Twin Oaks Intentional Community
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Welcome to the Twin Oaks Visitor Program. We are happy you have made it and we want to do what we can to make your visit as pleasant and as useful for you as possible. This page is designed to answer some of the most common questions and supplement the regular orientation process.

Twin Oaks has a somewhat complex culture. You cannot really learn all of the normal guidelines (what we call "norms") of the community in your short stay, nor are you expected to. This page is just a starting place to help you learn about us and avoid some misunderstandings. All honest mistakes are forgivable, so read on and don't worry about the things that you don't yet understand; most of them will become clear with time.

This guide can not replace any part of the formal three week program. Please go to all of the orientations that are on your labor sheet (and everything else which is assigned on your labor sheet) even if you feel you already understand the topic.



As you would probably guess, almost everyone who is living at Twin Oaks prefers our lifestyle to that of the "mainstream" world. But, we are still actively working on making this place better. We don't pretend that this is paradise, or utopia, and if that is what you really want, you will have to look elsewhere (when you do find it please send us a postcard and we might move).

We encourage you to ask Twin Oakers about what they like and dislike about being here and how it contrasts to the world outside of our community. The answers to these questions should help you frame your thinking about whether Twin Oaks is the right place for you.

Also consider if all your basic needs are met, can you live on $2 a day? Will you be comfortable with lots of public and common space and relatively small private space? Can you cooperate with people and share goods and responsibilities? What are your needs and desires around community?

Living like a Twin Oaker

While you are here we ask you to follow certain rules. The main reason is so you experience your 3-week visitor period in a manner that is as close as possible to how we generally live. Then you (and we) can make the best informed decision about membership. Specifically, we request you:

Drive your car as little as possible - If you need to get something from town, learn how the TOR system works and get it picked up for you. If you need to go yourself - see if there is someone already going to town in the Vehicle Log in the Llano main office. We carpool a lot here.

Spend no more than $75 in the three weeks - The personal allowance at Twin Oaks is $2 per day. This needs to cover all the things that you desire which the community does not provide, including: phone calls, cigarettes, chocolate, alcohol, and specialty foods.

Work Quota - You need to make quota for the time you are here (37 hours the first week and 42 the second and third week). For some people this is easy, for others it is a burden. It is one of the things that you need to know about yourself and living here. Similarly, we suggest you do not work a lot over quota, for it will give you a distorted view of living here. Don't work when you're sick - when you are sick your job is to get well again; it is creditable up to 6 hours a day. Many visitors get sick because of the change in climate, diet, lifestyle - please don't try to work when you are sick - it sends the wrong message about you and can expose other people to your illness. Lighten Up - take advantage of your time here to dress comfortably or silly, tell people how you really feel, don't brush your hair, perhaps put a flower in it.

Making It Work at Aurora

Another aspect of living as we do at Twin Oaks is setting up the norms for your visitor group's behavior at Aurora. In this sense Aurora is like other Twin Oaks SLGs (Small Living Groups) in that it sets up its own code of behavior. Your visitor group should get together, ideally in the first few days of your visit and make decisions about the following issues:

    Nudity Norms
    Bathroom Norms
    Smoking Norms
    Heating and Cooling

You are free to set these as your group agrees (we suggest that you use consensus). We do require that you not smoke anywhere inside Aurora (also no incense). You can smoke on the front deck, if this is acceptable to your entire visitor group.



Try to remember, while you may be bubbling with questions, some folks here are not exactly jumping up and down to give you the answers. The visitor program is absolutely necessary, but it means having guests in our "house" for 3/4ths of the year. Some members (like all of the CVPs) are happy to answer questions almost all the time, but we have developed norms to take care of members who don't share this desire:

Ask about Asking - when you see a member you need information from, start by asking, "Is it all right if I ask you a question about ____?" This will give the member a chance to say, "no," if it is a bad time and redirect you to someone else, or perhaps give a better time to chat later.

Don't be afraid to ask - There is no such thing as a stupid question and don't apologize for asking. We recognize that visitors have to ask questions to understand what is going on.

Learn to say, "No" - You will likely get more requests for work than you can handle. Never be afraid to say, "no," to a request, even if you have free time for the period they are requesting about. It will not be held against you in any way. However, the best way to get to know people is to work with them, so say, "yes," as often as comfortable.

Avoid asking questions at the steam table @ ZK.

Why didn't s/he say, "hi," to me?

Imagine this: you have a pleasant evening conversation with someone from the community. You feel like you have connected well with them and maybe even have a new friend. You see them on the path the next day and you smile, say, "hello," and wait for a response. They just breeze by you, not really seeming to recognize you. Did you do something wrong? What is going on here?

No, you did not do anything wrong. You have just been hit by one of the cultural differences between Twin Oaks and the, "outside world." Because we see each other so often, some people don't say, "hello," every time they walk by someone that they know. Another way to look at it is that you would not say, "hi," to everyone in your home when you saw them each day -- and this is our home.

Fun Stuff

Twin Oaks is much more than just labor credits and work. Be sure to try at least some of these:

    Go for a canoe ride on the river
    Walk on the trails through the woods
    Live music at the compost café (nights)
    Swim in the pond or jump in the mud pit
    Do a sweat lodge or sleep in the Teepee
    Bicycling with one of the off-the-farm bikes
    Listen to historic tapes in the Hammocks shop
    Ultimate Frisbee (Monday nights)
    Movies at the Bijou (Fri, Sat & Sun)
    Saturday Night Poker (look out for Rollie)
    Quaker meeting or Church (Sun)
    Eccumenical Shabbat on Fri at the compost café
    Finding all the tree houses (4)
    Round Singing (esp. in winter)
    Cooperative Games / Group Juggling
    Check out the extensive distributed library
    Contra Dancing in Charlottesville
    See "Today Board" in ZK for upcoming events
    Serious Scrabble
    Anything you can organize or imagine



Applying for Membership

We encourage people who think there is a realistic chance that they might wish to become members within 6 months of their visitor period to have a membership interview. You can always decide not to join, but if you skip the interview, you can not join without repeating the 3 week visit. These interviews are scheduled in the 2nd or 3rd week of your visit and are about 2.5 hours long. You should request interview on your labor sheet for your 2nd or 3rd week.

In the interview you get to tell your life story and we ask you a number of questions about how you will fit into community. Three people from CMT interview one applicant (you).

At the end of your 3 week visit, even if you are sure you want to live here (in fact especially if you are sure you want to live here) we ask you to leave for one month while we decide and you think it over. (In cases of hardship, you can request that the time be shortened to ten days and we can help you find a place to go for those ten days.) There are three possible responses from us: 1) Accepted, 2) Visit Again, 3) Reject. If you get a, "visit again," we may say we wish you to wait a certain amount of time before returning. With all these responses you will also hear a summary of the positive and negative comments about our experience of you.

The Typical Visitor Period

Many visitors go through a somewhat dramatic cycle of emotions during their visitor period - you might experience something like this:

Week 1 - Elation. This place is great, look at all the possibilities and great things here, I really want to live here, it is nearly paradise.

Alternatively, Confusion. It isn't Kansas anymore, Dorothy. What are all these crazy rules and norms and sheets and abbreviations? I will never figure out this strange place.

Week 2 - Disappointment. This is not what I was expecting at all, perhaps I have made a terrible mistake in coming. There is so much potential here, but they are just not making it happen.

Week 3 - Sad to leave. Actually, there are some pretty great people here, and I have finally figured out the their system, I am getting pretty good at making hammocks and the other systems now, just as I have to leave. Damn.



What does all this stuff mean?

CMT - Community Membership Team - the people who interview you about joining.

CVP - Community Visitor Program - the people who help you with your visitor period and are most available to answer your questions (see picture of the CVP Team in Aurora near front door)

Co - originally, a gender neutral personal pronoun conceived in the feminist movement during the 1970's, for use when the gender of an individual is unknown, to replace the then-common practice of simply using, "he." (e.g. "After a prospective visitor reads our visitor guide on the Web, co will be well prepared to visit Twin Oaks," or, "Each visitor is responsible for filling out co's own labor sheet.") Now, it is used colloquially as a generic personal noun as well, Jane Doe and Joe Blow rolled into one. (e.g. "Twin Oaks is looking for a few good cos.") Those who take a political stand for a gender-blind society by using, "co," to replace all personal pronouns, doing away with, "he," , "she," , "his," , "her," and, "him," entirely are called, "radico." (e.g. "I'm the co you're looking for! Oswald? Co was just a patsy.")

EC - Emerald City, our sawmill, rope shop & warehouse

GMT - General Management Team - runs the Hammock and Chair businesses

Hx - Hammocks (sometimes Hmx)

Oreo - short for, "orientation"

Mtg - short for, "meeting"

Req - labor requisition, part of how we assign work

TCLR - Ta Chai Living Room, where some meetings take place. There is a bookcase there full of books about real and fictional communites.

TOR - Twin Oaks Request - the piece of paper which tells the daily trippers what to pick up in town for people. You should use TORs to get things you need from town, rather than going in yourself. You can find TORs in the Llano office.

Viz - Short for "Visitor" The "V" after your name on the labor sheet is to distinguish visitors from members who sometimes have the same name.

ZK - Zhankoye. our dining hall and recreation center

Random Important Stuff

If you are having trouble making quota (especially in the first week) talk to your Visitor Liaison or to other busy-looking members

If you need medical supplies ask a member to get them for you in the health office - but in an emergency, don't hesitate to get them yourself.

Don't go into Commie Clothes. If you need special work clothes ask a member to get them.

There are lots of different work options at Twin Oaks. Check out the 3-week visitor survey for a not-quite complete list.

The best way to get to know people is to work with them, change jobs a fair bit and get around.

There are as many opinions as there are Twin Oakers, even on some things where there should only be one truth. When in doubt ask an area manager or someone from CVP.



Visitor Orientation Meetings

Viz oreos are scheduled on your labor sheet by the name of the meeting and the time in which it happens. Here is the list of who will do the oreo's and where they will be held. A good rule to follow is: when in doubt, assume it will be at Aurora. (March 2002: Names, locations and exact OREOs in this table are not current but meant to illustrate the concept, in other words, the information in this table is out of date and changes periodically. We decided to leave it in as it's sufficiently illustrative as it is. )




Labor Mara ZK
Child Program Brenda Kaweah
Group Process Alex Aurora
Health Kristen ZK
Acorn Tour   Hx Shop
Membership Process Shal Aurora
Legal Lynn ZK
Land Walk McCune Aurora
Community Government Pam Aurora
Road Clean Marione Hx Shop
Intentional Communities Movement Nexus ZK
Room Tour Hawina ZK
Reading Windows Piper Bijou
Political Activism   ZK
The information in this table is out of date and changes periodically. We decided to leave it in as it's sufficiently illustrative as it is.

Other tours and meetings will be assigned and will say who and where on your sheet.

Assume all lunch and dinner meetings to be at ZK.

Time Schedule for Labor Sheets

Monday - Fill in your requests for the following week. Block off times you want. Put down your preferences for work and write in labor you have arranged. Due 9AM Tuesday, best by Mon nite.

Wednesday - After dinner and until noon on Thursday you can look at your sheets and make changes (revisions) on the back only. But don't take them away yet, leave sheets in their box.

Thursday night (after 6PM) - Check Friday worksheet to see what you have been assigned for Friday.

Friday Morning - Pick up your finished labor sheet. Turn in your old labor sheet after filling in the total hours, before Saturday noo