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Andy Does Ratna Ling / Yeshe De

Exploring Tibetan Buddhism in California through Work and Study

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Two weeks on, one week off ...
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Well, more like four months on, two weeks off.

I'm in my last stretch for my stint at the Ling, guys! Six month contract, started in August, and stretching it out through February. It's crazy. This is the longest I've lived away from Delaware, guys! Since I got off the rez for two weeks, though, I thought I'd do a little Compare and Contrast between Ling life and the Outside World. (There's a reason it's called the Ratna Ling Retreat Center, folks.)

The first thing I saw off the boat? All the commerce! There were grocery markets and coffee shops and retail and newspaper stands and oh man so many places I could spend my money (what little I've earned recently). Buying things was kinda funny; it felt kinda like backsliding into pre-Ling habits. So much is freely offered to us at the Ling: the food, the kitchen, the woodshop, etc., and then there's people sharing rides, baked goods (George's bread is SO GOOD - he made French bread last night and it was so nummy!), paint (for painting) and yarn and whatnot. We're so socialist, guys, even those of us who are fascist capitalist American pigs.

What's next? Let's talk about the people. There's so much diversity out there - especially down in Berkeley. Back in December, the Ling had 50-60 people and now it's closer to 40; all adults except the occasional 19-20yo and sometimes somebody's kid. We see each other all day, every day, so it doesn't really matter what particularly you're wearing or how long your beard is getting. (Okay, the beards are actually a bit of a joke, and I'm not just talking about how long they get.) So let's talk about how the entire population of the Ling could fit on a subway car. If we were all moving out and lugging our personal belongings, maybe two and a half cars. I got off the subway and there were a bunch of kids with skateboards sitting around the plaza shootin' the shit, couples with strollers, hobos, college kids, canvassers, people from all walks of life. Seeing all these different people, I've got this enhanced appreciation for who they are: how they move and act and talk, what they wear, what they're thinking about, if they went to classes or work today, all these little niggling details of life.

And now do those people get around? CARS! and SUBWAY TRAINS! and PLANES! man, I'm starting to sound like a children's book. But wow: there are places in the world where's it not 5-10 minutes walk from end to end (or 15min if it's raining). You'd think I'd grown up in the middle of the woods instead of in a college town of 20k residents 20k students, but four months is a long time in my life!

What do they eat? WHATEVER THEY WANT but it's mostly mass-produced somehow. I mean, sure, we get a lot of our cooking supplies from Sysco, but I feel like there's such an emphasis on organic and vegan kinda food up here, given that we have a bunch of health-conscious types up here that we're kinda closer to the food. Like, for personal groceries, we go to WholeFood and Trader Joe's instead of Walmart and Target. um.. that's about it.

okay enough of all this. I've got some projects to do.

P.S. Winter holidays were very nice! I got to see lots of family (my actual blood family, not my Ling family) and some friends (sorry for the people I didn't see! but I'll be back in June) and eat lots of whatever I wanted (aka lots of hamburgers and steaks and munchies).

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Reading this is making me want to do a stint at the Ling. I want to finish my degree first, so maybe in a couple years. I just keep craving the idea of getting away from it all--also thinking Peace Corps.

Quite possibly a few months at scout camp again this summer will satisfy my craving, though. I'm remembering the Sysco food they fed us at Geronimo....*shudders*. It wasn't veggie, though that might have improved things!

haha boy scouts mess hall food. Yuck. Maybe I'll send a copy of our Odiyan Country Cookbook with you to Geronimo.

Peace Corps will get you away from it all and then plunge you right into the thick of things! but Buddha Camp will put you atop a serene peak, wreathed by clouds and ... um ... serenity. We literally were wreathed in clouds today, since it's been foggy and raining, and when the cloud cover comes in there's usually a layer over the ocean but below our elevation.

If you end up wanting to take a semester off before you finish your degree, they'd probably love to have you for a 6-month stint over spring/summer or summer/fall. (There is no winter in NoCal.) Or after school. that's cool too. They might also be open to a 3-month contract during summer, but they're trying to get away from that toward 6-monthers who can be trained as machine operators

The idea of rain and clouds sounds so wonderful to me. We Arizona girls get a little deprived of such things. A summer contract would be really cool, esp if something changes on the camp front, but I could see myself doing a 6 month or something, too. I know you work in the mail department--what other depts are there?

Mail department? You denigrate my fine profession! I also assemble notebooks and laminate posters! Dear god, my job is stimulating and fulfilling.

The volunteer committee don't really let people apply to specific positions or departments unless it needs to get filled post-haste, like mine, or you can sweet-talk them. That said, there's three main departments:

Yeshe De (factory), which has most of the volunteers. You start at edge-dying with the potential to move to a machine (old folder, new folder, cutter, trimmers, collators, glue binder), machine operator's assistant, or warehousing (prepping and moving pallets).

Dharma Publishing (office), which has about about half a dozen volunteers. The younger volunteers get tasked with paperwork, making jewelry, making cushions (and sewing them if you can sew), working on copy and design for our various online programs, promoting our store/website, etc. Basically, it's any tasks that need to get done or anything suited to your skills. e.g. they had me doing websites because I've done webdev, they had Greg editing all sorts of written lecture material because he has an English degree, they had Adrienne making jewelry because she's meticulous and girly.

Ratna Ling Retreat Center (office/grounds), which has a few full-time adult volunteers and very few seasonal volunteers, mostly for maintenance and grounds work.

When I worked my first coupla weeks for Yeshe De, I did a lot of edge-dying, tailing off (pulling books off the end of the line), and warehousing (stretch-wrapping pallets, organizing in the factory, loading onto trucks). If I'd stayed in the factory, I probably would've been moved to a folder or bigger warehousing work, like driving the forklifts or the trucks.

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