2/26/2014

Some Things That Virgin Burners Won't Understand, At First



There are lots of things that people have a hard time wrapping their brain around as it relates to Burning Man. What is burning man seems a question many people understand, but few can agree on it. Why to go is another thing not many people seem to agree on. A big reason for this is because there's so much to do and so many different ways to experience the event. But, apart from a small few, there is one group that is largely on equal footing when it comes to understanding burning man: those who have never been.

There are edge cases of people who may understand what they are getting in to when visiting burning man for the first time, but this is for those who may not be familiar with it, coming from Florida or Europe, or elsewhere. Here are a few things (many) virgin burners won't understand:

It is like a family reunion
For many burners who attend every year arriving on the playa is a chance to see people they've not seen since last year. With many theme camps, art collectives, volunteer/staff groups and others out there being far flung and in different parts of the world some people who've known each other for 10 years or more only get to be together one or two weeks a year. While at first this might seem understandable to a newcomer it plays a big role in the experience for many.

Don't be quick to feel left out if you're at a camp, or some place where everyone seems to know each other. They often do, and they are often happy to see one another. But don't let that stop you from engaging and feeling at home. One of the reasons there are roughly 1000 theme camps is because people want folks to come and enjoy what they've done. Do it, enjoy it, make friends. The doors are open for a reason.

While you may see people come in a camp who've been visiting a certain neighborhood for years, greeted like Norm in the Cheers TV show, don't let that make you feel like you don't belong. You're a part of it all whether you're new or not.

The daily routine
One thing that people always say about burning man is that when you get there it might take a few days to acclimate. While it is true for most people one thing that seems to happen with folks that have been a bunch of times is that the daily routine kicks in pretty much right away.

Plenty of people have been camping, some in the desert, but camping, or RVing, at burning man is different. It is hot, you may be doing carpentry, you spend all night on the town and it is loud, noisy and there's tons of stuff to do. Getting meals in while doing all the stuff one does at the burn can be hard to coordinate for newcomers. Figuring out how much sleep one needs, and when you need it, can be hard for newcomers.

For those that have been people often report it is just like they never left. People develop habits and schedules and certain ways of washing dishes with little or no water, showering with little or no water. The first year at the burn is one where a person can spend a lot of time figuring this stuff out, maybe getting it wrong, maybe getting it right. Whatever the case may be, by the end of the event newcomers often have a lot more experience with doing the burning man thing. They will have more time to do what they want the more experienced they become. It sometimes is easier for the experienced burner.

Thursday and Friday kind of suck
As mentioned earlier, a lot of people only get to be with this group of friends once a year. They may have already spent days, or weeks, building all the awesome stuff one sees at burning man before the gates even opened. When Thursday hits a lot of people start talking about how they can't believe its already Thursday, and thus, that it is almost over. While obviously not true for many this can be one of the crappier parts of the week for a lot of folks.

While, of course, not universal, this is a time when many newcomers are starting to really figure out how to live out in the harsh desert, they've got a schedule of sorts and are starting to get excited for the burning of The Man and other late-week burns. They often feel the greatest around this time. Enjoy it while it lasts!

The Man burn
There is lots of conflicted opinions on the man burn among people who've been to the burn before. Some love it, some hate it, some don't really care either way. It is the one time of the week where most everyone is together, it is the one time where most of your favorite spots are empty or closed for business and it is just a break in the routine.

Newcomers often don't know what to expect from the man burn, and nobody can really agree on what it means or represents. It is a lot of fire works, a lot burning and the signal that the event is pretty much over. Most of the theme camps and projects, if they haven't started already, will wake up in the morning with the job of tearing everything down. It can be a kind of bittersweet party for many.

The people who are experiencing it for the first time should embrace what little they have left because after the man burns nothing is really the same. Lots of people leave. Lots of camps never open back up, and the city is different. Take the changes in, enjoy the evening and prepare to clean up your crap in the morning.

Sunday
While many people reject the idea of the quasi-religious ritual of the Temple Burn it is still a thing that a lot of people won't miss. Sure, you spent all day tearing down camp and packing things up, but when the evening comes a lot of folks will be out there at the temple site watching it go up in flames. This is really the end of burning man. Newcomers that stayed and experienced burners alike realize that the fun is over.

But one thing might start to appear in the heads of the newcomers who have likely already decided that they want to come back. They, like the ones who've been many times before, are already thinking about what a long year awaits them before they return to this place that has now become an important thing to them. While when coming in they might have laughed at the hippies hugging them saying "welcome home" the newcomers and vets alike will probably start thinking about how they'd rather not have to wait so long to be back in this amazing place that perhaps may not be home, but it certainly has come to feel like it.