THERE IS SO MUCH TO GAIN FROM TRAVEL. First, you get to see many sights and cultures that leaves you wondering how big this world is. And then you get to taste local food and started to appreciate how different we are in this world. Finally you get to meet people that leaves a special mark in your life, and ironically feel how small the world seems to be.
I got to know about Lisa through my homestays back in New York. News does travel fast inside of the Tzu Chi organization, and my coming to Albany is no secret at all. So, Lisa had a close friend, Justin who lives in Albany and they invited me over to stay at his house for the weekend. I started to get bored of the downtown Albany which is the only place I can travel since I do not have my own transportation, and so happily agreed to crash into their place.
For starters, they took me to a mall last night for our dinners (which I already had) at the Cheesecake Factory. The place was full and they gave us beepers so that we can walk around the mall until they have seats for us. Lisa and Justin ordered really great food, we had Mexican eggrolls and Avocado eggrolls, Endive salad and another salad with lots of feta cheese. We had strawberry and banana cheesecake and I truly enjoyed its smooth creamy texture, which is somewhat different from what I had in Taiwan. From the introductory talks that we had that night, I came to know that Justin just graduated with a phD in computer science and Lisa is a happy-go-lucky who studied genetics, media, and education and is now doing projects designing school curriculums. They are both really nice people to meet with, the ones that make you feel comfortable within hours of knowing each other.
TURNS OUT that Lisa and Justin are both nature lovers, and I could not be happier. They drove me to lots of places today, mostly on the long winding roads that cut through the Catskills mountains, giving us plenty of time and space to enjoy the greeneries. The Catskills is a natural area south-west of Albany, an uplifted region which is luscious green all over. We first had some problems navigating the map, but getting lost in the mountains cannot be merrier. We stopped by a wooden cafeteria like place, where we ate little balls of ice-cream in Neapolitan and mint chocolate flavors. Lisa informed me that most of the shops open only for half a year, and they then take the remaining half off for family and vacation and stuff. And because they are not very materialistic in the first place, more money does not mean too much to them as they only seek enough to cover their expenses. That’s a great lifestyle I would say, you can work but yet still have time for things that you wish to accomplish in life.
LISA AND JUSTIN are not only nature lovers, they take it into action. I am very impressed at how both of them insist on using all biodegradable products, encouraging organic farming and reducing their impact on the environment every day. That is why we stopped at Barber’s Farm, a 150 year old farm that has always been selling good quality fruits and vegetables without the use of pesticides. All the vegetables here look fresh and more importantly, healthy. I was amazed to find that bell peppers come in purple too. We did quite a bit of shopping, and all these wonderful vegetables will be taken back to Justin’s home.
Along the way, we went by a field of sunflowers. As soon as we pull over, Lisa ran out into the fields like an innocence excited child and so now I know she’s REALLY into flowers. The sunflowers are really tall and big, we saw one flower that is big enough to cover my entire face. Justin said that sunflowers are the norm here, as well as apples, tomatoes, corn and all sorts of berries (all of them fresh and organic). I spotted a beautiful white flower resembling a snowflake. Standing amidst the mountains and the flowers, I almost drowned myself in its tranquility and beauty.
SPEAKING OF TRANQUILITY, Tibetan Buddhism is in my assumption, a religion that promotes inner peace among all other values. Lisa recently took care of a Tibetan old man with cancer, who eventually passed away, and so now she wants to visit his wife and bring her some of the fresh vegetables that we bought. They lived in Woodstock, which is famous for the festival with the same name. The town is a hippies’ community especially in the sixties, and many musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and David Bowie all once called this place home. Although the hippies culture has long gone, this place is still filled with stores that celebrate its unique blend of music, religion and colors. The stores here have either a Buddhist icon on the signboards, or a tribute to the hippies culture of bright colors. Hippy looking people still walk the town.
Lisa told me that Woodstock and other towns near the Hudson area, are all heavily influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. We visited the temple where Lisa’s Tibetan friend who died of cancer, Tinley, painted the walls with beautiful traditional art. Tinley did escape from Tibet when the Communist Chinese invaded their country, and since then, he continued his art in the many temples in the States. The one Lisa brought me to is KTD, a humble monastery located in the Catskills mountains, which is still under renovation and building. Most followers that come here are Caucasians, and they have retreats every weekend. I went in to see the main shrine, where Tinley’s paintings are still alive on the walls. Lisa loves how the Tibetans use a contrast of colors and yet achieve a soothing and calming masterpiece. I myself enjoyed looking at all the details all the paintings have, it makes me wonder how much time and effort is dedicating to every inch of the wall.
Wangchen is a cute old lady, and she is the proud wife of deceased Tinley. We sat at her small living room, and I am again amazed at how the Tibetans lead a simple and devoted life. The small house is made of wood, with a small room for herself and another room for prayers. Religion is such an important aspect of the Tibetans’ life, they never live without it. We talked about Tibetan food, how Tibet should be free and her plans for the future. I can see sadness in her eyes, probably because she misses her husband so much, but I am glad that we made this visit and tried to cheer her up a bit.
WE HAD AN ITALIAN DINNER AT CABARRO’S. The Italian bread with olive oil and spices were quite enjoyable, and the zucchini fries were very much addictive. My angel hair pasta with fresh tomatoes is very refreshing, just like the trip I had for the day. Appreciating nature, appreciating culture. That’s what travel is about isn’t it? Food, places, people, don’t they all just feed your mind with thoughts and reflections?
*** CAM of the day ***
Milk Thistle (Silybium maranium)
European healers have been using milk thistle as a herb for all sorts of liver problems such as cirrhosis to hepatitis. Clinically proven for its properties of protecting and healing the liver, this herb is really a very common nowadays. The active ingredient is Silymarin and is only effective in a certain dose. So, although it can come in all kinds of forms, tinctures, pills, teas etc, make sure 400 -600 mg per day is in it for it to work its magic.