Monday, March 2, 2015

We are all different, yet all the same.

That was the title of a speech I made as an exchange student in Japan way back in 1989. To be honest I can't really remember what I talked about but I do remember I won a brand new Walkman and a very expensive Bizenyaki pottery vase s it must have been pretty good. The guy who won quoted Martin Luther King. But I digress.

It has been a common theme throughout my life and work. The fact that, at the core of it, we all basically want the same thing. To be happy, surrounded by family and friends and to live our lives in peace. It's easy to cast dispersions about another people or country when you don't know them as indivuduals, which is why I've always believed that travelling and really immersing yourself in another culture is vitally important for everybody.

I found this recently whilst in Barcelona with my family. I have to admit I found it hard to photograph there because every time I pulled my camera out some kind local would warn me to put it away lest it get stolen. After a while these well-meaning souls really wore me out.

Visions of dark strangers whisking my camera gear off into the wilds of Spain made it hard to relax, but in the end I came to my senses and realised that I probably needed to be a bit cautious but not paranoid.

Which is what brought me here. To a little park opposite the majestic Sagrada Familia. In the middle of the night. With my own Familia in tow. My wife and two boys - 9 and 11. I knew where the park was, just not how dark it was. I have to admit we were all a bit nervous but figured the thieves were all probably asleep!

And this is what we found when we got to the park. Apparently every night a bunch of locals with little dogs get together and let them play in a big group of semi-organised chaos. They only bring little dogs to protect them from bigger dogs. As the owner of two Chihuahua Maltese crosses needless to say my kids were beyond excited. In fact I think the hour they spent playing with the puppies while I photographed was probably their favourite in their whole month in Europe! This is my eldest in the foreground rushing in for more play time with a Jack Russell.

Many of the people spoke quite good English so conversation bounced along and we learnt quite a bit about life in the city that we would never have discovered as tourists.

An experience that, once again, proved that wherever you go in the world people are people.  Yes there are terrible people everywhere but mostly we're all just kind, friendly people living their lives to the best of our abilities. I think we should stick all racist people on a plane and send them to parks like this all over the world and let them play with the locals and their dogs. And the politicians should be first.