Exposures


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Welcome to Exposures.co

Exposures.co is about our (Patty and Dick Simon) travels and Exposures. We are seeking to be exposed to other countries, cultures, people and perspectives, exposing others (those we interact with on the ground ‘eyeball-to eyeball’ as a dear friend says) AND we expose others to our experiences and learnings through the words and images on this blog. There is also a photographic metaphor – in order to achieve the ‘right’ exposure (which is in itself a subjective decision and choice) you balance speed (shutter) and depth (of field via f-stop – how ‘open’ you are) often trading off breadth as you determine what to focus on.

The url is .CO, as in COexist, COoperate and COllaborate, (rather than .com .org or .net).

We hope you enjoy and look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas and comments!

Patty and Dick Simon


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Tidbits from Bhutan

Text by Patty Simon – Bhutan

For the last week, we were so busy and did not have internet so I am going to write snippets of our fantastic experiences…

Bhutan does not have a G.N.P. Instead they have G.N.H. – Gross National Happiness! Seriously! Their motto is not about acquiring wealth or material things but in carrying on the culture, passion, tradition and tranquility that has made Bhutan unique, along with modernizing.

The national sport is archery. The target is far away… So far , I cannot see the arrow land.

We landed in Bhutan 14 years ago seeing rocks holding down roofs made out of slats of wood and departed seeing roofs made of shiny new tin. Our first trip memories included red rhododendrons lining the roads. This trip had us seeing red but on every rooftop – red hot chili peppers that are a staple in the Bhutanese diet – chili cheese and rice.

Bhutan consists of mountains, mountains and more mountains which means the roads are like pretzels and the edge is a sheer cliff drop. The monsoons reek havoc along with overuse in this developing country. One must put all their faith in their driver. One road sign read, “Inconvenience regretted – Shooting stones”.

Good Karma! Our group must be living right because we had the good fortune of three top experiences:
- having an exclusive visit to the Parliament building. It was so beautiful that I cried!
- attending the 60th birthday celebration of the former king with banners, dances, speeches and raffle (the whole country celebrated as the former kings died young)
- visiting with the Chief Justice and other Parliament ministers

It was interesting to try to understand democracy after a monarchy. There are many good things coming out of it but the underbelly seemed similar to what some of us complain about in the US. Once unified, the party system has created divisions download to the family level which is quite sad. False promises by people running with partisanship seeping into everyday life are other issues.

A recommended movie by our friend for your viewing pleasure is “The Birth of Democracy”.

The architecture is so unique, the wood carvers and painters are superb. The traditional houses are three story. The bottom floor is used for sheltering cattle and livestock. The second floor is storage of grain and food. The top floor is living. The beams are wood. The walls are stucco or wood. Bhutan is all forest! valley floor by aquamarine rushing rivers or terraced fields for agriculture. The painting on the beams and window frames symbolize unity, harmony, prosperity, love – all good for family life.

One cannot get enough of watching millions of prayer flags all over the country. They are impossibly strung down from mountain tops to monasteries, like the Tiger’s Nest in Paro hanging off a cliff high above the clouds. They are hung vertically on tree poles- all in white- to honor the dead. It was told that as they flap in the cool crisp wind, the prayers magically take to the air. Imagine being surrounded by all the invisible prayers. Religious or not, it is a good feeling.

My journal is filled with hundreds of names and reincarnated names of the same gods and goddesses, the stories are are even more complicated but at the end of the day, it all,makes sense. It is all about protection, happiness, doing good, casting out evil, and ultimately enlightenment.

Bhutans’ biggest friend and supporter is India. The roads you see and the products in the stores you buy all come from next door. We happened to be in the country when thenIndian president came in for the birthday celebrations. Imagine wrapping this whole tiny country in a big fat bow. The roads were lined in miles of banners, portraits, flags and welcome signs.

To end, “If we have a compassionate mind, we have no enemies”.
We left Bhutan with a warm feeling in our heart and even some Facebook friends!


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The Naked Man Dance

Text by Patty Simon -Bumtang, Bhutan

After spending 2days on a harrowing, windy road (not like a nice Colorado mountain pass but more like a pretzel!), we get to our destination – a Buddhist festival in Bumtang (Google map it). Why? We wanted to attend one of the major festivals.
What we did not know is this- the first dance we would see would be naked men at one on the morning in the freezing cold, dancing around a huge bonfire (which I am sure they were thankful for).
Sad to say we could not take photographs. It was not sad because we wanted to slip into a juvenile place and giggle at the sight of so many penises. It was sad not to capture what was truly a beautiful National Geographic moment. The silhouettes of ballet-like, thin young men with their heads wrapped in white prayer shawls to hide their identities (and keep them warmer!), at one point looked like that beautiful Matisse painting of the dancers. Picture a blackness only found in Bhutan against a full moon high in the sky with young men with their own kind of “enlightenment” – the warm glow of the massive bonfire on their beautiful skin. A monk would use a drum or cymbal to create an ancient beat they would dance to going around the fire. There was a fun risqué element where pairs would go close to the audience shaking their private parts to sounds of laughter. We were lucky enough to be in the front row.
This was not just fun. This was important. This dance was meant to distract the demons away from the building of the Buddhist temple. Each family gave a male to participate. I felt safe knowing these evil elements were surely cast out. I could sleep soundly tonight.


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The Camel In All Its Glory

Text by Patty Simon

Pushkar, India

The first camel I saw was standing by a public bus – it was ironic as both are used for transport. Little did I understand what was coming. The Pushkar Camel (and horse and goat and cattle) Fair started in the early 1900s. It is part polo pony selling, part cattle and camel trading, camel contests for best decorated camel and best camel dancer, and it has an amusement park complete with Ferris wheel.
I am first boarded on a camel “cart” with my friends to ride to the fair. We then stop in the middle of thousands of camels – babies, with light and dark hair stick close to their mothers. They are hobbled but even that does not stop them from stampeding so you have to be careful. Some are given punk haircut designs and are combed out by their barbers. Some have anklet bells, brocade saddle blankets, beaded netting and just like the bangle bracelets worn by women, the camels are adorned with rows and rows of necklaces of bright colors.
But up close and personal, the camel gives off such an air of dignity! They hold their heads high as they cart our heavy weight around or when hundreds of obsessed photographers are shooting them from every possible angle trying to achieve that one National Geographic shot.


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Fancy Versus Real

Text by Patty Simon

Pushkar, India

We were excited to go to the Pushkar Camel Fair. We were staying in a tent camp but was curious about the quality. Well, my wish for fancy flipped.
We arrive at a beautiful camp in a fruit orchard, decorated in the Martha Stewart goes Indian style. The arrival was welcoming and gracious. You could tell it was very fancy. But as we check in and they don’t find our name we knew we were at the wrong camp. The poor kid that was our baggage handler had to slog our bags through the desert sand back to the car. He got a big tip! Now where?
We arrive at a much simpler destination. A few painted walls, a few plants in the dining room, and the setting was on agricultural land growing spinach. The tent was good enough and did have hot water.
So the lesson is – “Don’t judge a book by its cover!”
By the second night, we were dancing hand in hand with the local dance troupe. I had one of my best vegetarian meals of all the trip. The staff was warm and friendly but not overdone looking for tips. It felt like home.
I will take real over fancy anytime!


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The Black and White Stripe

Text by Patty Simon

Pushkar, India

On our fourth trip to India I see the progress in development. But, I also am amazed that time still stands still. Evidence is seen in the road work. I see all the big rollers and paving machines found in the States, along with women in saris sweeping the debris with straw brooms. Driving from Pushkar to Jodhpur, I notice endless hand painted black and white striped curbs. All I can imagine is a man sitting cross legged with a turban on his head painting first black and than white forever.
I guess it is a new form of meditation!


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The Little Boy in the Yellow Shirt

Text by Patty Simon

Pushkar, India

Dick has taught me that one of the most beautiful moments on a trip is the serendipitous bumping into and connecting with one stranger.
The little boy in the yellow shirt came up to us like any other hawker at the camel fair – a fair that lures hundreds of foreigners to come see more camels than you will ever see in any one place in your life.
He was selling jeweled writing pens in a package. Now, all of these young entrepreneurs are clever and persistent but this little guy was different. Not only was he a math wiz with all the negotiating (our group all graduated from Harvard Business School) but he learned to sell in 5 languages. He parroted his sales pitch in all five. He was all of ten years old.
He followed us all over so we made a deal with him. We gave him a tip and made him our guide under one condition – he could not sell us anything. He liked us and we liked him so we spent the day with him.
He had that extra smart intuition – knowing when to push and when not to… when to be a salesman and when to be a friendly kid.
We all fell in love with him. Oh, how I wish we could send him to school to become the successful businessman he had the potential to be, if not the next prime minister.
Instead, I bought him dinner, gave him my love card and, of course, bought the pens. We saw him the next day and was so sad to leave him.


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Sweeping to Where?

Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

Ok, this is my secret confession.
I have a very hard time with all the garbage I see everywhere.
I never want to talk about it because all I want to do is honor and respect the culture. Who am I to judge or question why this happens?
But on this visit, it was confusing. I see the trash as always but when I look closer I see children with huge bags looking for plastic (usually all the water bottles we tourists use!) that they can sell and recycle. I see young men each morning in the market cleaning out gutters under the stalls. I see sweepers around the shrines sweeping to where, I don’t know. I see signs telling the locals that an ordinance is going to be passed forbidding the use of plastic bags. And I even see an occasional garbage truck pass by – though too small to do much good and I question who uses it. My confusion gives way to the idea that to change a whole culture’s psyche about where to put trash takes time and I am seeing the beginning. Prime Minister Modi has put a priority on starting a huge initiative cleaning up the sacred Ganges River – a very smart idea as it affects every person in this country.
I keep thinking about the “No Littering” campaign in the US and how skeptical I was that it would work. It worked and because of this my confusion has changed to celebration. Maybe the next trip to India will be a cleaner one!

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