Arrived in Buenos Aires at 4am to spend the next 10 days with Katie Simon and her boyfriend Michael Garate. After a nap, emerged and within 5 minutes on the streets of BA, we were being ‘helped’ by two people who ‘discovered’ that we had all been covered in a foul smelling bird poop from the trees above. They started to help us ‘clean up’ with some napkins, which they just happened to have with them. Michael, vigilant and also having read about this scam, immediately said thanks but we need to go back to our room to change. The perpetrators were a couple of thieves (ladrones) and silk tongue sweet talkers (chamuyeros) looking for opportunities to take advantage of the unsuspecting traveler, tourist or local alike.-They spray a foul smelling mustard vinegar liquid on unsuspecting victims, then pick pockets. THANKS MICHAEL for your vigilance, as we escaped smelly and dirty, but otherwise unscathed.
The only time I was successfully pick pocketed was on the Paris Metro Champs-Elysées. Guess I better stick with safer places to travel to like Iran, North Korea and Cuba!
We visited with and learned about NGO and social enterprise organizations doing amazing work. Explore their websites and see the differences they are making in the world.
Akilah Institute for Women – Kigali Rwanda – Akilah is the first women’s college in Rwanda and offers a 3-year Business Diploma with majors in Entrepreneurship, Hospitality Management and Information Systems. 97% of Akilah students are the first in their family to attend higher education. Akilah seeks to “build future generations of women leaders and professionals in East Africa” by connecting its graduates directly to the workforce.” Founded and led by Elizabeth Dearborn-Hughes (Elizabeth@akilahinstitute.org).
ASYV (Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village) – Rwanda – ASYV is a magical village less than two hours from Kigali for orphans of the genocide in a boarding school environment with top teachers, world-class facilities and emotional support. ASYV’s mission is to “enable orphaned and vulnerable youth to realize their maximum potential by providing them with a safe and secure living environment, health care, education and necessary life skills.” Founded by Anne Heyman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dakshana – Dakshana – Kottayam, Kerala, India and 5 other locations throughout the country – provides an intensive, final two years of secondary school for economically disadvantaged, extremely bright youth with high potential from rural villages to prepare them for the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) entrance exams, completely changing their potential life course. Dakshana’s mission “is to focus on investing in the delivery of world-class education opportunities for exceptionally gifted children from impoverished rural backgrounds in India.” We spent time with CEO, Colonel Ram Sharma (email@example.com), and founder and major funder Mohnish Pabrai (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an amazing individual and friend.
Free the Children (FTC) – Udiapur, India with development programs in China, Ecuador, Haiti, Kenya, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka, as well as empowering youth in North America and the UK. FTC is the largest network in the world of children helping children through education, health, clean water & sanitation, agriculture & food security, and alternative income generation. Their Adopt-a-Village model has been cited as one of the best in the world for lifting people out of poverty and addressing the Millennium Development goals. It was an inspiration and pleasure spending time with Scott Lloyd Hanoman (email@example.com) who runs India for FTC or contact Executive Director Scott Baker (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am honored to be on FTC’s Board for the last 5 years, and to know and have the opportunity to work with the amazing Founders, Marc and Craig Kielburger.
Gardens for Health International (GHI) – Kigali, Rwanda – “Provides lasting agricultural solutions to the problem of chronic childhood malnutrition.” GHI partners “with rural health clinics to equip families facing malnutrition with seeds, livestock, and know-how for greater self-sufficiency.” Their investment has enabled over one thousand farmers to “have the resources to feed themselves and their families in dignity.” GHI’s founder is Julie Carney (Julie@gardensforhealth.org).
Ikirezi Natural Products – Kigali, Rwanda – This fantastic social enterprise creates jobs and economic vitality through sustainable and organic essential oil production utilizing Fair Trade principles. Ikirezi “partners with small farmers in Rwanda to harvest plant leaves for essential oil production. Ikirezi primarily works with widows and orphans in a holistic effort to resort their dignity, improve their livelihoods, and rebuild their communities.” Nicholas Hitimana (email@example.com) runs the company and we were introduced through his partner and fellow YPOer Dennis Overton (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Project Healthy Children (PHC) – Kigali, Rwanda, as well as Burundi, Honduras, Malawi, Mali and Nepal. PHC works with the governments to develop micronutrient fortification requirements, strategies, standards and programs to address, on a very cost effective national scale, the effects of devastating micronutrient malnutrition. As a small nonprofit, PHC “assists government and industry in designing and implementing countrywide, market-based, mandatory food fortification programs.” Contact David Dodson (email@example.com). I am honored to have served on PHC’s Board.
Reality Tours (Global Exchange) – Mumbai, India – Global Exchange “is an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world.” As an “education and action resource center, Global Exchange seeks to “empower locally and connect globally to create a just and sustainable world.” Reality Tours offers “experiential educational tours, connecting people to issues, issues to movements, and movements to social change.” Reality Tours gave us fascinating and inspirational insights into Dharavi, featured in Slum Dog Millionaire, presenting to us a real behind the scenes look at the incredible people and economic enterprises active there. Every visitor to Mumbai should experience Reality Tours. Contact Alessandro Isola in the Reality Tours Department. Alessandro@globalexchange.org
Rwanda Genocide Memorial and Museum – Kigali, Rwanda –Stands as a living memorial to the million Rwandan Tutu genocide victims slaughtered over a 100 day period, honoring their memory and providing current awareness and education to ensure that horrific events like this never occur again. “The Centre in Kigali was created by a joint partnership of the Kigali City Council and the UK-based Aegis Trust. It contains a permanent exhibition of the Rwandan genocide and an exhibition of other genocides around the world.” Built on a site containing the graves of over 250,000 Rwandan victims, it serves as “a clear reminder of the cost of ignorance.” Honore Gatera is the amazing Manager for Kigali Genocide Memorial. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Uthando – Cape Town, South Africa – Uthando creates a bridge between visitors to Cape Town who seek to learn more about the Townships and make a difference, and inspiring community based organizations. Director James Fernie (email@example.com) leads Uthando South Africa, “a unique and innovative nonprofit and fair trade in tourism accredited company, with the aim of raising funds and other forms of assistance for community development projects in South Africa.” Every visitor to Cape Town should experience Uthando and the incredible organizations it is allied with.
Video Volunteers (VV) – India – VV “envisions a world in which all disadvantaged communities have their own locally relevant and locally produced media that celebrates their culture, voices grassroots concerns, and stimulates dialogue to find solutions to endemic problems.” VV acts to empower the poorest citizens of the world to become “players in the global media revolution” by providing “disadvantaged communities with the journalistic, critical thinking and creative skills they need.” Jessica Mayberry’s (firstname.lastname@example.org) Video Volunteers “train marginalized communities to produce news, watch it, take action and devise solutions.”
WasteLess – India– This non-profit social enterprise has developed Garbology 101, an “interactive, interdisciplinary, multi-age educational kit for children from 6 to 12 years of age, providing a unique perspective on waste and its responsible management.” Garbology 101 provides the children of today the information on waste management they need to make informed decisions for tomorrow, using a “participatory approach with a high level of involvement from teachers and students.” Founder Ribhu Vohra continues his work on effective waste management, working to make this waste education a worldwide habit.
Women For Women International (WfWI)– Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan – Women for Women International “provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies.” This work helps “women go from victim to survivor to active citizen and provides financial aid, job training, rights awareness and leadership education.” Antonina Kayitesi (email@example.com) operations in Rwanda, an office we had an opportunity to visit and learn about their work in the socio-economic transformation of Rwandan Women, truly changing the world one life at a time.
YPO/WPO Social Enterprise Network (SEN) – The SEN Summit in Chennai, India was an initiative of SEN Ambassadors, business leaders around the world, celebrating the spirit of ten outstanding Indian social entrepreneurs who have innovative ideas and commitment to solve specific social issues close to their hearts. This amazing conference was the brainchild and very hard work of JK Jhaver.
Most of the writings about our experiences have been from Patty, who has been GREAT at being prolific and sharing. I have been busily photographing, and those images are used in conjunction with her writings throughout the blog.
I love to reflect back on a trip or experience by thinking about the Top Experiences.
For me the overall best was spending the special times with Alex, Ben and Patty in Africa, and Patty throughout this journey (and sharing all of this with her, including helping with her collecting discarded bottle cap project).
In terms of specifics, my highlights would include:
JP sharing his deeply personal genocide experiences, and helping us imagine the unimaginable. In Kibuye, Rwanda we walked through the market in his village, realizing that many of the ‘nice’ merchants has been directly involved in slaughtering their friends and family; and seeing his home and the houses of the neighbors still living there, who had murdered his family. This surrealistic scene also hit me at a soccer game the first night in Kigali – ‘normal’ people cheering their teams – how did they become mass murderers?
Gorillas – Being face to face with these massive ‘cousins’ in the wild in Rwanda is definitely a top life experience.
Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, India– Being in the midst of millions of Pilgrims coming from all over India, and thousands of Sadhus, or wise men, the first night photographing everybody walking around in a cloud of DDT, the 2am bathing day wanderings with the Sagers and being swarmed by hundreds of naked, ash covered Nagas racing in a stoned frenzy to the river.
Ulagalla Resort – The ultimate Peace Dividend in Sri Lanka –developed immediately after the war, the only Sri Lankan hotel included in a TripAdvisor Top Ten list, and for us coming at the perfect time when we needed a break. We took walks, did bicycle explorations, watched fisherman at sunset and took a morning kayak to see and photograph birds, and spent 3 days of eating our Anniversary cake, which we first got at a magical anniversary dinner on their Observation Deck.
Spending time with the Maharana of Udaipur, India in his amazing palace to brainstorm ways of working together to improve lives in that region of Rajasthan, which his family has been Custodian of the region through over 70 generations and 1400 years.
Really joining celebrations – There is something about being a foreigner with a camera which I experience as license to be in the middle of everything going on, rather than a well behaved bystander – being the only white face in the Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year) parade and celebration in Cape Town, and being invited to climb onto the parade floats with the most esteemed Hindu Sadhus at the Kumbh Mela procession (our guide said people did good deeds for a lifetime to achieve that honor – ignorance is bliss!)
In greater Kruger National Park, South Africa – coming upon a pride of resting lions at night, who gave blood curdling roars. (I know that for some inexplicable reason we were ‘safe’ from these apex predators in our open sided jeep, but really…)
The slow pace of traveling by houseboat in the Backwaters of Kerala.
Mumbai-with its overall intensity and contrasts, from arriving to Suki’s Protocol Officer and a sumptuous dinner in his amazing home and another with YPOers leading many of India’s major companies, to touring the slums and largest open laundry in the world, and the magnificent Hotel Oberoi as our oasis from the frenzy.
In Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, heart of Tamil Tigers during the war, befriending the officer sent to check out and potentially punish us for taking photos. Once he became convinced we were not with an NGO there to embarrass the government, we became buddies and I took our picture together!
Watching groups of monkeys diving from the trees into the lake at Cinnamon Lodge – I never knew they could swim!
YPO SEN Summit in Chennai and the synchronicity of the timing working out perfectly to participate with this fantastic group of business leaders and social entrepreneurs.
In a more general sense,
I love the serendipitous encounters made possible by creating space and time in travels – fisherman, watching crocodile in the ocean, happening upon the Tsunami photographic museum in Sri Lanka.
I love how photography gives me purpose and connection to what is going on around me, and really helps me ‘see’. While I am not fond of long days in the car getting from point A to Point B, Patty has helped me see that as a movie unfolding outside our vehicle, and I have been working on a Through the Windshield photo project.
I love the fascinating people we randomly met, including Japanese photographer Dan Honda who taught me the good thing about Leica’s ‘unusefulness’ and reminded me to take long walks and shoot closer.
I love the continual learning about the world and about complexities – Does post-conflict really exist? Is the conflict over with ongoing random killings of Tutsis (Rwanda), racial strife (South Africa) and soldiers (Sri Lanka)? What was and is India’s involvement in the Sri Lanka conflict?
I love the flow of travel – multiple experiences constantly juxtaposed on each other, with a pace, intensity and stimulation on all dimensions which I rarely experience in other environments.
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!
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!
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!