Text and Image by Dick Simon
2am Flying over Algeria, ten hours into our Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa, connecting to Kigali, arriving about ten hours from now
In 2013 Patty and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and both turn 60, both of which seem inconceivable as I KNOW we met just a few years ago when we were in our 20s! In celebration and gratitude, we have planned an amazing year of experiences and connections, as well as deep purpose. In addition to travels (the upcoming 3 months include Rwanda, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Iran) we are both pursuing our passions for making a difference and creative expression. We will be looking at and documenting post-conflict societies in Rwanda ‘recovered’ from its’ horrific genocide, South Africa on the other side of Apartheid and Sri Lanka after its war with the Tamil Tigers. We will also be exploring spiritual practices around the world, looking at commonalities rather than emphasizing differences, as is so often the case. And we will be traveling to countries which have been isolated and marginalized by the international community to better understand, through eyeball-to-eyeball connections their narratives, and explore ways to engage. Patty is working on multiple art installations, journals and her You are Loved – Pass it On project with cards to spread love throughout the world in English and Hindi. I will be working through photography, videography and writing to share these stories and learnings. We are planning to keep this blog current, to tweet (@dicksimon) and post on Facebook (Like Dick Simon – Organization for those notes), and we welcome comments, ideas, suggestions, thoughts and reactions.
So far the flight has worked out well – I actually love long flights for the solitude and opportunity to catch up on a range of ‘to dos’ which always seem to accumulate as I prepare for a trip. That is, I love them until the total exhaustion comes into play! I’m feeling good that my thorough (obsessive?) preparation and packing is paying off. When my MacBook Pro computer battery runs out, I switch to Patty’s MacBook Air, which I brought in case mine breaks and also serves as a great backup on long flights! (Patty was adamant that her iPad mini was all she wanted to bring-so all the rest is mine to carry and use!) I sleep (laying on the floor-why couldn’t I upgrade!) for 3 ½ hours assisted by Ambien and melatonin and wake up ready to keep going.
The Ethiopian Airlines flight attendants are the most positive people I have ever come across in my flying. There seems to be a genuine almost ‘naive’ in the most positive sense, gratitude one rarely experience flying. They seem to really CARE and want to help – not in the perfectly trained AND executed manner of Thai, Emirates and other top carriers, but in a sincere way that they are really happy to be able to serve. I may be getting delusional and jet lagged, but it feels very real and is extraordinary!
The packing was a bit over the top for two people who have lived very happily out of a backpack for a year – now it includes multiple cameras, lenses, voice recorders, iPads, iPhones, iPods, (Apple is a major beneficiary!), Kindle, backup hard drives, chargers, cables (you get the picture), over 1,000 pills (from Omega 3 and vitamin supplements to Malaria meds!), backup healthy food supplies and clothes for multiple climates and purposes – 85 pounds is ridiculous and we may be doing some shedding pretty soon!
We are thrilled to be traveling in Rwanda and South Africa with Alex and Ben for 3 weeks, and in addition to the purposes about above, Alex will be adding many social enterprise visits and wisdom to the trip and Ben his infectious enthusiasm and entrepreneurial fascination and perspectives. We plan to have a fantastic time together visiting myriad villages, markets and sites, experiencing wildlife (mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and Kruger Park) and amazing scenery, and meeting great people, including YPOers wherever we go.
In starting this journey, I want to express gratitude to our friends and family for their love and unwavering support for our amazing but crazy lives; to so many people who have provided invaluable advice, introductions and inspiration; and to the people who work with me and make so much of this possible. And of course to Patty, my life partner and best friend who I am so grateful to be sharing this and all of our experiences together! I cannot imagine a greater life to live, and am filled with gratitude. THANK YOU!