Burning Man 2010

Kelly and I went to Burning Man again. It was my 4th year going (in a row!) and Kelly’s 2nd time. It was also the best year yet for both of us, as a couple and for each one of us as individuals as well.

First of all, our camp was fabulous. The Black Rock Center for Unlearning (BRCU for short) ended up being a great area to hang out in, and when we showed up on Thursday evening we were amazed at the set-up. A semi-circle of carports facing in with a big shade cloth joining them together like a circus tent was the main area; in the middle, a bar and some sound. The camp was most active during the lazy hours of the day, with people relaxing on the many pillows and chairs, and lots of interesting/weird conversations.
From what we experienced, it was drama-free and everyone made us feel very welcome. That’s always nice, and makes a difference in making one feel comfortable and at home.

The rest is hard to explain. It is, after all, Burning Man! So, here’s a list of things in no particular order that made this burn jump to the #1 spot:

  • We ate really well. Not only had we planned and stocked much better than last year, but our camp-pate Jerry delighted all of us with his superb culinary skills. Out of nowhere, like a rabbit from a hat, delicious food was being offered and shared between everyone at BRCU. Such a treat! We didn’t even finish all of our food, because we didn’t have to eat it all.
  • Our sleeping arrangements were much better than ever before. Even though our plans to borrow an RV fell through, we got a nice tent (as in, bigger than a 2-person backpacking tent where we couldn’t even stand up) and some cots to sleep in, which made a world of a difference when it was time to sleep. Apparently, sleeping well enabled us to have a lot more energy and motivation to enjoy the time we were not sleeping. Who would have thought of that?
  • The weather was much nicer than last year. There were no dust storms that lasted more than 4 hours, but we still got plenty of playa everywhere.
  • After the Man burned, we went and partied at the Root Society. There was a 200-foot wall where video was being projected, and easily thousands of people dancing. At one point, we climbed onto an art car called The Jellyfish, and found it mostly to ourselves on the top. We danced for over an hour, looking over the crowds and soaking it all in. It is now one of my best memories of Burning Man, and if you click here, you’ll see a picture of me basking in that glory.
  • Like in 2008, I got to hang out with my good friend Cory and explore some of the art in the playa. Like back then, this was also one of my favorite things… but this time we both had our significant others with us, which made the shared moments and sights much more valuable.
  • Having Kelly with me always makes things better, and we did lots of silly things together. We got ice-cream in the middle of a hot day and pop-corn in the middle of one night, we took pictures and wrote shmoopy things on places where such things could be written. Since this wasn’t her first burn, she had a much better idea of what to expect, and I think that made everything a bit better. Or maybe it was just because we treated Black Rock City as our second honeymoon destination.

Ideas and plans are already in the making for next year! We’d like to have something more to contribute, hopefully in the form of an art car or something small yet interactive. Just because this year was the best, it doesn’t mean we’ll sleep on the laurels. Quite the opposite! The goal for next year is to make it even better. The bar is just a little bit higher now, so that just means we’ll have to work a little harder for it.

Trip report: Honeymoon in Fiji

Our honeymoon in Fiji was everything that a dream honeymoon includes: warm weather, sunshine, the beach, warm water, friendly people and lots of fruity drinks.

The main lasting impression about Fiji in itself that I can share is that the people there are wonderful. From the moment we stepped in the Nadi airport, we were greeted by genuine smiles (saying Bula!).
We were at the very end of the customs line, so we were one of the last people from our flight to get out to the transportation area, where a van was supposed to pick us up to take us to our hotel for the night. But since we were holding up the van with a few people, the van left us behind… and one of the manager from Rosie Holidays took us, and was totally cool about it.

But anyway, more to the what-when-where of the trip report, as it should be!

The first night we landed into Nadi after dark, so we couldn’t go to our resort because it was on another island, and they don’t navigate to small islands at night. So we were taken to a hotel in the mainland, Sofitel. We didn’t really get to enjoy it much, because we were so tired from traveling that we pretty much ate, went to sleep, woke up, ate, and left.

After an hour-long boat ride in the Captain’s lounge, we arrived at our destination: Tokoriki Island Resort. Our boat was too big to come near shore, so the resort from the island sent a small boat to pick us up. About 12 people fit in the boat, with our luggage and all. Getting out of the boat, my feet landed on the beach, where I got my feet both in the soft sand and the warm water at once. I probably smiled from ear to ear.

The next thing that happened was the welcoming. While our paperwork was checked, a fresh fruit beverage was handed to us, and the manager Ramsey gave us a welcome speech. The end of the speech consisted of him and most of the staff within earshot singing to us. Check out this video, which even though is not us, shows you just how happy everyone that is greeted in such a way looks. We sure were!

From there, we were shown to our room. Ramsey himself (who I found very appropriately named akin to Ramses, because he is huge and imposing) showed us in, and told us “Welcome home”.
Tokoriki room #7
The decorations in our cabin bure had fresh flowers as decorations everywhere, but what they did to our bed took the cake. Kelly was speechless, and we were both feeling indeed very welcome, and at home as well. The magic had started.

Our daily activities consisted of sleeping in, enjoying our delicious meals from the very tasty resort kitchen (which is a VERY good thing if you’re going to an island that doesn’t have anything but a hotel on it!), sunbathing by the pool or on the beach, taking pictures and enjoying each other.

One of the most unique things we did was visiting Yanuya village, where most of the resort staff live and commute to and from by boat every day. We took a small boat with a few other people and a couple of “guides”, who were actually young men who live there and do work at the resort.
We were shown around the village, had a Kava ceremony with the Chief, checked out the women’s art market and visited the school.
Most people would say that Fiji is the 3rd world. This island only has electricity from 6 to 9pm, most houses consist of  metal sheets nailed together to form a one-box room, there barely is phone service and you can’t even think of using the internet. But they seem so happy.
We saw three toddlers playing together, with a plastic yellow toy bucket full of sand and dirt. It was so simple and just plain awesome. That kind of thing really makes you think and wonder about some of the things that we see everyday in the “first” world and we accept to be the norm.

This all ties in with how nice Fijians are. They’re well aware of how much they depend on tourism, but I don’t think that’s all there’s to it. Take for example tipping, which is not expected nor demanded; people are nice to you not because they’re trying to get some extra coin out of you. Also, even when we saw them talking in Fijian amongst each other, there was always laughter, smiles and a jovial tone. I might have a skewed point of view, but I’m comfortable in saying that Fijians are easily some of the nicest people on this planet. Whatever they’re doing as a culture, seems to put a lot of value on respect and friendliness, and many other cultures could stand to learn from this one.

On a more personal level, my favorite thing about our entire honeymoon was spending it with my wife. It seems obvious, but it’s also important. The moments leading up to our wedding were busy, and we didn’t get to enjoy each other as much. Having two weeks to ourselves, where we spent every minute next to each other, was the perfect way to start our marriage. We shared many memories, and we’ll always be able to look back on when we got married and remember the dreamy honeymoon before any of the busyness of the actual wedding.

We took lots of pictures, but there are some particular special ones there. We took pictures at sunset, every night. I’d set the camera on a tripod, place Kelly somewhere on the frame, get all photo-nerdy with aperture and exposure settings, set a 10 second timer and run to get in the picture. We would do this at least a handful of times, to make sure we got at least one good picture for every night we spent in our little paradise island.

Looking at those pictures makes me happy. I’m a lucky person, and the pictures remind me of it. I’m very lucky and very grateful of being able to experience a place like Fiji, with its wonderful people, incredible landscapes and warm weather. But above all, I realize that I’m the luckiest (and most grateful) when I think that I’m sharing all this with a wife that surpasses any dream I could have.

First sunset in Fiji

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Oh, one last thing which is just a funny anecdote: When we were leaving Fiji, on the boat ride to the airport, something strange happened. A song that we heard at a most random time in our trip to Argentina came on the radio: Gangster’s Paradise, by Coolio. We looked at each other in disbelief, and agreed that from now on, we’re bound to hear this obscure hit from our youth when we’re abroad, traveling together. Which we hope is often, and plentiful.