When people ask us “Gish (formerly known as Gishwhes)? What is that?” we usually don’t have a short answer to give. The very short way of explaining it would be something along the lines of “doing crazy stuff for charity and for fun, while gaining points for your team”. But for those who have participated for several years, it’s become much, much more than that.
(Update 5/2019: WE WON! Our amazing Team Scrumtrulescent won Gish 2018 and we took the winner’s trip to New Zealand in April 2019. Look for #GishTrip on Instagram or Twitter and you’ll find some photos & updates from our adventure!)
The Gish Teams
Each team has 15 members. You can start your own team if you have 14 willing participants you know and want to work with, but you can also just throw yourself out there and possibly find new friends from countries you’ve never even visited. But whatever the case, it’s always going to be 15 people.
(Our team for the past years has been the amazing Team Scrumtrulescent. We come from several different countries and have a fantastic team spirit. You can check out our Tumblr blog or our recently launched Facebook page, if you’re curious about our team members and our photos!)
The winning team will be taken on an adventure trip. The winners of 2015 was flown to Costa Rica for fun times (in 2014, it was Croatia), and they’ll be accompanied by the favorite of many, Misha Collins from Supernatural, the dude who started the whole thing.
There’s plenty of information about everything on the Gish website, but we’ll list the reasons important to us in this post.
The Gish Week
When the competition starts, the teams will have a week to complete a mad list of items (just see the item list 2015 and the item list 2016 for great examples). The list is revealed on a certain day, at a certain time, at the same time for everyone, and after that the teams have about a week to complete as many items as they can. There’s a deadline, and you’ll have to submit everything you’ve done before the time runs out. You can also submit stuff during the week.
Each item describes what you need to send in as proof: most often, it’s a photo or a very short video clip. There’s a set amount of points you can get for each item, but with some extra effort, you can gain up to 100% of bonus points.
No-one really knows what it is that makes the judges loosen their bonus point purse strings, but we’re pretty sure it’s about the extra effort: the combination of creativity, making it extra special by all means available and the amount of fun you have while completing the task.
The Gish Tasks
And then there’s the List… The mad, brilliant, delightfully weird list of items. Tasks that send the first-timers into a downward spiral of self-doubt and fear for the first few hours of the race. “I can’t possibly do stuff like this in public”, they think. “Helicopter? I don’t have access to a helicopter!” they say.
But the doubt and the fear will fade, and it’ll get better. You’ll quickly notice how friends and complete strangers are willing to help with the most peculiar stuff, if you just have the courage to ask them nicely.
How Gish Affects Your Life
You’ll also become more and more comfortable with doing weird stuff in public, and you’ll start to enjoy the feeling of freedom you get when you’re dancing in the middle of a crowded street wearing a tutu made out of kale and lettuce.
And if you don’t like being in front of a camera, if you think you look stupid in photos and get nervous whenever someone films you… heed the words of Gishveterans: this is the best cure for that.
How Gish Affects The People Around You
Right, so, now you have a general idea what Gish is. But we can assure you, there’s so much more to it than just making a fool out of yourself in public and taking fun photos and videos.
Gish does a lot of good that no-one really sees at first glance. But when you participate, you’ll soon realise the magnitude of it as a genius charity movement.
Not only is it the single largest contributor to the charity Random Acts (through eg. participation fees), it also encourages thousands of people every year to donate to charities and help others in need. Every year more and more of us register as donors of blood, bone marrow and organs; we give what we can to those in need; we show kindness to the homeless, to the poor, to the animals in need.
And we do it every year, and we do it with smiles on our faces.
This year we saw someone say that they performed all the acts of kindness on the item list, but didn’t take any photos they needed for proof. They just wanted to do good, not score points for their teams.
What Gish Means To Us
Apart from giving us a nutty, fun week to live through each year, Gish has helped each one of us Fangirl Quest gals on a more personal level. Together, we have 11 years (weeks) of experience of it. Satu and Johanna have participated 4 times, Tiia 3.
Satu always says that without Gish, she wouldn’t be comfortable in front of cameras. She used to hide from them, in fact. Now, she’s prancing around Helsinki wearing Stormtrooper outfits, masks and kale tutus, in front of a hundred strangers, and in front of the camera.
Gish has also completely changed Johanna’s outlook on life. It’s changed the way she views “normal” and made her realize doing good doesn’t have to be so complicated. In the spring of 2015, she got to personally thank Misha Collins for changing her life. Misha took her hand and said he’s happy if it’s had a positive effect. (Which is clearly an understatement.)
Tiia finds endless inspiration in Gish. She’s a professional photographer, experienced and schooled, but this competition has given her so much more. The silliness of the tasks teases her creativity into new heights, and she’s much more comfortable approaching strange people, as well as working in front of them.
During the competition week, we all need to think about contacting the right people in the right way, as well as shooting locations, backgrounds, props, make-up, clothing, composition, lighting – all of this under a very tight schedule.
We often say that Gish would be the perfect way to pick the best candidates for any job that requires people skills, organizational skills, creativity in both arts and in problem solving, patience, quick decision making… and Overlord Collins knows what else.
Interested in taking part?
DO IT! The registration for each year usually starts a couple of months before the race on the official site and has clear instructions and rules you need to read before the race.
A few good tips:
- If you’re a first-timer, we suggest just taking it easy for the first year. You’ll learn what your personal limits are, what you’re comfortable doing and what are the best kind of people to have around you.
- If you want to aim for the win, pick a competitive team. There are several communities on Facebook where you can look for a team (unless you have 14 equally competitive friends of course). You’ll need loads of free time as the most advanced teams often complete at least 80% of all given items (and they usually do it well). For example, we completed about 20 items each (171 / 211 for the whole team) and two of us took the whole week off for it.
- If you just want inspiration and good times, pick a relaxed team. There are plenty of teams that aren’t in it to win it – they just want to be a part of it, create something and do as much good as they can.
- Be active with other gishers outside the competition week, too. If you already know your team members, talk to them, make plans, become friends. Talk to other people too, even if they are or will become your rivals. People love to share their experiences as well as their previous years’ items, and you’ll learn a lot.
- Be honest about your goals, skills and activity. If you think you can just tag along and get a free holiday by joining an active team and then doing nothing yourself, you’re wrong. To win, everyone must give their very best. And more importantly, everyone must communicate with their team daily. So by disappearing in the beginning of the race, you’ll not only ruin your own chances, you’ll also do it to 14 other people. 14 people who are working their butts off around you and for you.
- Winning isn’t what makes GiShwheS fun. This needs to be said, just so we don’t end on a negative note. Gishing will change your life. It gives you a week of pure sense of achievement, creativity and giggles. You’ll make new friends, you’ll see amazing places and talk to surprising people. And you’ll find face paints, bits of kale and food in your underwear for days to come after the race is over. And it’ll make you smile.
A few more Gish photos to convince you…