Burners Without Borders – Report from the Field

Biloxi, Mississippi
from Dan

Things are happening down here in sunny southern Mississippi. The Biloxi temple crew is really making a difference in the Vietnamese community. Everyday our free store is serving about 200 families. We have cleaned up the temple grounds and some of the adjacent properties. Because of this we have created one of the cleanest streets in the community. Our crew has been committed to outreach. Some of us have been using a truck generously donated friends of the southern California crew members to deliver goods to people who can’t make it to the temple. We have even delivered goods to a temple in a neighboring town that was virtually wiped out.

Our group is made up mainly of 10 burners from all over (with several more arriving in the coming weeks), 7 film industry folks from southern California and Phil Lindsday and 4 of his kids. Our group is getting along fabulously. Spirits are high. Everyone has a real sense of accomplishment. It is a real special feeling that we all have when we sit back after a full 12 hour day of busting our asses and reflect on the good things that we our doing for this community that needs help.

The monks at the temple are really appreciative of our efforts, as is everybody in the community. They thank us from the bottom of their hearts everyday. They fix us meals and invite us to tea many times a day. I was concerned that the food distribution was beginning to be a distraction to the daily business of the temple. After all, we are taking up a large part of the parking lot and hundreds of people arrive each day. When I asked one of the monks about this, he said that if we were not there helping these people, there would be no reason for the monks to be there either. They are truly grateful. I feel warm every time I hear them thank us.

Our operation is totally pro. It is so kick-ass that many of the organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross are starting to base some of their services out of the temple grounds. Everyday, other groups come by to check out what we are doing. As far as the working conditions, it is HOT and SMELLY here. Temperatures hit 90 everyday and the humidity is 100%. The smell of rot is always in the air. We are situated across the street from a building that is filled with rotting meat (yummy). I think I’ve gotten used to it. I no longer have a gag reflex when I smell it. The nights cool off just enough to fall asleep. If it was 2 degrees warmer, I would probably toss and turn all night long. As bad as it seems, everyone really digging it. The playa really prepared me for these less than ideal conditions.

We now have a washer and dryer on site. This is very good because recycling clothes that you sweat in all day is not the best thing. Our playa style shower was constructed 2 days ago. We no longer have to raid the near by construction site showers late at night. It came in handy yesterday when I had to wash some rotten chicken juice off of me. I was tasked with moving the 250 lbs of salmonella infested chicken that had been living in our refrigerated truck to the trash. One of the boxes busted on me. I was mortified. Anyway, I promptly took a shower and washed my clothes.

Semis are dropping off supplies on a less frequent basis. The store is getting cleaned out daily. When I first got here, it seemed like trucks were unloading things all day long. People still need things though and will need them for a long time. We are expecting 2 big truckloads in the next few days. We need everything, especially diapers and cleaning supplies. Toilet paper and paper towels are big on the list as well as canned meats. If you would like to send anything, the temple is accepting mail now.

The address is:
Temple Van Duc
179 Oak St.
Biloxi, MS 39530

The people here have lost everything. Everyone has a personal tragedy story. They hide their sadness well though. They always smile when you help them out. I’m so proud of what we are doing here. The Burning Man spirit is alive and well here in Biloxi. If you would like to come here and help or donate anything, please contact Rich @ xxx-xxx-xxxx to see what our needs are. This is a dynamic environment with things changing hourly.

About the author: Tom Price

Tom Price

Tom Price is the former Executive Director of Black Rock Solar. Prior to that he was the Environmental Manager for Burning Man during the Green Man theme, and was in the Gulf Coast for six months during the genesis of Burners Without Borders. He's been attending Burning Man since 1997, and he's proud to say that his decade plus streak of breaking down from sun stroke on the playa on day three remains intact.