06 Oct Rubbing Buddha’s belly for a long life in the trees

[caption id="attachment_2277" align="alignnone" width="660"] So happy! So enlightened![/caption] Every few months, while growing up, my family and I would make a pilgrimage after 11 a.m. church service to Shanghai Gardens. It was a local Chinese restaurant in front of the parking lot of a grocery store—or rather in the parking lot, the building an oasis surrounded by cement. Sunday lunches at Shanghai Gardens became something to look forward to. I daydreamed of my impending plate of cashews, chicken and broccoli during church. What I daydreamed about most, however, was rubbing Buddha’s belly. An eight-foot bronze statue of a cross-legged naked, large Chinese man sat in front of the goldfish pond in the lobby of the restaurant. My younger sister and I would run up to Buddha, rubbing his belly for good luck. “Don’t take all his good blessing, kids,” my dad would say. “You have a fortune cookie to enjoy after your meal.” What I failed to grasp but realize now was just how important Buddha is in Chinese culture. Coming in a close second are temples and trees associated with the portly fellow. Enter TanZhe Temple outside Beijing and you hardly know it is a 1700 year-old building. You can’t order a plate of sesame chicken nor receive a fortune cookie, but you immediately sense calm and peace. And that’s what Chinese temples were built for. Buddha, a real man born in 580 B.C., was a soul-searching youth full of pain, suffering and self-loathing....

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04 Oct Out West in Argentina

[caption id="attachment_2270" align="alignnone" width="660"] Gauchos, the original cowboys.[/caption] Buenos Aires is comparable, some say, to New York City. Fast-pace lifestyle coupled with a “work hard, play hard” mentality make days zoom by as quickly as los colectivos (city buses). It’s very easy to create a routine of attending class or internship duties, only to see the semester over, the afternoon sun pushing temperature past 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and you missing all moments to breathe. I unknowingly crave peaceful serenity when hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires seems all but suffocating. I find my breath of fresh air—literally—in la pampa. Known for gauchos, cattle, and maté, la pampa is the area out west from the capital city in Argentina. It’s farm and soy fields, free-ranging cows and asados. Delicious asados—the Argentine bbq. It’s savory smells of a charcoal grill lined with freshly chopped green and red bell peppers, pork, beef, cornhusks and quail if you’re lucky. And that’s where you find your personal time. You soak poolside in the sun, the only sound nearby a colorful bird chirping to her friends. Or the lunchtime bell ringing. After homemade, oven-toasted empanadas, dulce de leche pours over homemade flan. Lunch alone takes more energy to consume than combating crowded sidewalks in central Buenos Aires. But it’s a different energy needed, that of natural food digestion and letting your mind wander through the quiet of the flatlands. What little entertainment there is in a 2,000-person town in Argentina is...

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