Exposures


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Gratitude

Text and Image by Dick Simon
Morning Light

This post is about Gratitude – to so many for so much!

First and foremost is to Patty. During this period we celebrated 30 years of an amazingly wonderful marriage and life together. Yes we milked it for all we could – sort of considering the entire time our Anniversary, with myriad celebrations, cakes, ‘special dinners’, what a life! I could not have ever asked for a more supportive, loving and wise partner. Over these two months as we have shared many learnings and experiences so intensely. The ongoing evolution of working and thinking together, and balancing, continues. I love you and am so grateful to be sharing our lives!

To my children, who are always teaching me life lessons, offering wise counsel far beyond their years, inspiring me and bringing such joy and richness to my life. They graciously live with my absences, sensing, I think, the importance of that to my life purpose.

To my parents, who instilled this passion for making a difference in the world through their work on civil rights and social justice, and are so supportive of all I do, even if they sometimes think we are crazy in our travels, worry about some of the places we go and have never been geographic travelers themselves.

To my friends, who often inspire me, help sort out life issues, mean so much to me and continue to be there and remain my close friends, even through my frequent physical absences.

To Bobby, whose genius inspired and grew PAN and is always my role model in energy, out of the box creativity and believing everything is possible (and making it so!), generously sharing his time, relationships and resources to enrich the lives of so many throughout the world.

To YPOers who I work together with and those who, in all of the places we visit, who open their homes and hearts, helping us to better understand very complex issues, learn from their insights, and better navigate and experience their wonderful countries and cultures.

To all those who work with us – It clearly takes a village to live this amazing life and create the impact we seek, (listed alphabetically as everyone on this list is incredibly helpful and important):

Ann, who allows me to continue doing these travels and largely live a remote control financial existence with her calm, integrity and competence creating complete faith and confidence.

Caleb, for creating this website, editing tens of thousands of images and posting, submitting, printing and adding his amazing aesthetic sense to all my photographic endeavors. I know that I wouldn’t be anywhere near the photographer I am without his help! (and know there is still plenty of room for improvement!)

Catie, who enables me to leverage on all of my projects, including taking charge of a fantastic program to develop parallel narrative textbooks, initially of North Korea-“The West” and Cuba-US to see ‘in the other’s shoes’, launching a social media noTHEM initiative and overall inspiring with boundless energy, enthusiasm and talent.

Elaine, who tirelessly makes everything happen, from managing the house to paying bills to ordering what we need, shipping to us – even helping me pack – with total flexibility and how can I help! Elaine absolutely runs my life and has for the past 14 years!

Julie, who tirelessly and patiently figures out and deals with our travel logistics, optimizing time, cost, flexibility and our ridiculously frequent making and changing reservations and plans, as well as coordinating all the database and email outreach.

Leigh, who has enabled the vision of YPO/WPO Peace Action Network (PAN) to flourish as Project Director and helped create life changing Experiences in North Korea, Cuba and Iran, as well as raising awareness of how business leaders in YPO can get involved in making a difference in areas of conflict and need.

To those who open their homes and hearts including new friends like JP in Rwanda who shared so openly his horrific personal genocide trauma, the woman we met in a Free the Children village in Rajasthan who taught us how to make chapattis (or tried to) and said she hoped we didn’t just see her as a poor person and everyone who shares a smile.

To those who I may not know personally, but serve as major inspirations and act as beacons– incredible individuals who have changed the world including Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and His Holiness The Dalai Lama

To The Universe, Moses, Mohammed, Christ, Shiva, Buddha or who- or whatever- is ‘In Charge’ (I actually experience it as the Sprit within me) for all of these gifts!

With Gratitude.


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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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The Little Acrobat

Text by Patty Simon | Image by Dick Simon
India

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I don’t know whether to cry or be in awe of what I am seeing. While traveling, I remind myself that these sights have context and the reasons become emotionally charged.

We are 100 meters from our hotel in Kanyakumari. We have walked this path over 10 times and once again, I am blown away by yet another spectacular sight.

A little girl, about 7 years old, dressed “up” in purple and balancing three silver pots on her head. She is 7 feet off the ground on a makeshift tightrope set up on the street. The young father looks indifferent while tapping a drum and the mother holding a crying baby in the sweltering sun is adding to the drama beating a tin pan.  I only hope they are ‘spotting’ her tiny body as she kneels on a silver pan balancing on her knees, swishing back and forth and forward and backwards.

We stop and get out of the car to watch and video. I notice not a few but many visiting Indians give large donations – paper money not coins and we, of course, do the same.

I notice I am almost in tears seeing this sweet, innocent child being used as the sole provider for her entire family. Though, in a different setting, she could be training for the Olympics as a young gymnast.

I wish I could see her in a clean, crisp school uniform going to school or dressed in a new party dress on vacation eating an ice cream. But, even as she is, the good news in a country of millions of poor – this family is not starving – but at what cost?

 


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No One Will Be Jealous

Text by Patty Simon | Images by Dick Simon
India

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4 AM on Sunday – Kanyakumari

Note the time and date. Add being bolted out of bed by shrieking, blaring music coming out of bad speakers (the kind of music that is intolerable and brings on an instant headache) and you have no idea why or for how long. We stumble out of bed in the dark thinking it must be the call for sunrise and flip all the switches thinking it is some kind of malfunctioning alarm on a radio. Nope! It’s outside. We next check the hotel hallway making sure this is “normal” and not the tsunami alarm warning us we have only 15 minutes to run for our lives before a 30-foot wave comes crashing down on us. No one else is screaming which is actually bad news… this means this is all part of the culture. Ugh! I’m going crazy, because I stayed up til midnight watching “War Horse” (I needed a hit of American culture and our TV had been broken for 3 days). So, with only 4 hours of sleep, we lay in bed miserable concocting ways of blocking out hell (funny… on a Sunday)!

After a feeling of forever, it stops! Ah, the sounds of silence are truly sweet. But never fear, minutes later, more from the speaker! This time, competing with some earlier Hindu ritual, a chanted Catholic mass much softer but long drones on and on and on.

Oh, yes, it is Sunday! What was I thinking with all the countless temples and cathedrals?

We finally drift off and like the last 2 mornings, our brains are timed for 6:51 AM – sunrise. We trudge to the window and watch yet another beginning of the day (all too soon!).

* Our experiences on this trip are connected in strange ways. One hour later I hear an argument on the street. Or I should say a “cat fight” over some domestic issue. All too public and louder and louder until a male voice intervenes.  I only laugh. The whole town has only gotten 4 hours of sleep. What do you expect?

 

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The Invisible Truth

Text by Patty Simon | Image by Dick Simon
India

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This is more of a thought than an essay.

Here is the thought.

We have now traveled to four countries: Rwanda, South Africa, India and Sri Lanka. They had an invisible thread of similar histories all related to independence and change of governments, policy and conflict. Dick and I like to dig into the history. One of Dick’s missions is understanding post conflict. I Iike reading guidebooks and historical writing and talking to guides and locals to try to put this complicated puzzle together.

This is what I have found and it came to me when we were actually talking to a documentary filmmaker and I found myself strongly disagreeing with some of the content. It brought about a discussion about bias, the power of a filmmaker, and ultimately the question – “How the heck does one get to the actual truth of a situation?”

It seems impossible to get to the pure facts. Therefore, I back off, humble myself to the not-knowing, trying to accept the complexity and am left to an openness to every moment I am in a culture or read about one. I always come to this acknowledgment – “there is always more to the story”.

 


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Make My Day

Text by Patty Simon | Images by Dick Simon
India

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I had grown tired in the bazaar. Day after day looking at plastic Chinese “junk” cheap enough for locals on holiday to have fun choosing a piece of jewelry or toy to take home. I had sadly reminisced in years back before plastic took over, how beautiful things were. Even the Indian bangles, now plastic, were made of pottery embedded with rhinestones.

The sun had just set and we were headed back to dinner, when I saw white stencil designs on the street. Coming closer they were made of white sand and the accouterment that made them were being sold. As an artist, I flip when I see another art form, so I was so excited and knew this would be my purchase.

On closer inspection, the designs were made by PVC plumbing tubing cleverly hole-punched by hand so when you filled it up with sand and roll it, a wallpaper design magically appears. They also had round screen designs of lotus and flowers and one that looked like a Jewish star.

The best part was not finding this cool product but paying the vendor and his wife $12. for one of each design. A crowd had gathered. We were walking away when Dick turned around and saw a great big smile. We knew we had made his day.

 


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Fortune Teller

Text by Patty Simon | Images by Dick Simon
India

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A favorite pastime is just setting out on the streets to see where it leads you.

Coming out of a temple, Dick and I see a row of fortunetellers. Four of them to be exact and I start thinking about ” location, location, location” turning this scene into an HBS case study. Who gets the most business? The first man or the only woman or the last two because it gives the passerby a second or two to change their mind and stop?

Why did we stop? Deja Vu. I was suddenly back in Guatemala where another fortune teller had a parrot who would walk out of its tiny bamboo cage and using its beak, flip thru cards and pull out the magical card – just for me!

But this time, I’m in India and the fortune is cleverly translated from Tamil to English including a little reminder of the hopeful price – a whopping 300 Rps each = $6. = a “fortune” in this country! Dick hands over what he thinks the real market value for this service is… 200 Rps for 2 readings. He pauses and gets a tad superstitious and hands over another 100. After all, we were both told we would have great futures!

 


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“Sun” Day

Text by Patty Simon | Images by Dick Simon
India

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We all know the sun rises and sets. This is why thousands of locals and foreigners come to Kanyakumari to see this natural occurrence at the southern tip of India where the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea all converge.

But it’s what happens in the middle that is so interesting.

Highlights:

– Meeting an Indian couple on the roof at sunrise and the next thing you know she is reading my palm and proselytizing. She has a sister in Dallas, which peaked my interest. She asked for payment to make this prophecy come true so I give her a Love Card in Hindi. She reads it but looks puzzled. She can only read Tamil so I switch to English which she is well versed in but not Hindi. Go figure!

-We head to the beach where Dick is consumed by colorful fishing boats in great morning light. I take my own pilgrimage out on a jetty I saw from our hotel room. I am drawn to water like a bee to honey so I set off. From far away the jetty looked like rock and dirt but it turns out it is a landfill with pieces of ragged plastic fabric, tile, glass, mortar and “things” that are not biodegradable. Typical India… more garbage, though this trash is put to a very good use as it helps make a bay and provides the fisherman a place to cast nets. I walk and walk and finally give into picking up colorful shards to add to my bottle cap collection. I end up at the very end where it is just the tumultuous sea and me. Heaven!

-Dick finding a “Pay and Use” Public Toilet for 5 cents

-The shocking pink cotton candy vendor. The fresh limejuice seller. The roasted peanut and deep fried chili “chefs” in their open air stalls. The Silk Sari merchants. The ice cream carts with bells. The cooks frying dough in all shapes and sizes who have to tolerate two kinds of sweltering heat from the frying pan and the sun.


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Belief

Text by Patty Simon | Image by Dick Simon
India

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Dick likes to tell everyone that this trip is about spiritual journeys and justifies why we headed to the largest religious gathering in the world at the Kumbh Mela in India. My gut cringes each time I hear because I am not very “religious” so when I witness various “religions”, it does not do much for my own spiritual journey. But, I let it go and try to just be open to whatever happens in these countries with such intense, varied belief systems.

We have gone from Christianity to Hindu to Buddhist to Muslim and back to all four living next to each other side by side.

So here is where my journey has led. In terms of religion… Nowhere. Though I have always respected others beliefs, I find myself foreign to it all. I think I have a gene missing. When I go into these sacred shrines, all I see is decoration and fascination for what these gods look like or how they are honored with offerings. Even the Christian churches feel foreign because all I can think of are missionaries imposing foreign beliefs on an already embedded belief system of thousands of years.

As an artist I have always been obsessed with shrines. I take pictures of every one I see (well, in India this is impossible as they are every 50 feet and we could never get to our next destination). I collect offerings. I study design and what qualities make a “shrine”. I have wanted to do an art installation but I get snagged by one problem. Because of my lack of religious belief, what would I pay homage to? I have thought about this year after year and it keeps me from actually producing the show. (An invitation to anyone reading this, if you have any ideas, please let me know)

So… Belief! If not religious, what would my belief look like?

I’ve decided my belief is about what God creates… the beautiful natural landscape and the people that exist in this huge world. My belief is wrapped up in their belief that life is worth living and struggling for – in the everyday and the tiniest of kindnesses.

 


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An Artificial Utopia

Text by Patty Simon | Image by Dick Simon
India

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Realities come in all shapes and sizes.

The layers of a culture are twisted and tangled.

I include the United States.

Dick and I are traveling on a more expensive level, which means we are sometimes separated from the local culture. Literally by walls and gates at exclusive resort properties but also by differences in cultural moiré. We balance this by ditching our guides and walking the streets talking to the locals and mixing where we stay. Right now most of the guests at our hotel are local Hindus here to see a famous shrine and the bathroom has no shower stall.

One of my favorite things to do is driving in a “protected” car and watching the world go by. It is like watching a movie. Everyone is outside living everyday life so it is so rich visually. Sometimes I just make a list… every living vignette, interaction, business, shrine, clothing, sign, sound and advertisement.

So, I find myself in different utopian situations. This came home to me yesterday in the car. I decide to listen to David Benoit’s song “If I Can Believe”, ironically off his “American Landscape” album. I am listening to music that always triggers an emotional reaction and none larger than today in India. Tears are rolling down my face as I am overwhelmed by my good fortune in witnessing all this. I always feel lucky in finding little pieces of heaven in these beautiful walled resorts but today the utopia is witnessing the people on the streets. Most don’t have much but they have enough to be included in the base reasons for living – work, shelter, food, family and community.

I now know my utopia is found on the streets of every culture we visit.