This is my real life, all of it.

In English we use this phrase to mean that vacation, time off, or a fun adventure has come to an end.  It is the time to get back to work, to a Monday through Friday ‘grind’ (or a weekend grind).

For the Finnish it is “paluu arkeen“ and for the Norweigan, “Tilbake til hverdagslivet”. The saying is the same; a return to everyday life.  However, in Spanish, “volver a la cruda realidad”; meaning, “Back to the harsh reality” or “Vuelvo a la mina”, “going back to the mine”.  The Flemish specify their kind of daily work with, “Terug naar de kookpot“, “Back to the cooking pot“.  The French express the mundane repetitiveness of the work day with “métro-boulot-dodo”, “Subway, job, sleep”

I’m not a fan of that phrase, in any language, although I do appreciate the imagery and thinking about what it is that different cultures see as the daily “norm”.

Coming back from a vacation, or switching gears from a heavy work schedule to a heavy course load (or vice versa), doesn’t mean that any of those are more or less real or important. Also, that in enjoying time off from work, particularly a job that one doesn’t enjoy or find fulfilling, is a fantasy that can not (or should not) be maintained in order to fit some expectation of how we should spend our time and how our productivity and success is measured.  Making the reference “the real life” equivalent to the conversation about the undesirable, the boring, or the routine, seems counterproductive and restrictive.

This August, for the third year, I participated in GISHWHES.  If anything could be thrown into a discussion of “escaping real life” based on the commonly accepted definition or standard, then that First Week of August, for Gishers all over the world, should be a candidate. But I think that the hunt and the things that come from it, usually (but not always) are great, kind, inspiring, and motivating; living like that is and should be the goal.

The items in the hunt range from the simple to the insane.  One item might be a creative drawing and the next may involve calling NASA for help getting things into space.  Different skills, talents, interests, and levels of resourcefulness are celebrated.  Some items can be done alone and some require working on a team.  A team of 15 is likely to have some conflicting personalities as well as different ideas about what the roles of members are, how involved members should be, or how communication should be handled.  Working with people you do not know well, or at all, and are only communicating with via text online in a very small window of time also creates much opportunity for misunderstanding and conflict which may or may not be resolved.  However the lesson coming out of such a conflict is important, next time one can be more patient or compassionate in regard to another’s personal situations or realize that addressing a conflict may actually make it worse in some cases.

I’ve always been impressed by the things my team members can accomplish as many of them can do very artistic things that I have no talent for and I’ve surprised myself a few times over the years with what I can accomplish.  Each hunt I learn more about myself and others.

All of these experiences and feelings are very real and very important.  These are experiences that change a person’s outlook, give someone tools or skills to handle a situation in the future, and create lasting memories and friendships.  Nervousness at ‘meeting’ new team members, excitement and maybe apprehension waiting for the list to be posted, ambition to complete items and solve problems, enthusiasm (and exhaustion) to reconnect with people you may have lost touch with and in meeting people you never have met before, joy in giving and volunteering time, pressure to do well and stress when time draws near to complete, satisfaction at a task well done and disappointment in not completing something you thought you could, sadness and yet a kind of freedom at the end of the week, desire to continue being creative and helping others.

I didn’t go “back to real life” when the hunt was over.  I continued on.



The following is a list of the items completed by myself and my brother George here in Michigan (and Kentucky) for the 2016 hunt.  Each of them has its own story. A story I know about why we did one, how we did it, and what happened while we did it.  They each also have a story I don’t know, about the creation of the item and the impression we left behind when we did it. In addition to these, my amazing team members (AbnosomeDuckies for life!) completed many items and I intend to update this list with their submissions as well.

I have to thank the people who helped us along the way.  Some people joined us on a crazy adventure and may or may not have known exactly what they were signing up for, some offered help I couldn’t (or didn’t) take or they got me in touch with those who might be able to help complete a task.  Some contributed a thing I needed or their time or access to something.  A few of these people I don’t even know and have never met but they all made the week a great one.

Andrea S, Ryan M, Trase P, Ryan B, Becca C, Laila O, Rich, Jen P, Robert S, Michelle S, Sara B, Adam H & Todd L and the 501st Legion, Mike M, that one security guy at WSU, The Southfield Fire Department, there’s probably some I forgot in there too.



26 points. Find the coupon section from your most recent newspaper. Cut out at least five coupons. Go to the store and leave the coupons on the shelf taped next to the relevant items with a note “From the Coupon Fairy!”. – Elizabeth Fiedler



47 points. You (a human) must re-enact this photo (not pets allowed):


39 points.  Give your dog a slow, massaging soap bath in a kiddie pool in a crowded pedestrian area. If it’s cold out, use a large stuffed animal instead. Relaxing spa music should be playing in the background. – Tracy Liu


79 points. The versatility of corn is amazing— it has so many uses! However, there’s no better use for corn than this year’s must-have fashion statement: the Corn Husk Bikini or Corn Husk Evening Wear! Feel free to color the husks, as well as to accent and accessorize with kernels.


61 points. Drones are just the first step in machines’ efforts to take over the world. Let’s end this battle before it starts! Let’s see an epic picture of you squaring off against a flying drone in your mightiest battle pose. You must be geared for battle though… Use anything from your kitchen or pantry to create your armour and weaponry.



48 points. Submit your video in slow motion.You are throwing an elegant party. Show us your sophistication by decanting red wine directly into your guests’ mouths. Properly aerate the wine by pouring it from at least 2 stories above the guests. The guests, of course, must be wearing white.



14 points. Gishwhes has broken 7 Guinness World Records. Let’s see how many records you can break in 10 seconds. (Hint: record=LP)


48 points. Wallpaper an entire wall of your bedroom with photos of your nose. You must cover every inch of the wall and must have AT LEAST 100 pictures of your nose. Pose in front of it with your finger up your nose.


97 points. Nobody ever talks about the fact that 250 years ago, stormtroopers who had been abandoned on planet Earth were forced to assimilate into pre-Industrial culture. Dramatically re-enact this difficult time. Show a stormtrooper getting back to basics using a spinning wheel, butter churn, or other old-fashioned tool or machine in a rural setting. Feel free to add accessories to the stormtrooper’s outfit to make their assimilation more complete—a Shaker-style hat, a musket slung over the shoulder, etc.


83 Points. “Death 2 Normalcy”, written in “Highway Braille” (Botts Dots) on a city street. The message must be at least 20 feet long.


38 Points. Dress up as a prospector and pan for gold in a public fountain. – Trish Burdick


96 Points. Make a cheerleader outfit entirely out of vegetables, including pom-poms, and cheer for a garden or for the produce in the produce section of a supermarket. – Dean K.



72 Points. The bees are disappearing from our planet. This is particularly tragic for gishers, given our reliance on honey for getting things to stick to our skin (oh yeah, and also because we kind of need them to pollinate the flowering plants on Earth, which we depend on for food). Help save the bees by establishing a milkweed garden, creating a painting or mural honoring bees, helping out at your local apiary, protesting the use of glysophates, supporting an organization dedicated to bee preservation, or in any other way you see fit.


59 Points. It’s been a very hot summer! Help out the first responders in your area by bringing ice-cream to your local police, fire, or EMS department while dressed as the world famous Dessert Fairy. – Danielle D.



47 Points. Don’t you hate that feeling when you walk out to your car and you see the dreaded ticket under your windshield wiper? Let’s change that. Find small envelopes and stamp them in red ink with an ominous: “PARKING SALUTATIONS BUREAU!” Then find a row of cars and put positive messages in your envelopes under their windshield wipers.



33 Points. This submission may be 1 minute or less. Go to one of these places and have a local tell you the story of how the place got its name. The video must start with you next to a sign that identifies the location. -Tracy Liu



23 Points. Welcome to Slangatoilegami. You don’t see the phrases “Slangaroo”, “bathroom tissue”, and “origami” together nearly often enough. Let’s fix that. – Dave Lavery



21 Points. Happiness DAY 5 (must be submitted on day 5 of the hunt). What have you done today to make someone else happy?



24 Points. Be the town crier for the day and shout what you think people should know about the day’s events in a public square.




36 Points Write a poem in binary so that the zeros and ones also form a beautiful pattern.



107 Points. gishwhes transcends the space-time continuum, bringing old technology to life in modern times to create cutting edge graphics! To demonstrate gishwhes’s ability to bridge time, create a program to display an animation of a gishwhes mascot using a TRS-80, Apple II, Commodore PET, or Commodore 64. ( You may not use an emulator. You must use the actual hardware, and the video must show the graphics playing on the screen of the computer in question.)



33 Points. At Hope Chest they create butterflies and transform lives Channeling your inner Monet, pen a message of hope with colored ink on a white bra. Then, channel your inner supermodel and stage a public photo shoot of someone wearing this “support undergarment.” (You may wear a shirt underneath it if you prefer and you must adhere to local laws. Please note that Gishwhes does not provide bail money.) Once completed, submit your image on the gishwhes website and also tweet to @MyHopeChest your awesome results on the final day of the game. Extra points for incorporating butterflies into the design. – Ruth Connell



28 Points. Time-lapse this submission to 20 seconds or less. Join The Hunt, and wear sensible shoes. Grab a friend and go for a walk. A really, really long walk. Unlock the 2.0KM, 5.0KM and 10.KM Poke Eggs and show us what you’ve hatched. Capture the journey in a 20 second time-lapse video and submit to Gishwhes. Extra Points if you photo grab your hatchlings and ping @OsricChau with a map of your travels. – Osric Chau



69 Points. Not everyone knows this, but legendary outlaw Doc Holliday was a dentist. Crochet a gunslinger’s belt worthy of Doc Holliday out of dental floss. Instead of a gun, your holsters hold a toothbrush, of course. Draw! (And don’t skip the gumline.)