Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monkeys and Whales in Nicaragua and Burning Man

“Remember when the bus pulled over so we could pee on the back wall of the church next to the chained up monkey?”

Yes, that really happened.

“We were sitting inside the orca during the dust storm when a woman took out her violin and performed a solo for the next half hour.”

Yep, that really happened as well.

Different places a month apart in time, 3600 miles apart in distance, polar opposites in humidity (tons versus none) and yet they were the same experience. No, I have not been doing drugs. Unless you call grand adventuring a drug.

Let’s not get too literal. Peeing on a church wall next to a monkey isn’t at all like listening to a concerto in a whale. And before you call me a heathen, I didn’t realize it was a church until I looked in the front window of the cinder block rectangular building and saw the altar in the back. Look, to me, this earth is my church and sometimes mother nature is a man’s bathroom so I thank the lord, baby Buddha and your mother too that I got much necessary relief. On the church wall next to the chained up monkey. Ugh.

The monkey happened two weeks ago in Nicaragua. The orca happened a month and a half ago at Burning Man in the middle of a desert. Nicaragua, Nevada; not the same thing at all. Or is it?

My Burning Man campmate and bestest friend forevermore Tory has been investigating an opportunity to support a charity that builds entire communities for poor people in Nicaragua. They buy land, help them build houses and the infrastructure and clear fields for agriculture. They help set up distribution and create a better life for these people that had next to nothing. Once the community is set up and running fairly independently (7+ years), the people own their land and houses and are self-sufficient. Tory and I went to Nicaragua for a Vision Trip – an investigatory outing to learn about the charity organization, see a community that is advanced and see the community that we might support.

The charity organization is Agros. Everyone we met associated with Agros was great and it looks like something we want to support. This is a faith-based organization which is a bit out of my comfort zone when it comes to religion and its place in the communities. To each their own and I’m cool with the Nicaraguans’ faith. There were other people on this Vision Trip representing their church in the U.S. and quite often incorporated their faith into this outing which again, to each their own, but it wasn’t the angle Tory and I have for being involved with Agros and the Nicaraguans needing our support. We just want to help them live a great life and be happy regardless of their religious beliefs.

When the participants of the Vision Trip all first met up, introductions were made and everyone tried to get to know the basics about each other. Imagine twelve super religious people asking Tory and I how we know each other.

“We are travel buddies.”

“Oh, you aren’t married?”

“No, we aren’t even dating. Just friends. We both have someone at home.”

“So how did you meet?”

“At Burning Man.”


“Burning Man.”

“Is that in Arizona?”


“What is Burning Man?”

I have trouble explaining Burning Man to super liberal crazy people that have an idea what it is about. It’s really hard to explain to these people when most of them are over 65 and they just finished devotion over breakfast together.

“It’s a week-long temporary city constructed by participants in the desert. It has tons of art, creativity…”

The glassy-eyed looks came fast.

“It’s kind of like trying to explain the color green to a blind person.”

Full on look of bewilderment. So I went for the impossible explanation.

“It’s actually quite a bit like what we are doing here. Burning Man is about love and giving. Participation without judgement. Radical self-reliance and yet a community working together to take care of each other. Tribes within a tribe. Isn’t that what we are trying to do in these communities in Nicaragua?”

I think we were being full on judged and their lack of understanding combined with our lack of religion made for an interesting group. Thankfully, they were very nice to us and we all got what we wanted and needed out of the trip so it was all good.

Tory and I are getting a kick out of the fact that we are the only two people not pictured at all (other than one obligatory group photo) in the multitude of photos published in a series of blogs put out by the church group regarding the Vision Trip. Hard to believe a couple loud mouths like us apparently didn’t officially exist with the church people. Halleluiah!

Here is what I saw in Nicaragua. A whole bunch of beautiful people working their respective asses off as a community with a great appreciation for music, giving, relationships and love.

Here is what I saw at Burning Man. A whole bunch of beautiful people working their respective asses off as a community with a great appreciation for music, giving, relationships and love.

Okay, I saw some other stuff too. And the Nicaraguans are a year-round community that sustains their entire life and well-being whereas Burning Man is a week-long event (ignoring the year-long planning and other events) that isn’t all about survival (although it sure can be).

Everything is relative. Who am I to say what is a good life in Nicaragua? Who am I to say how one should spend their week at Burning Man? But I do know the Nicaraguans need and want our help. Whether its money support, a hug, building a relationship or working in the fields, I’d like to be there for them. Just like at Burning Man. Whether its support, a hug, building a relationship or working on the playa, I am there for my Burning Man family.

Now it’s time to build my Nicaraguan family.


  1. I understand the parallels, partly because you and other bloggers have gone out of your way to explain Burning Man and how it has affected you. Those fellow-travelers probably never will get it, but who cares? You're making some great choices that make you happy. So you won't be in the brochure. You can always star in your own brochure/ad/video/life.

  2. You're my hero. No sarcasm. (Though, it hurts just a little)


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