European Rainbow Gathering 2012, Slovakia
Going from a No Border Camp to a Rainbow Gathering is quite a contrast. Perhaps a little too much.
I left the squat in Krakow, where I spent a couple of nights after Berlin, in the afternoon. I was only going 240km and figured it wouldn’t take long. I was wrong, of course.
I got out of Krakow fine, with a guy who was driving almost to the border, where he would spend a week walking in the mountains around Zakopane. He spoke almost no English, but we got on well. “Ahh my lovely mountains!” was all he could say, as soon as they came into sight. He took me further and dropped me at a cafe close to the border, just as thunder crashed overhead and a sheet of rain fell down. I ran inside and ordered a coffee.
The next part of the road was slow, very slow. I got a few rides for a few kilometres each with long waits in-between. I reached Hnusta and again the rain came down, making a river out of the road, washing over my sandals. No cafe, no nothing. I passed a big Tesco and stood in the doorway, but got kicked out by security since they were about to close. It was very dark. What to do? With umbrella held aloft I thrust my thumb toward every passing car, but to no avail. Feeling very bedraggled and flustered, I continued walking on and on through the road-river until finally… the crustiest hippy van you ever saw ground to a halt right beside me. Rainbow family! Welcome home!
These three Rainbow brothers were returning to the gathering after being away at a psy-trance festival for a few days. They were every kind of stereotype of hippy you could wish for: stoners with dreadlocks and munchies, driving a big crusty van painted with flowers, from a psy-trance festival to a Rainbow Gathering. They left me in the Parking, from where I managed to find my way by torchlight through the narrow paths to the Welcome tent. The rain fell down again just as I got there.
No sense going any further that night. We huddled together around a fire under a dripping tarp. The rain blew in from all around. Some people were sleeping under another tarp, but there was no more space. I would have to pitch my tent. But first, I would have to fix the broken pole that Nomadic Pete sat on and snapped. In the rain. In the dark.
I sat with my back to the waterfall with head-torch and shaky hands, trying to be quick. Unfortunately, the brothers sleeping around me were not very accommodating and rather than offering to help, they began shouting at me to turn my light off so they could sleep. “Yes, soon, I would also like to sleep, but first I have to fix this…” Welcome home, indeed.
I had noticed sexism at Rainbows before, of course, but never so much as at this one. I don’t think the European Rainbow in Slovakia was any more sexist than the others I have been to, but coming from a No Border Camp where it’s considered sexist to refer to people as men and women (that’s “female-ized” and “male-ized persons” to you), to a place where I’m advised not to carry a box of tomatoes because I will have babies some day, tends to highlight the issue. “Well, I don’t want babies anyway, so I guess I’ll carry it”, I told her. Her eyes grew wide – “Are you a feminist?”
“Strong men! Strong men needed to carry wood!” Fuck off then, I won’t help.
I pitched my tent in a good flat place in the woods, fortunate to find it just as the previous occupier was leaving. I made my little camp, happy to be home at last, and went to explore.
“Foooood ciiiiircllllle!” “FOOOOOOOD CIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRCLLLLLLLLE!” “NOOOOOOWWWWW!!!!” Horay, just in time.
I sat on the slope around the main circle area and waited. Slowly, very slowly, people gathered and joined hands, forming a circle which grew bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, broke into two circles and then three. I held hands with the brothers and sisters around me and we began to sing, “We are cir-cl-ing, cir-cl-ing to-ge-ether, we are sing-ing, singing ou-ur he-art song, this is fam-ily, this is un-ity, this is cel-eb-ra-ation, this is sa-a-cred…”
Later, I was sitting with two guys by a tent, listening to one of them speak. I looked up, and there in front of me were Matthieu and Alex, friends from the Hitchgathering and No Border Camp. I jumped up and hugged them with a big grin. It’s unbelievable how, with three to four thousand people here, they somehow managed to spot me before even pitching their tents. I was delighted to see them.
Now I was no longer the only one with a heightened sexism detector. Alex and I attempted to go to a tantra workshop, but finding it run only in French, we co-erced Matthieu into going instead and reporting back to us. He found us again two hours later, deeply frustrated. “That fucking tantra workshop that YOU made ME go to!” “Oh yes? What happened?” “It was soo sexist and soo homophobic and soo fucking horrible.” He proceeded to tell the entire story – the sexual harassment (“she said no FIVE TIMES!”); the macho guys imitating bears and lions; the guy who was running it basically denying homosexuality existed…
I have never been to less workshops at a Rainbow. I shirked the following day’s English language tantra workshop, which apparently wasn’t much better; I wasn’t in the mood for the Angel Walk and the Nine Dimensions Meditation workshop never happened. We assumed they had already made it to the ninth dimension by the time we got there and that’s why we couldn’t see them.
What I did do though was hang out a lot at the Karma Bar. A brother named Stefan had created this space and was putting all his time and effort into it, creating a warm and cosy atmosphere. People were bringing coffee, tea and food to donate and there was always something to share. I have very fond memories of sitting in the Karma Bar for hours every day with my wonderful friend Sara, her partner Aycan and the other “locals” (how we referred to the others who spent most of their time at this particular hang-out), watching Aycan learn to make a fire and then learn to make vegetable kebabs to put on it with his own carved sticks and having political discussions with some of the other locals, many of whom seemed to be activists. In general, it was a lovely Rainbow.
I had intended to stay for one to two weeks, but after having a particularly vivid dream, I decided to follow it to Lithuania. More on that next time.