Bees, Saunas and Ramen: International Burners in BRC and Back at Home

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Burners are resourceful. And playful. Wherever we hail from — next door, or across oceans and continents — we gather with those who appreciate a creative, roll-up-your-sleeves approach to sticky challenges. Whatever we experience in Black Rock City travels with us, to communities as far flung as Helsinki, Buenos Aires and Bogotá, Colombia. Back home, we take what we learn, then apply it to our lives and communities everywhere in the world.

This year — 2023 with the full moon, the rainbows, and the mud — brought its share of whimsical adventures. We checked in with community leaders from around the world to hear about their experiences at this year’s Burn, and about some of the ways they’re bringing the Burning Man ethos back home — gathering people, creating projects that help communities flourish, and nurturing Burning Man culture in their local communities.

Camp Coffee expresses its international spirit, 2022 (Photo by Debbie Wolff)

Charlotte de Casabianca is part of OFOSHO, a Black Rock City camp increasingly made up of Colombian Burners. “We don’t really know how it happened, but it’s funny because every year there are more Colombians who bring friends and we’re slowly taking over the demographics here.”

Originally from France, Charlotte now calls Colombia home. A longing for her OFOSHO community inspired her to produce a microburn, “Our American friends are intrigued by Colombia and want to discover the country. So as soon as we could, which was 2021, we organized a microburn on the coast of Colombia… That was a real pleasure to come up with creative programs trying to stay as true to the essence of the burn.”

TropicOfosho microburn in Colombia (Photo courtesy of Charlotte de Casabianca)

Beyond organizing a bi-cultural microburn, Charlotte is bringing learnings from OFOSHO into her local community. “Our camp is very focused on how to split tasks and contribute equally, taking into account everybody’s skills and talents. I became interested in ways to apply this concept,” she explained. “I started to look for opportunities to continue to be active as a Burner, but from Colombia. And that’s how I discovered the existence of the Regional Network and Burners Without Borders (BWB).“ 

Anssi Laurila travels to Black Rock City from Finland; as a Regional Contact he collaborates with Scandinavian Burners to organize locally and plan events — including international gatherings such as the European Leadership Summit. Finnish Burners have brought ambitious art projects, and even a sauna, to Black Rock City — expressing and adapting their culture in a faraway dusty metropolis. Anssi and his community then apply the Burner ethos back home. They’ve collaborated with faculty and grantors at Finland’s Aalto University to develop creative community-building projects — for example, the Burning Stories project, led by Dr. Jukka-Pekka Heikkilä.

“Munanen, Cosmic Egg” by Finnish Burners, 2017 (Photo by George Post)

In Black Rock City, Anssi camps with the Black Rock Sauna Society, one of several international camps that make up the Global Village. And yes, that means you can experience a Finnish sauna in the midst of the desert. Like many international participants, Anssi relies on the Burner Express Bus to get to and from BRC. He was scheduled to leave on September 1st. When the rain hit, he and a bus full of new friends was stranded at Gate for 17 hours. Eventually, they formed small groups, walked to the road, and caught rides to Gerlach or Reno. 

The view from Anssi’s Burner Express Bus, 2023 (Photo by Anssi Laurila)

Meanwhile, Anssi’s campmates back at Black Rock Sauna Society kept the sauna up and running to help Burners shake off the mud. “Our sauna was popular, but it was nowhere near as popular as when it started to rain. Then people were lining up down the road to get a little bit of warmth and dry out,” one of the camp leads, Sebastian Nemeth recalled. He observed that the camp’s demeanor went through several phases — from shock, to pragmatism, to play, over the course of that muddy weekend.

Ignacio Roizman is a key member of Gauchos del Fuego, a Black Rock City camp created by members of Argentina’s Regional community. Ignacio is one of Argentina’s Regional Contacts, and on the board for Fuego Austral, the country’s 1,000-person Regional Event. 

When the rain hit Black Rock City in 2023, Ignacio and friends tapped into inner resources acquired back home. “It was funny because we had a very big flood in Fuego Austral in 2017. People woke up in tents floating on their inflatable mattresses. The water reached literally up to our knees. So we were kidding with the neighboring camps that this was kind of an internship for us because we’d already been through something very similar.”

Fuego Austral flood, 2017 (Photo courtesy of the Fuego Austral community)
Gauchos del Fuego campers in BRC, 2023 (Photo courtesy of Gauchos del Fuego)

“We found that the camp was a way to recruit people to kickstart the culture here in Argentina. And we actually have that cross-pollination from people who come to Fuego Austral first and then go to Burning Man and people who come to Burning Man and then become part of Fuego Austral,” Ignacio explained. Their community also operates La Sede de Fuego Austral, a Burner makerspace in Buenos Aires. 


Bringing the 10 Principles to life in Argentina has been life-changing for Ignacio and his community. Through creating connections and safe opportunities to explore, Argentina’s Burners come together despite differences. “When you do that, people start to break barriers of prejudice or limitations. They have to interact with people who are probably from completely different backgrounds or completely different ideologies.”

When Colombian Burners return inspired by their experiences in Black Rock City, Charlotte helps them keep the spark alive through civic involvement. Working with BWB and Colombia-based NGOs, Charlotte runs three local nonprofit projects: Ikigai Explorers mentors teenagers; Bee Safe partners with rural schools to increase the population of an endangered native bee species; and The Germinator is building a greenhouse to cultivate native plants that will restore a natural ecosystem.

BWB Colombia: Bee Safe installing bee hives in rural schools (Photo courtesy of Charlotte de Casabianca)

Charlotte’s experiences in Black Rock City instilled a sense of mastery and a desire to be of service. “Black Rock City was an eye-opener of the need to serve, to feel, to feel happier and be a full-fledged member of a community… And at the same time, just firing up creativity. It’s not just about executing a task, it’s also as you go along, just doing it in such a way that you feel like the creator, the artisan of the work. So I think this is my deepest lesson, joy through service is the origin of everything.” 

Curious to learn more about Burning Man around the world? 

Cover image: serving ramen at OFOSHO in Black Rock City, 2018 (Photo by Henry Wu)

About the author: Kirsten Weisenburger

Kirsten Weisenburger

Misadventures led Kirsten Weisenburger (aka kbot) to Black Rock City in 2004. She was captivated and hoodwinked into organizing theme camps, rangering and participating in Regional Events. As Communications Strategist, Kirsten works across the organization and global community gathering stories and writing for the Burning Man Journal, the Jackrabbit Speaks, and the annual Dispatch. She went to journalism school in the 1990s and then spent two decades at startups and digital agencies.

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