Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Aftertaste...

Hey All,

I know it's been awhile but things have been CRAZY here. For those of you who don't know, the Tibetan Aid Project's major benefit dinner and auction was this past Friday so it's been crunch-time in the office for the past couple of weeks. So where to begin...

Work Updates-
We are cleaning up after the most amazing fundraising event I've ever attended. TAP has two fundraising dinners a year and this one, Taste and Tribute San Francisco, went off without a hitch. On Thursday we ran around the office like chickens with our heads cut off preparing and doing inventory on EVERYTHING we were taking down to the ribbons and tape needed for set-up. After a few hectic hours we got all the beautifully labeled and color coded boxes loaded into our cute little UHAUL truck and headed to the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. The place is a maze of hallways and elevators. It was quite the adventure getting everything unloaded and up to the Ballroom staging area. We had about 8 flatbed dolleys full of stuff that we navigated to the 2nd floor, through the kitchen (because someone designed the building so that the loading dock elevator takes you directly to the kitchen), around the army of cooks giving us dirty looks, and into the staging room. After unloading we headed back to the Institute for an early bedtime.
Friday Morning at 8:30 AM the adventure began! We all crowded into two cars with our Dillards garment bags and boxes of tasty treats and headed over the Bay Bridge during rush hour and into the city. On arrival the insanity began and I made my way to the ballroom to pin embroidered runners and chevrons to the 11 chef stations. This invloved some epic pinning magic and the collection of some lovely war wounds. There were also hundreds of votive candles to unload and distribute between the tables, endless flowers to disperse (one petal at a time) along each dinning table, and some gifts, dinner programs and placecards to set delicately at all 220 seats. At some point during the afternoon, after downing a couple spare truffles and some yummy breakfast cheeses, I set about packaging the chef gifts for distribution. 24 chefs with 4 items each to be bagged and tagged for placement was a bit tedious but surprisingly cathartic after the madness of decor. Our event planners Jessika and Jill are total rockstars and took an instant liking to me for some reason. It may have had something to do with my sugar and caffeine-inspired energy and wild impromptu performances throughout the day. I think I've been socially deprived for weeks so the chance for interaction and the energy of the event was the biggest high ever! According to Jessika, I would make quite the event manager so who knows, maybe I've found my calling :)
I don't want to bore you with every tedious detail but the event came together beautifully. The auction items were displayed, the ballroom looked breathtaking and the gifts (my area of focus) blended in beautifully with the 5 wine glasses, 4 spoons, three forks, two knives and one plate that they befriended while waiting for guests to arrive. As evening approached the chefs begin to arrive in their shiny sportscars with their army of assistants and sui chefs. To give you a picture, there were eleven tables each with two chefs at a station nearby. Every chef had at least one assistant and the pair of chefs together prepared a 4-course meal for their table of 20 guests, complete with wine pairings. It's quite the show. In the meantime, several speakers explained the heart of our organization's mission. As wine disappeared and heart strings were plucked the guests prepared to open their wallets and start bidding on our epic live auction. At this point in the evening, I got to enter the ballroom (all gussied up) and run the Live Auction Powerpoint I'd been working on for weeks. As the bidding started I got so excited I was standing/kneeling on my chair and helping the auctioneer with my own suggested bidding increases. When one item broke the $2000 mark my heart started to race and when we began pulling in numbers in the $5000 and $10000 area I started to tear up. The energy and generosity of this magical scene we'd been working on for months was finally upon me and I was so moved it took my breath away. What an event. The people were beautiful. The sights, smells and sounds of the room completely transcended any previous experience I've come across in this wild West Coast adventure. I'm so ready for the next one! If only I could capture that energy in a bottle and infuse every day with it, now that would be powerful.
In the end we raised upwards of $150,000 all of which will go directly to our book preservation and distribution project. Ticket sales covered all expenses and the gravy of our auctions, especially during this rough economic period, was really surprising. Many non-profits in the region are reporting %50 drops in earnings but we experienced a measly %5 decrease and cultivated some new connections that will continue to carry our mission forward. As for personal connections, I earned the friendship and respect of both our event manager and her boss who suggested that I speak with them about a possible position in Event Management! I also came across some old friends from our donor retreat at Ratna Ling (our Sonoma County rural retreat center) and felt some love. It's official, I'm a people person and I'm ready for a SOCIAL adventure. We were at the Four Seasons until 12:30 AM but we couldn't have been happier. When I said that the event went off without a hitch I meant it. Our staff of 7 women, 5 of who are under 25 and recent college grads, pulled off this huge event seamlessly. Our event planner was in tears when she complimented us on this impressive feat. In other words, we rocked it! And as the guests stumbled blinking into the lobby and things came to a close they were all smiles and tipsy praises. I had the pleasure of handing them some last minute goodies and I got some serious love. We have the best supporters in the world!
As I fell into bed around 2AM I reveled, briefly, in the power of connection through passion for change. Even with all the hardships our country's been facing economically, Taste & Tribute was a sold out event that earned hundreds of thousands for strangers. I'm ready to go at it again!

I'll post some personal updates next time, including the details of my next adventure (Bike and Build NUS 2009!!!) and all that's been happening with the family and friends while I've been away :) But for now, I hope that this little Aftertaste gives you a colorful picture of my work here.

Huge hugs and love to all of you for understanding the insanity that is my life here in Berkeley and I will post pictures as soon as our photographers get back to me.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Blah in Berkeley

Hey All,

It's been awhile. I haven't written much about my adventures lately because I haven't been having any. For those of you who don't know, I've been home twice in the past month for funerals. Needless to say, it's been a rough few weeks and my body just couldn't keep up. The flu has struck and I am officially blah in Berkeley. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely not a shabby place in which to be blah with herbal remedies out the wazoo and every kind of tea and soup you can imagine. I still wish I had a big couch and a TV to curl up in front of while the healing process gets under way. We don't have access to a television here at the Institute so Grace and I took our sick selves down the hill to a pizza place and watched Sunday afternoon football for a few hours. It was a nice way to get out of the institute (where I'd been holed up for two days) while still taking it slow and easy. I carried around an entire box of kleenex in order to have one on hand at every moment.

Speaking of Grace, she got officially accepted into the 6-month work study program on Friday and I am thrilled. She fits right in and everyone loves her around the office. We got a new room, this one facing the bay instead of the prayer garden and the view is breathtaking. It's going to be quite the adventure having her around. As for other updates...TAPs major event is closing in on us. Taste & Tribute is on Nov. 21st and we can already feel it breathing down our necks here at the office. I have been gone so much that I am completely out of touch with what progress we've made and several of my projects had to be finished by co-workers. It's been rough to be so out of the loop and then to get sick and miss two days of work didn't help. I'm slowly but surely plugging myself back in and getting into the swing of things. It helps to have Grace around to keep me posted about what I've missed. She's more in the loop that me right now.

In other news...We got invited up to Ratna Ling again. Ratna Ling is the gorgeous country retreat center in Sonoma County that I wrote about in a previous post. Basically, their major book shipment goes out soon and they need our help getting everything ready. We're going to finish up our event, get things tied up around the office, have a couple of days off for Thanksgiving and then head out there. I'm so excited. I love it there!

That's all I've got for you now. Next time I'll write about my Halloween adventures, my drum classes, and my dad's visit (he comes out on Sunday). Love and miss you all!


Thursday, October 2, 2008

an impressive email signature...

Hey All!

just wanted to check in. I was assigned a new project last week. Guess what? I'm writing the Tibetan Aid Project's official blog posts. Of course they have to be much shorter and more focused on specific subjects but they're lots of fun and you should check them out. The link is: http://tibetanaidproject.org/tapblog/

I'm also back in the fundraising business. I was taken off proposal writing but since Meagan, the one who is heading up that project, leaves at the end of the year I am going to take over for her. That means I am now the Executive Assistant and Marketing/Fundraising Coordinator. Say that 10 times fast! It makes for an impressive email signature :)

All's well on my side of the country. Work is hopping along. It's a bit less social than I'm used to but I'm adjusting. We just started the fall quarter which means my course load has picked up. I like what I'm taking so far. Here's the schedule:

Monday: Working with Emotions
Tuesday: Compassion in Action
Buddhist Studies Tutorial: Sustaining Bodhicitta
Wednesday: Beginning Kum Nye
Devotional Chanting with Sacred Art
Thursday: Compassion in Action
Beginning Tibetan, Level 1 (maybe)

So far I've been to Working with Emotions, Compassion in Action, and Devotional Chanting with Sacred Art. I love love love all three of them. The Working with Emotions class is actually taught by a Psychiatrist who specializes in the study of emotions and the incorporation of mindfulness therapy into her work. She's been a long time student at the Institute and her interests perfectly correspond with what I wrote about for my thesis. We're going to exchange notes sometime in the next week! Those of you that know my student side know that I'm totally geeking out about this :)

On a personal note: Grace got a room in a really amazing house on the border between Berkeley and Albany (north of Berkeley) and it's perfect. She will have three roommates in a really nice neighborhood right on the bus route and she's walking distance from the grocery store and this adorable little English pub that was hand-made for miss Amy Elkins. We had drinks there the other night after she "interviewed" for the room. She moves in Monday which I'm sure is a huge relief after her extended stay as a temporary volunteer here at the Institute. We're doing our major mailer right now so she gets to stuff, sort, and seal mail for hours. She's been great though! Everyone loves her here at TAP and doesn't want her to go.

All in all, I still love it here in Berkeley. The euphoria has worn off and the day-to-day routine has set in but I just become more comfortable and content with the work and the practices which are better than I could've asked for. I'm starting to see the chinks in the walls but they're endearing and wise instead of irksome and frustrating. I'm adjusting and adapting to this new world but I do miss the magical energy of working with kids or the warmth and passion of my friends back home. You guys are such a great support to me and I miss you. I love that we still talk regularly and you still provide that voice of wisdom in my ear but I wish it could be shared over coffee or tea and waffles because those days make me smile.

Love You!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Berkeley how I love thee...

so I have no officially been here for a month. I think it's time for some quality adventure stories from the past four weeks here in Berkeley.

Adventure Story 1, The Tree Sitters:

I don't know how many of you follow the news in Berkeley but things have been crazy around here the past couple of weeks and this is primarily due to some tree huggin locals who just won't quit. About 21 months ago some folks in the area got wind of a plan to cut down an oak and redwood grove on the Berkeley campus. So what did they do? You guessed it...they climbed into the trees, planted their roots and stayed awhile. Now when I say a while I am referring to a little less than 2 years of hanging around. These folks built epic tree houses, created supply lines and spent their days playing the guitar while perched in the highest branches of some beautiful leafy giants. When mom and I got here the grove was still intact and the sitters would wave and pose for pictures. But, by this point a fence and wall of police officers had been posted to prevent the sitters from coming down and to keep supplies from going up. Over the next few weeks the situation intensified until the final showdown a week and a half ago. My roommate and I walked down to tree sitter central on a chilly Tuesday night and were privy to a mild-mannered display of local support for the 4 remaining sitters. Folks gathered in the streets and spoke words of encouragement and hope about the sitters and the cause. As we stood listening, I couldn't help but get caught up in the nature of the gathering. I mean what is Buddhism about if not caring for and sharing this planet with our fellow beings. Anyway, I gathered up a "save the oaks" sign and stood amongst the surprisingly articulate and only slightly musky bunch of supporters sending their love up into the boughs.

The next morning, my roommate Meagan and I headed out early to stand in support of the four remaining tree sitters as an epic confrontation of Berkeley proportions unfolded. Hippies chanted, Native Americans danced, rednecks heckled, cops sweated, the media descended and tree sitters sat. I saw police wrestle with and arrest peaceful protesters, I saw tie-dye wearing supporters smoke joints and bang drums, I saw arbolists build 15 stories of scaffolding in order to surround and remove the tree sitters. I drank coffee and watched. I chatted with reporters and watched. I listened to interviews over walkee talkies with the men in trees and watched. I watched for 5 hours as the police chief and her crew rode up in a basket dangling from a crane and attempted to bargain with the sitters while, from below, construction workers steadily climbed towards the sitters. Finally, after several arrests, lots of tension and a growing crowd (now up to 500), the police chief and her nemesis reached an agreement and the tree sitters came down, guitars and all. I was standing next to a reporter when the call came in via walkee talkee from the tree sitters. I got to listen in and get the exclusive scoop on the tree sitters' motives for coming down. In their understanding, the university agreed to create a land use committee that would consist of community members and environmentalists as well as students, faculty and staff so that all future decisions could be made mindfully and with the general support of the community. A solid agreement but one that was denied immediately upon the descent of the four sitters. Heartbreaking but not surprising. They changed my relationship to trees with their display and they made headline news for over a year and a half. They raised awareness and they touched lives. Way to go tree sitters!

Adventure Story 2: Rockclimbing with TAP Donors

Few non-profits have the kind of eclectic supporters and donors that the Tibetan Aid Project is honored to have. I met several of our core supporters last weekend on a TAP retreat in Sonoma County. Our retreat center, located in Cazadero, deep in wine country and surrounded by redwoods, is the most breathtaking place I can imagine. We drove up highway 1 along the coast and winded our way through Bodega Bay (where Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" was filmed) before veering east into this fairy tale land filled with mist and ferns, redwoods and four-leafed clovers. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park. Anyway, I spent the weekend schmoozing the donors and served as acting wine expert because, surprising as it may be, I was the most knowledgeable wine drinker on staff. We had meetings, went on mist-filled excursions, rode around in LED-sporting golf carts, slept in cottages with hardwood floors and jacuzzi bathtubs, drank delicious wines, prepared culinary masterpieces, and generally had a whale of a time with a side of Tibetan yoga and meditation. I love my job!

While on retreat, I met two donors in particular who proved to be an adventure in themselves. The Christiani's have been to the Himalaya's 4 times and this past time they climbed to advanced base camp on Mt. Everest (21,000 of Everest's monstrous 29,000 feet). Rick is an architect who designed the coolest rock climbing gym in San Francisco and on the day that I met him he proceeded to climb the retreat center's fireplace because "it was begging to be climbed." So after a weekend of bonding, Rick and his wife Linnea invited a few of us along for a climbing adventure last Friday. By then, Grace was in town and got to go along for the climb. We climbed and we climbed and we climbed. I have never climbed so much or so well in my life. All that yoga and meditation on transforming fear has really paid off. I'm no longer terrified to scale a 3 story wall and I can focus and breathe like no body's business. During previous climbing experiences I find myself half-way up the wall shaking and praying for my life. Not this time! I climbed a 5.10 (on a scale of 5.0-5.15) and gained a new nickname from Mr. Rick Christiani. You can all now call me Liz the Lizard, no 'buts' about it! Grace kicked butt and scaled some serious walls and as a group we are officially hooked. I've made great new friends and great new contacts in the Christiani's and I can't wait to get back on the wall. Come visit and you can play too!

I hope everyone is well. I miss having my friends and family close by to share these adventures.
Amy, you'd love the lazy days filled with tea and old book stores
Cait, you'd love it all, this is your kinda place
Grace, you know what you love here
Mary, you love everything but I have some office cats you'd be particularly fond of :)
Christine, you'd love the quirky people and the outdoor lifestyle, lots of frisbee-ers etc.
Forrest, you'd love the motorcycles and local breweries
Mom, you'd love the changing weather, the chill in the Berkeley air and the clear view of the bridges that still takes my breath away
Dad, you'd love the amazing tennis courts and bicycle culture now that I've got you riding again

Berkeley's got a piece for each of you and everyone else that's reading along. I'm definitely sold on the place but if you don't believe me take your own jaunt out this way. See you soon!


Friday, September 5, 2008

working away...

Goodmorning! It's a beautiful day in my new Berkeley neighborhood. The sun has been shining since the day that I got here and the temperature has been perfect! It entertains me immensely how hard it is on everyone here when it gets to be over 80!!! That's like a beautiful breezy relief back home. Anywho, today is the last day of my second week of work and my first week of classes. I am sitting at my desk right now taking a break from productivity to write about my most recent adventures. One of our resident Llamas is on the other side of the room fighting (peacefully) with the fax machine and the 4 ft tall spinning prayer wheels that fill the office are making a nice pleasant hum as I work. There are a total of 10 of them and they never stop spinning which is really very beautiful to experience. To my left is the door out into the garden which Meagan and I always keep open because the weather is so perfect outside. On my desk is the usual array of office supplies with the addition of some a large potted fern, some post cards of Tibet and some random sacred artwork that previous volunteers have collected over time. If I look over the top of my computer at the wall (which creates a window-like space for the prayer wheels) I see this long string of 15 prayer flags fluttering with the breeze from outside. According to any Buddhist, this is a very blessed place. Both the prayer flags and the prayer wheels are said to release prayers of compassion and peace into the world when they turn and flutter.

As for the work that I should be doing right now, I was just officially dubbed Marketing Specialist, Data Specialist AND Fundraising Coordinator. That's how it is in this magical place. We all do whatever needs to be done and if we don't know how then someone teaches us and we become a specialist. It's quite and adventure let me tell you. Yesterday I made calls to wineries all over northern California to solicit donations for our benefit banquet in November and then I input all of our benefit registration and auction information into a new database before rounding out the day by designing and implementing the layout for the email version of our annual campaign letter. All in a days work here at TAP :)

Classes are going wonderfully. I am absolutely in love with Kum Nye, a gentle form of Buddhist meditative practice that centers on slow, mindful, therapuetic movement. I came out of my Kum Nye class on Wednesday and was floating for hours. I'm also taking a class on Monday called Transforming Fear which is all about the Buddhist meditative approach to fear. In that class we worked on some basic meditation techniques that help you find balance and refuge in your own body so that when fear arises you can face the fear, go into the fear and see it for what it is, transient and harmless. The same is true for all emotions, positive and negative. We played with the arising and fading of our emotions for much of class. My other classes are on compassion and meditation. The first is more lecture-based and focuses on the idea of true and absolute selflessness which produces perfect empathy. If you haven't explored the Buddhist approach to true selflessness it's quite powerful. They believe that you can transcend your "self" so completely that empathy and compassion are the natural state in which you can reside. My final class is an introduction to meditation for healing which is all about the basics of meditative practice and flows quite nicely with my other, slightly more in-depth, meditative classes. We practice opening and balancing ourselves so that natural relaxation and healing can occur. Our minds are incredibly capable of healing themselves if given the time.

I am participating in the program from morning until night and yet I feel more relaxed and energized (yes I did use both in the same sentence...VERY Buddhist) than ever. The time that we take each day to bring our minds into a restful state is already something I can't imagine being without. We need to take a break from ourselves and reconnect with just being in the moment. I hope I can get better and better at allowing myself the time and space to just be.

I think I have a knack for monstrous posts so bear with me as I try to give you more rich tastes and less feasts in the future.

With Openness and Balance :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Full Circle Wisdom is a film about the work that the Tibetan Aid Project is known for, so check it out!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

in the beginning...

well, it's official, i am now neck-deep in this thing called the tibetan aid project. i finally got a chance today to slow down and digest a bit which is impressive considering that i've been here a week. anywho, where to begin...

my mom and i arrived in berkeley a little over a week ago and hoped a ride on the shuttle over to nyingma. that in itself was a notable experience. the driver, a gruff and colorful character took us from oakland to alameda to drop off this man whose company leases an old warehouse at the abandoned naval base there. sketchy? why yes...yes it was :) after that little jaunt (and yes i will be using this word at least once in every entry) we scampered over to berkeley which is everything it's cracked up to be and more. the nyingma institute is situated about midway up one of the many monster hillsides that the berkeley skyline is famous for. from my mom's second-floor guest room you can see all the way from alameda to sausalido, bay bridge and golden gate bridge included. it's quite a breathtaking sunset. as for my rooming situation...i'm rooming with the most lovely girl you can image. her name is meagan, she's 24 and she has a degree in music therapy. she met me at the front desk on my arrival with a huge smile and a stack of paperwork. after the nice men of nyingma helped mom lug our luggage up the two flights of steep stairs (yes, everything is steep here) mom and i got a chance to scarf down some vegetarian goodies and meet the locals. it's a unique feeling to be the only new person at a residential program. everyone, and i mean everyone, knew my name, my hometown, my work assignment and my mom. of course i loved it. i got all the attention i could ever ask for ;) anyway, so this wonderful girl named charlotte gave us the comprehensive nyingma tour including everything from the massive fully stocked (all organic) kitchen complete with recycling and composting to the breathtaking meditation garden with its beautiful prayer wheels, stupa and coy pond. the entire place is yellow and red, making this place so comforting and warm. i still get caught gaping at how gorgeous everything is. i can't seem to get enough of the fluttering prayer flags out the window and the vegetable and spice garden i walk through every day on my way to work. 

ok ok back to my first few glimpses of the place...
after our tour, mom and i went out on the town, grabbing the most delicious coffee ever at this place called brewed awakening (down with starbucks!!!) and taking a 7-mile wander through town. for those of you who don't know, berkeley is basically centered around the UC berkeley campus so once i got oriented my mom and i circled the campus in every way imaginable. we took a peek at the berkeley library and grabbed a bit to eat at this delicious little thai food place (pad thai and thai iced tea all the way!) then dragged ourselves back up the hill to bed. before bed, though, we relaxed on mom's fire escape and watched the sun set over san francisco..aaaamazing.

on our second day we got a slow start so we hopped on the BART and headed to san francisco (not san fran and not S.F.) where we saw anything and everything you can imagine. we checked out lunch at this place called scomas that my aunt and uncle swore by. guess what....they were right! the place is on pier 41 looking out on the bay and in sight of the maritime museum and we watched as they brought in the catch of the day which later became our clam chowder!!! i won't go into all the details but suffice it to say that we say pier 39, coit tower, telegraph hill, the embarcadero, rode a trolley and a streetcar, ate seafood on the pier, hung out with the sea lions, and rode a ferry all on that first day. we also added another 7-10 miles to our ever increasing mileage count. that night we came back and mom took it easy upstairs while i got to know some of the people hereabouts. so let me set the scene for you...i walked down the stairs into this lobby where i could vaguely here some laughter. i walked into the next room and there were 4 people just chillin in this small library that overlooks the bay. i come grab a seat on the floor amongst the scattered african drums, a guitar, some tibetan buddhist books and some pillows and join in the conversation. before long one of the women starts asking these deep questions about religion and interreligious dialogue while at the same time these other two people are jamming on the drums and making new instruments out of a guitar (yes, new instruments). I LOVE THIS PLACE!!! african drumming, deep and penetrating religious discussions, laughter, floor-sitting, sunsets over san francisco. WOW! 

day three consisted of returning to the city for another ride on the trolley, another look at coit tower (i saw the parrots this time!!!) and an epic trek to the golden gate bridge via the maritime museum and fort mason. we even had time for a cup of hot chocolate at ghirardellis. peeeeerfection. the parrots of telegraph hill were definitely an adventure. we walked around forever circling the tower trying to catch a glimpse and finally mom "heard their voices" and went racing around with her arms in the air trying to wave them in. luckily i was standing in just the right spot and saw them as they came between some houses. it was really a scene but all in good fun! 

i have to say i am definitely in love with public transportation. i don't care what kind. i love them all and i tried them all in two days. spectacular!!! we met up with the nyingma gang that night for drinks at this local brewery and i sipped on some pomegranate cider while getting to know my coworkers. everyone is so nice and open and welcoming. i haven't laughed that hard in forever! sadly, saturday was charlotte's last day at nyingma. she left sunday to head home before a two-year stint in mozambique with the peace corps. that morning, mom and i walked to work with everyone from my (future) office and checked out the berkeley tree-sitters on the way. if you haven't heard of them, here's a quick run-down. UC berkeley wanted to cut down some old redwood trees so that they could expand their stadium but some locals protested and took the issue to the city. the city said that technically the university couldn't cut down the trees but by this time no-one was willing to back down. so, in order to protect the trees and make a statement, some local bohemians moved into the trees, literally. they build elaborate tree houses overnight and many have not left since. those that have were met with police and prevented from returning to their posts. the sight is pretty impressive. you walk by and across the street there's this massive barricade guarded by police and behind the barricade are the trees and up at the very top of the trees are the treesitters who are more than happy to wave and smile for a great candid shot. anywho, saturday was also the day that mom headed home and left me to my own devices in liz-heaven. 

my roommate, yet again swept in and smoothed the transition. she, charlotte, morgan (another coworker and friend) and i played cards and mexican bingo (totally not PC and completely hilarious) which ended with me on the floor in tears and rolling around to contain my hysterics. they're great fun. saturday night, meagan and i cooked spaghetti and chilled (before the cards and bingo). sunday went by rather quickly with the san francisco mime troop's performance in a park in berkeley. contrary to rational thinking, the san francisco mime troop's performers are not mime's, nor do they perform miming or act like mime's they actually perform musical political theater...duh! it was enjoyable and very indicative of the berkeley personality to sit in that park watching the show. lots of interesting characters, the locals i mean :) 

so work started monday and i haven't slowed down since. i had a few nonsensical projects to start with but by tuesday i was going to multiple meetings a day, i had become a full-fledged fundraising guru and been to a grantseeking seminar at the public library. apparently fundraising is my new calling. i've done nothing but that since tuesday and i'm really enjoying it. just this week i learned how to navigate an entire foundation database and discussed my finds with one of the most accomplished fundraisers in the bay area. they are training me out the wazoo. i've come to think of myself as a grantseeking detective of sorts. i read secret documents, decode messages and convince people to pay me. it's great fun! 

i will end on yet another classic berkeley moment...
after dinner this evening, which consisted of deviled eggs, homemade potato salad, chai tea and love i watched the democratic national convention on morgan's laptop (no tv here) and then walked to the berkeley campus with meagan where she proceeded to teach me an hour's worth of african drumming. i'm completely enamored with the instrument a djembe and i want one immediately. i always knew that rhythmic anything soothed my soul but sitting next to a pond on the berkeley campus watching the sun set and drumming out a heart pounding rhythm completely rocked my world. i connected with something outside of me and got all wrapped up. and that is how i will leave you tonight, all wrapped up. 

love and blessings,

p.s. a little FAQ rundown...
prayer flags are multicolored square pieces of cloth each inscribed with a prayer and hung high in the air so that when the wind blows through them the prayers are taken, by the wind, all over the world spreading blessings and goodwill
stupas are basically reliquaries that are placed on sacred or auspicious sights and mark the location of some common buddhist rituals 
a prayer wheel is a long ever-spinning cylinder with a scroll rolled inside that has a blessed teaching or prayer written on it. as the prayer wheel spins it to spreads the blessings of those words to all humanity.
total mileage count? over 30 miles in three days with mom!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Well it's official. I am off to Berkeley on the 20th to join the ranks of work-study volunteers at the Nyingma Institute. I decided to start this blog so that I can keep my friends and foes abreast of my adventures and so that I could ponder publicly all the deep and meaningful life questions I get to confront in the next 6 months. 

My mom and I fly out to Oakland on the 20th and grab a shuttle over to Nyingma. For those of you who know your way around Berkeley, the Institute is located on Highland Place just north of the University of California at Berkeley campus (directly across the street). 

Side Note: Did you know that Berkeley has the second largest library in the country, second only to Harvard? Way excited about that little nerdy tidbit! 

Anyway, so my mom and I will be staying at the Institute for just $40 a night which includes a room and some award-winning vegetarian fare. Yay for Buddhist culinary masters :) For the next three days I expect I'll see as much of San Francisco as my little legs can handle and get a feel for the area. My schedule for the next 6 months is booked solid. I work 6 days a week from 8 to 5 with dinner and classes in the evenings. I have only Sunday off for exploring so I've got a lot to accomplish in the three days before my program begins. 

Here's a link to the specific program I will be joining as part of the Nyingma Institute: http://www.tibetanaidproject.org
Now you can see for yourself! (Check out the video on the homepage) 

Roselyn White, my new boss, said that the Tibetan Aid Project is a crew of seven women (myself included) who handles all marketing and fundraising for the Nyingma Institute's programs. Everyone calls them the "Party Girls" for the cocktail parties and coat-and-tie dinners they put together. I can't wait! Besides 9-hour work days I will also be taking 4 courses a quarter. They have everything from Tibetan Yogic Meditation to language courses and philosophy.  I start work on the 25th and courses on the 1st. They have a month of specialty classes in September before the Fall Quarter begins in October. I'm going to be neck-deep in this thing and I can't think of anything more exciting. I get priceless work experience, amazing courses, some new spiritual study and free room and board in BERKELEY! 

So in conclusion, I am the biggest nerd in the world and voluntarily elected to spend 6-months in a Tibetan Buddhist community because my religious education just wasn't diverse enough! Hopefully this will throw me headlong into some amazing grad school opportunities. This, in a nutshell, is the jaunt this Jamison is undertaking. More to come as the date gets closer and I  start having packing meltdowns. 

Back Soon,

P.S. "drala" is the Tibetan word for the wisdom and spirit behind all things. I believe a little Tibetan-flavored wisdom gifted me along this path and I can't wait to see where it takes me. Come along for the ride :)