Observations on first timers.

Share your pictures and video. Tell us about the sights, sounds, and scents, as well as the rumors and truths found at Burning Man.

Observations on first timers.

Postby Xavier » Wed Sep 05, 2007 1:26 am

When I first came to Burning Man in 2002, I was invited by a Burner, and was lucky to stay with him and with an extremely experienced, organized camp of 7 year burners. To be honest, I had no clued how blessed I was to be with those guys. I started out chasing fly-by MOOP on my bike, kept hydrated, ate like a king, and enjoyed the hell out of that first year...

Just a hypothesis, but how many first-timers were out there this year with NO friends, contacts, directions or support other than the survival guide - which, if you hadn't read it BEFORE you packed, is sort of pointless.

I surmise that issues with MOOP, unpreparedness, basic etiquette etc. stem from this problem.

I camped with a different theme camp this year, and started off the week by kicking two squatters out of a clearly marked Theme Camp area.

We had two first timers in our camp, one in particular who saw no reason to follow the Leave No Trace rule of Burning Man. The literal quote was "I thought this was a place where there were no rules, and now you're telling me there are." He was taken aback that there was law enforcement at Burning Man. He was there to party, which he did, but by the end of the week he was definitely a changed person and we kicked him to shape, starting by getting him to ash into a can instead of the playa etc.

On Friday, my wife and I went on a tour of the outer ring late at night, just to get away from all the lights and actually see some open desert. We were surprised to see cars still rolling in, as we had heard a rumor that no new participants were being let it (this is true, but if you had purchased a ticket earlier you could still come in). We went to a parking car and talked to the driver.

The woman told us that she had no experience at Burning Man, knew nobody at Burning Man, but "saw it on Current TV" and thought it would be cool to come with her daughter. She knew enough to have lights, but had grossly overestimated on water (16 gallons!). We told her not to the leave the car until she had the read the survival guide, and also told her to how to avoid/deal with Playa foot, which the guide doesn't address.

I got back today, and my roommate related a story about her friend who had just come back unhappily from Burning Man. She also did not know anyone at BRC, and thought it was a music festival. She drove out with her car, a change of clothes, her curling iron, and a ton of cash. She thought she would be able to stay at a hotel and travel to the festival at her leisure, buy food/water onsite etc. She was flabbergasted that she was actually expected to "rough it."


Any observations from the anyone else, especially the Greeters?

Anyone on these boards who came to BRC with no veteran advice?
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Postby AntiM » Wed Sep 05, 2007 8:00 am

In 2001, I read about Burning Man on the internet. It looked cool, I bought tickets. I knew no burners, nothing. I did read the survival guide and the Triple A article. I showed mylarry what we needed. I found Hushville in its infancy online. When he unpacks the trailer, I'll post our first year camp, the pic is in my journal under a lot of bins and bikes and dust. We were asked how many years we'd been attending, no one mistook us for first timers. We had shade and supplies and too much water, the LNT and MOOP thing became a passion in a matter of minutes. Our greywater technique left much to be desired, and we had a full on grill which is still dusty.

Not every newb stumbles in unaware.
we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
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Postby asp3 » Wed Sep 05, 2007 8:39 am

I worked at Playa Info this year and was flabbergasted at the number of under prepared and ignorant attendees. The worst part is that some of these folks were the people who were coming into PlayaInfo on Saturday and Sunday before the event even started.

A number of new attendees were associted with seasoned burners, but the veterans hadn't prepared the new folks to be minimally self relient. A number of people came in saying the other folks from their camp hadn't shown up yet or they hadn't registered. The new folks didn't have food/water/shelter/etc... because that was being arranged by their camp mates.

It was very obvious that a lot of the people who were attending for the first time didn't read the survival guide.

Another thing that amazed me were the number of veterans who didn't bring spare keys, didn't lock their bikes, didn't bring basic bicycle repair kits or forgot their goggles or masks.
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Postby skygod » Wed Sep 05, 2007 10:08 am

I was camped next to some New Orleans folks, 2 of which were noobs, and one person who had attended once before. The noobs were nice but didn't leave their camp much and didn't like the extreme conditions. After a big argument, the veteran abandoned them to find another ride back home with some other Nawlens people, and I had to take all their trash home cause their new ride didn't have room for more than their bodies and 3 bags.
"It will seem difficult in the beginning. But everything seems difficult in the beginning."- Musashi
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Postby honeyfire » Wed Sep 05, 2007 4:35 pm

Skygod, how tedious for you to haul someon else's trash back out, but THANK YOU so much for doing so.
They may or may not have appreciated it, but i certainly do.

Xavier sayed:
"the survival guide - which, if you hadn't read it BEFORE you packed, is sort of pointless"

Well, sure, but *laughing* what the hell is anyone doing packing BEFORE reading the survival guide? It's pretty clear right from the front page of the site that you really need to read that first thing if you want to come to the playa.

Hell, i practically had the entire thing memorised within a week of finding bm.com to begin with. *snork*

There's obviously some 'learning by experience' that occurs, but i think that preparedness has a lot more to do with personality than with being a noob or not.
People who are willing to take responsibility for themsleves will do so in the backcountry or in NYC or Angkor Wat as much as on the playa...
I'm just trying not to be liveMOOP...

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Postby stuart » Thu Sep 06, 2007 10:51 am

I feel very fortunate that 2 vets dragged me to the playa years ago and heavily indoctrinated me on what works and what doesn't out there. If anything, I've forgotten some of what I knew my first year.

between the heavy atttrition of vets each year and some camps that provide kitchen, shower, water, shade, toilettes, etc., etc. folks aren't learning how to prep for the event.
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Postby djero » Thu Sep 06, 2007 10:53 am

Yeah, I was a newb to BM this year, but if anything I came overprepared. It is true, if you actually read and pay attention to the survival guide you will have a very good idea what you are in for. I have a fair amount of camping and survival experience, so it wasn't too much of a stretch to get out there, but it did require a lot of time and energy getting everything together. The one thing I wish I had known more about (more for our camp than my personal needs) is greywater evaporating systems, but I learned a lot about that out there on the playa!

It is definately on the individual and not the experience level. I think BM does a good job expressing the needs to attendees.

"Prepare for survival in a harsh desert environment."

Ok!!

p.s. I actually enjoyed the extreme climate and dust storms for the most part (except the havoc they wreaked on our structures). Talk about an attitude test. But by day 9 it was time to get on out of there.....
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Postby SparkleButt » Thu Sep 06, 2007 12:00 pm

I was a virgin this year, but had the advantage of an obsession with preparedness and planning, and I was camping alongside my sister and her hubby who went last year. I was rather pleased that my list of things to remember next year is extremely short (2 non-essential items); my packing list will definitely be reused with few changes. Anyhow, it was just a given to me that going to BM would require a certain amount of energy and time spent planning, and I immediately understood and embraced the idea of radical self-reliance.

I'm horrified at the stories I've heard of folks arriving completely unprepared. I devoured all the resources on the BM website even before I decided to go, and reread them as I planned. I've just never been someone who relishes flying by the seat of my pants, but I guess there are people who live their lives this way and figured just showing up at BM was as much as they needed to do, and the world (aka generous burners) would somehow provide. Seems the height of selfishness to me.

I guess that for me, from the very get-go, the lengths you have to go to to just survive out there is a huge part of the experience. Do these people not stop to realize that it's in this desolate, godforsaken desert for a reason? It's not only because of the vast open space, or at least I don't see it that way. Anyhow, it seems like coming to BM without preparing for the desert environment is like only reading every other page of a book...and then expecting someone else who actually read the whole thing to fill you in.
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Postby stew » Thu Sep 06, 2007 12:42 pm

One of my camp mates worked a few greeter's shifts and she also had some terrible stories to tell.

We've had five virgins in our camp of 11 total, and we made sure to have them prepared properly. I told my friend repeatedly about wind, dust, hydration and lights and made sure he knew the survival guide inside out. The only problem he encountered was getting too drunk on his first evening (the Mile High Club drinks were very strong), but other than that he had a blast.
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Postby --Ever-- » Thu Sep 06, 2007 12:45 pm

We brought a total of three virgins this year amongst our camp. I told em I wouldn't even consider bringing them till they read the web site / survival guide.
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Postby ZeeKitten » Thu Sep 06, 2007 12:51 pm

What Sparklebutt said . . .

This was my virgin Burn after many, many years of hearing about BM - so not only did I call upon my outdoors/camping/backpacking background, but knowing that this was unlike any of my previous experiences - I also did exhaustive online research (consulted friends who are experienced Burners, joined the excellently helpful and informative Hushville discussion group, joined ePlaya, read many articles/blogs, etc.).

I knew I wouldn't be able to have any control over anything other than my gear and self - so I took care to take care.

It's hard to believe other first-timers are so clueless and irresponsible to not do similarly.
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Postby CaptainObvious » Thu Sep 06, 2007 12:54 pm

It isn't that the info isn't there... My first year I read every word on the site. I volunteered for DPW weekends (at the time I lived in Reno) and put in about 8-10 days of work. I also made contact with the then fledgling Apokiliptika and came in on the ground floor of that effort. I was able to convince the Harvster to let the man blink on and off in response to "Mini-Man" in 2005, and was able to get the Midnight to 3am shift spinning music on BMIR and was able to let my wife know ahead of time where to listen to it online. I managed to get a spot "pulling" in Thunderdome and, because of that, I was able to grab a friend and fight on Friday night. That was my first year.

If people want to get it and immerse themselves they can.. it is all about the level of desire. No excuses for coming unprepared other than lazy people "looking for nothing but a good time." Tell 'em to go to a Poison concert...
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Postby CaptainObvious » Thu Sep 06, 2007 12:56 pm

Remembering my first year...

It isn't that the info isn't there... My first year I read every word on the site. I volunteered for DPW weekends (at the time I lived in Reno) and put in about 8-10 days of work. I also made contact with the then fledgling Apokiliptika and came in on the ground floor of that effort. I was able to convince the Harvster to let the man blink on and off in response to "Mini-Man" in 2005, and was able to get the Midnight to 3am shift spinning music on BMIR and was able to let my wife know ahead of time where to listen to it online. I managed to get a spot "pulling" in Thunderdome and, because of that, I was able to grab a friend and fight on Friday night.

If people want to get it and immerse themselves they can.. it is all about the level of desire. No excuses for coming unprepared other than lazy people "looking for nothing but a good time." Tell 'em to go to a Poison concert...
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Postby Clar-i-ty » Thu Sep 06, 2007 3:33 pm

[quote="asp3"]It was very obvious that a lot of the people who were attending for the first time didn't read the survival guide.

Another thing that amazed me were the number of veterans who didn't bring spare keys, didn't lock their bikes, didn't bring basic bicycle repair kits or forgot their goggles or masks.[/quote]

Please see the Burning Man Quiz Thread! I really think it could work!
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Postby Clar-i-ty » Thu Sep 06, 2007 3:38 pm

Honestly, half the fun for me is getting ready for the playa. I love planning everything out, putting stuff in zip locks, labeling boxes, and preparing for contingencies. I know, it makes me a freak, but honestly, it's fun for me. We should do better at making the preparation part of the experience. The playa proper is the icing on the cake. The ingenuity, cleverness and creativeness required to get there should be just as much fun.

(stepping off my soapbox now)
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Postby honeyfire » Thu Sep 06, 2007 3:47 pm

ZeeKitten, i love your avatar!

SparkleButt sayed:
"I've just never been someone who relishes flying by the seat of my pants, but I guess there are people who live their lives this way"

The funny thing is that, in many ways, i am like that. I've gone on plenty of spur-of-the-moments trips/activities, trusting that my positive approach and willingness to be flexible and bust ass (and sleep on the floor) if needed would be sufficient. And i've had pleasant to excellent results from it.
The playa, however, is not the place for this approach. *snork*


ZeeKitten sayed:
"I knew I wouldn't be able to have any control over anything other than my gear and self - so I took care to take care."

DingDingDing! Give this cat a prize!!
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Postby Mr_Understanding » Thu Sep 06, 2007 4:04 pm

I really felt that a lot of people walking around this year weren't just tourists in the BRC sense, but in every sense. Sometimes it felt more like being at the Cable Car turnaround on Powell and Market than being at Burning Man.

For me, the most appealing part of BM is in the giving and friendly atmostphere, which seemed heavily on the decline this year as theme camps pulled into themselves to avoid people leeching off them, and a lot of people showed up on the playa without the slightest idea of the spirit of the place, which anyone who bothered to read and prepare in advance of their trip -- whether they knew anyone in BRC or not -- can easily glean. It seemed difficult to get people to return or acknowledge a friendly wave, which I don't recall encountering before.

On Tuesday night instead of going out, my friend Ezra and I sat at the edge of our camp on the 7:30 plaza and decided to give out flashing LED lights to everyone we saw walking around dark. (I bring up a big box every year.) We felt this in the spririt of educating first-timers (of which Ezra was one, but he took to the playa extremely quickly), as well as encouraging the spirit of Burning Man in the process.

Half the people we gave lights to were grateful and friendly; but the other half either spurned us at first (they didn't want tacky lights or didn't see the serious safety issue of walking around dark) or took them without a sense of simple politeness or gratitude, but as their due. Of course some wouldn't take them at all even after we tried to explain why it was important.

The most disturbing story, however, was a guy whom when we asked if he wanted a light for his bike, asked us how much we were selling them for (!). After we explained they were gifts, he told us how it was his first year, and that more than a couple of people had tried to sell him things during his first couple days.

I ask: how can we expect to keep Burning Man alive if the influx of new people outpaces our ability to educate them and pass the torch to would-be burners? If too many people bring the ethos of Camp Reality and can't be drawn into the culture of BM fast enough, then how can we maintain the integrity of the event?
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Postby Chad-Pierce » Thu Sep 06, 2007 5:57 pm

I am old enough to remember the hippy movement of the 60's - 70's. You all could be a little more friendly towards the men that are there. I had a great time only after i had a life long fantasy fullfilled by 2 women that are around my age. Thats not what I had come there looking for but it made the experience alot more interesting and fullfilling.
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Postby stuart » Thu Sep 06, 2007 6:02 pm

I was asked a couple of times in my camp while playing where the free bar was. "Aren't we doing enough for you already?" was my reply.

I've been asked this in preious years but for some reason it really knocked me back this year.
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Postby Chad-Pierce » Thu Sep 06, 2007 6:18 pm

This was my first burn and I realy didnt know what to expect. I was there with two women 1 my wife 2 her best friend and our 7 year old daughter. we were camped with a theme camp that had a member that is a 17 year vet. I felt so unwelcomed that I was having a bad time until i got compleatly smashed and hardly remeber most of what I did the night the man burned. It's too bad that it took me getting smashed for people to open up and aknowledge you. The 17 year vet didnt offer much hospitality to me, only to the women I was with and that went for most of the people there. I still found a way to make the experience uplifting, and look forward to next burn.
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Postby Mr_Understanding » Thu Sep 06, 2007 7:55 pm

Chad -

I'm sorry you didn't have much fun, and that they man you were with didn't help you adjust much, but I did want to make a comment.

In my experience, "getting smashed" doesn't help other people open up to us, it helps us open up to other people.

One time on a trip to Molokai, my ex and I went around wondering for days why everyone called it "The Friendly Isle" when we'd met no one of the sort. After an experience in the ocean one day, we finally relaxed and then noticed that everyone was finally friendly. We realized it was us and not everyone else who had been holding back -- who had been closed.

If you'd felt more welcome in your own camp, I'm willing to bet you would have felt more comfortable being free amongst the other people of BRC and had a more enjoyable experience. If you go back, I'd recommend camping by yourselves amongst other people camped by themselves. Small groups are much more friendly to small groups. Theme camps can sometimes be places of stress because of all the work they entail, and they also tend to be more closed places because often people traveling with 50 of their friends don't feel the need to make new ones.
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Postby JNGLST66 » Fri Sep 07, 2007 12:33 am

2007 was my first year, I was lucky enough to be with a lot of experienced burners. I had been pondering on going since 1999 and finally made it! So for the past 7 years I have read the website over and over. When it came time for me to take my place, lets say I was more than prepared.
I came home with enough left over food to feed my fam for a week.
I deff. learned a lot about what you need and what you dont. For this year being my first, Im giving my self a pat on the back for being self reliant.
Thanx to all the Vets that look out for the little guys, blessings and love to everyone.

SEE YOU ALL NEXT YEAR!!!
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Postby waterlyric » Fri Sep 07, 2007 11:49 am

I was in the camp with the 17-year vet that Chad mentioned above (the "wife's" best friend)... I have to 100% agree with Mr_Understanding when he says that getting smashed allows US to open up to others and not the other way around. I too felt like the vet (my uncle) could have been more welcoming, but I also recognize that by the time we arrived (late Thursday) he was numbly playafied. It had nothing at all to do with who WE were, just that he was already in his mode and pretty much oblivious to those around him.

This is why we are planning on our own theme camp for next year :wink:

As for us, I think that as first-timers we were completely prepared with only minimal changes required for future burns. I can't imagine someone just showing up on the playa without some idea of what they're getting themselves into, but then again I like to plan ahead in almost all aspects of life...

Personally, after a little bit of initial self-consciousness I really embraced, and enjoyed my virgin experience at BRC.
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Postby longbrass » Fri Sep 07, 2007 3:08 pm

Had an amazing time, was well prepared and was able to share many things with neighbors, strangers, friends and new-found friends.

I find it hysterical to hear all these jaded stories of how much better it was last year, or whatever year (I guess I'll find out next year). BM provides the environment and yes there are people who you don't like, or "don't get it" or who just suck in general but such is life (even in Brazil, Tibet, or wherever the hell you want to find utopia).

When you make love to your partner do you say "gee wiz honey, that wasn't as good as the first time/last time/ten years ago?" Get off the hateraid.

I'm sure you're all creative people who have made BM and the world a better place, have cookie and make the best of it!

Big shout out to the Petting Zoo. It was there that I was able to talk to people cool enough to allow me to "get it" (whatever that means).

I love you all.
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Postby stuart » Sat Sep 08, 2007 12:14 pm

heh,

It's why I always roll onto the playa with my "Last Year Was Better" t-shirt. You can usually get a good idea of where a person is coming from based on the reaction.
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Postby Tiger Lily » Sat Sep 08, 2007 1:04 pm

I got a few chuckles and head pat the night the man burnt early. I went over with a group of experienced burners I had just met to watch and asked "So do they burn the man every night?"

Luckily I was proclaimed adorable for that and not made fun of and they continued to come find me almost everyday ^_^

Makes me smile to remember that XD
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Postby ron5657 » Sun Sep 09, 2007 4:07 pm

I was at the Deep End and i seen two guys and a girl standing by one of the tables by the bar complaining how bad the service was lmao. One guy said "Where's the waitress? We been waiting a long time."
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Postby bigbluedoggy » Sun Sep 09, 2007 4:53 pm

This was my second year and the group of vets I was with last year almost all opted to take this year off. My buddy and I decided we would continue with a theme camp and created the Destiny Lounge. We had no posted hours and were "open" pretty much around the clock. While the majority of our visitors were nice and seemingly conscientious burners, there were an awful lot of folks who came thru with the Radical Self Entitlement bug. One drunken ass passed out in the wee hours on one of our couches and laid there all morning in his own spitup. None of us really wanted to deal with him. When he finally did wake up, he was belligerent, rude, and denied that it was his vomit, claiming he was a professional alcoholic who can always handle his booze. He stalked off trashing all within earshot. I had some other jerkoff come waltzing thru the opening into our private space asking where our trashcan was. He seemed surprised we didn't have a trashcan in the lounge. When I informed him we did not have a public trashcan, he got all snippy about how he was just cleaning up on the playa. I took the proffered bottle and explained in a fair tone about leave no trace and how I could easily haul a truck full of trash out of there if we had a public trash can. He stomped off muttering some trash about how I had better not ever have kids.
We put a great deal of time, effort, and money into creating an inviting space for people to hang out in. We usually had cold lemonade and iced tea in the afternoons and evenings, yet some people seemed to think we were required to serve them alcohol if they asked for it. Thankfully, the overwhelming vibe we were left with was a good one, so we will probably do this camp or something like it again next year. It's just sad that there have to be so many clueless morons out there who feel that BRC owes them everything. Rant done.
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Postby theCryptofishist » Sun Sep 09, 2007 6:43 pm

bigbluedoggy wrote: I took the proffered bottle and explained in a fair tone about leave no trace and how I could easily haul a truck full of trash out of there if we had a public trash can.
This is absolutely true.
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Postby mars » Sun Sep 09, 2007 7:20 pm

This is a repost of something I wrote in a discussion on Tribe:

We had a cafe' and it was great fun watching virgins evolve from day to day.

The first day we had to call out to get them to come in, assure them we had plenty of coffee, and refuse their offer of money/gifts. The second day they'd come back shyly, do we have more coffee? and tell us their early-week adventures, still trying to offer us something in exchange for the coffee. The third day they're dressed up a bit and have many stories to tell...they stay longer and we all enjoy the coffee and comraderie. The fourth day, we can't remember anymore who the virgins were, everyone is a regular and now part of our '07 burner family. The fifth day there are no virgins, we are all burners, hanging out in the present, enjoying the day, laughing our asses off, but we're starting to accept our wonderful neighbors' donations of coffee grounds, tea, and Half-n-Half for the cafe'...

IMHO, this is how it works.
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