GishWhes team a team in it to win it: Team Banana Ninjas. Last year was a blast. We complete about 95 (I think) items. We killed it. We made the coffee table book, which is a huge feat considering the competition.
I made a raft out of water bottles last year which of all the weird stuff I’ve done is my favorite thing. I’ve linked the video above. However, the video is set to I’m on a Boat by The Lonely Island, which has a lot of curse words in it, so I would suggest headphones if you are in a public area or at work.
Which brings me to the meat of this post the 2016 GishWhes. When I told Donelle that I would be taking a week after I finished Grad School (I completed my degree on July 31st) to be part of a scavenger hunt. She said cool, what is it? So I tried to explain it quickly: the Skittles portraits, the cheese dresses, the cease and desist letters, William Shatner. I was met with a little bit of confusion and a lot of “Please post pictures.”
I was once again I was part Team Banana Ninjas. We are a team that has members in England, Romania, France, Canada, and across the USA. A lot of the items are US-centric, so it’s great to have people spread out all over. There is usually some place specific events. Last year there were a bunch in NYC, there was one in Iceland once, this year there was on in Austraila. We are a great group of people. I love my team I love hunting with them. It’s been two days, and I can’t wait to start hunting with them again text year.
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s delve into this year.
GishWhes started on July 30th, that same day I ran in a mudderella, which luckily fit into one of the items. I had to tweet myself accomplishing something that I was afraid to do. That tweet was liked by Kim Rhodes, who besides being an actor on Supernatural with Misha Collins was also the mom of the Suite life of Zack and Cody, and that was kind of a big moment for me. I may or may not have cried when I got the notification (I totally cried a little I’m blaming it on post mud run exhaustion).
Sunday, since I was incredibly sore and had a horrible sunburn because I’m an idiot, I tried to keep it easy. I created a rather large panda out of maxi pads.
Monday was a big day; I started out by handing out coffee at a bus stop.
Then I went to the cemetery that my aunt, uncle, and cousin are buried to tweet Governor Pence about the dangers of smoking
And then I went to a 5-mile walk to hatch a 10km Pokemon egg. We stopped for lunch in the middle of it, and during lunch, it started to rain, so we walked 3 miles in the rain to hatch Pokemon eggs for a weirdo scavenger hunt because I wasn’t going to not do that item because it was raining.
Tuesday was my day to make someone happy. So on my way to my friend’s house to have the help me make shoes out of pineapples, I stopped to get her two-year-old daughter a donut, and to say she was happy about it, well, I’ve never seen anyone more excited about a donut than that little girl.
Then we made shoes out of pineapple, and I ran down the street.
This isn’t directly hunt related, but I also met a stormtrooper in the street on my way to an improv show Tuesday night.
One of the items every year to get someone dressed as a stormtrooper to do something. If only I had my butter churn with me at the time.
Wednesday I helped my team get retweets on a post about saving smelly penguins and how to help someone having a stroke. I became a citizen of a small country.
I watched my teammates create such amazing things, like Trumppunzel. A teammate mailed their baby. One member created an amazing image showing what their reflection really shows. One dressed as pirates with her son and visited nursing homes, save bees, build sandcastle trailer parks and try to bully William Shatner, who decided to sit this year out because he had “work” or something, into giving us his address so we could mail him a crap ton of postcards. One of our teammates repurposed artichokes in creative ways. Another drew a Picasso style painting of Castiel.
Thursday I drove to a Haunted Lake and poured wine off a roof onto my friend.
Friday was a video and photo editing day.
Saturday, I met up with other Gishers in New Hampshire to spread positive messages at a bus stop: like “Be the unicorn you want to see in the world” and “every Magikarp evolves in a Gyarados”. And then I dressed up like a thunderstorm.
That was the end of my hunt this year. I helped my teammates edit their photos and videos before the gishwhes website, youtube, and Imgur crashed again and waited nervously for Misha to post some last minute item.
We complete 100 of the 178 items this year. The most that we’ve done as a team, the most that a team I’ve been on has complete. (I got to use that 100 emoji unironically, which was another big moment for me. As my French Teammate Amelia said after I expressed my excited about using it It’s the little things that bring us the most happiness). I completed 11 individual items personal best.
Every year when I compete in Gishwhes, I’m asked what I win. Well, this is a hard question to answer. The grand prize is a week-long vacation with Misha Collins and our team. This year the trip is to Iceland, last year it was Costa Rica. But Gishwhes is so much more than that. Without being a runner up or a “winner,” we won. We did more items as a team and individually than we have before. We could make the coffee table book again this year, we could end up the Gishwhes hall of fame, we could end up being runners-up, but no matter where we end up, we are winners. We made amazing things last week. We forged friendships, pushed ourselves to our complete mental and physical limits.
Gishwhes is about pushing limits, about doing things you never thought you could do. It’s about being #waywardAF. It’s about killing normalcy and learning about yourself. It’s an exhausting week, mentally and physically, but I could never see myself spending the first week of August any other way. It makes coming back to the regular 9-5 life boring. As I sit at my desk at work and try to catch up on the weeks worth stamping invoices, and start to work on editing a new manuscript, I remember what I was doing a week ago, a year ago today. Running around in the rain hatching Pokemon eggs it the rain, covering a friend in butter, building a raft out of water bottles. Normal life feels boring, stressful in a different way.