This Friday October 28, Shanghai will see some inspiring and innovational women coming to town for the TEDxShanghaiWomen event ‘It’s About Time’. Ahead of the event, we’ve been conducting a series of interviews with the speakers, asking them about self-perception, success, and women in China. For our final installment, we’re introducing adventurer and photographer Eleanor Moseman, and Valerie Brown from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Let’s start with where we’ve begun with each speaker - could you each describe yourselves in 3 words?
Eleanor Moseman: Genuine, curious, passionate.
Valerie Brown: Happy, grateful and enthusiastic.
So this year's global topic is Time - what personal or particular significance does that hold for each of you?
EM: Time is finite: my time in China, my time as a photographer, my time on that stage. Time is one of the most valuable resources I have and I'm going to use it to my fullest capacity as if it could disappear tomorrow. There is no such thing as free time or idle time and I've dedicated time to what I want from life. It's taken time, years, decades - I'm ready to dedicate a lifetime to what I'm passionate about.
VB: For me, time is a precious commodity. It is important how we spend it; who we spend it with and that we make the most of it AT ALL TIMES. I don’t want to wake up anxious and regretful that I let any time slip by and did not take total advantage of every priceless moment that I have been given.
Also in relation to ‘It’s About Time’, when are you the best versions of yourselves?
EM: When I'm sitting inside a nomad's tent, or a single room home in the slums of Bangladesh, or a mud packed home in Xinjiang. Listening, watching, participating. Sitting alone on a mountain top pondering the meaning of life or constructing a plan for my future. When I am stripped of obligations and expectations, social constructs and gender roles. No longer Eleanor or an American or a traveler. When I am free.
VB: I am the best version of myself when I am surrounded by people. It doesn’t matter who those people are, where they are from or how they were raised. I love to share and learn with everyone I encounter.
Eleanor, why were you specifically interested in speaking at a China-based TEDx event, and what connection do you feel you have to China?
EM: As a photographer working in remote regions of Asia and living with people that aren't often heard, it is finally an opportunity to share these inspiring stories of love, courage, and perseverance. This month marks my eight year anniversary in China and I'm here by choice; no contract or partner binds me to Shanghai. China is such a large part of who I am, what I represent, and has made me the woman I am today. I'm so fortunate to be here, and now to have a chance to share stories about the women who have empowered me to continue on this journey.
If you could each pick a super power, what would it be and why?
EM: I probably would choose to pass and let someone else make a choice. My ‘super power’ is that I am me, I'm not like anyone else. I know what I stand for and my ‘voice' and I've accepted my quirks, weirdness, and all those elements that make us human.
VB: If I could pick a super power it would be the ability to transport myself at the blink of an eye. I want to travel the world and show up wherever I can help and make a difference. Of course, I would have to eat everywhere that I end up!
Valerie, when you accomplish a goal, do you see the end of a road or the beginning of a new journey? What’s the most valuable skill or trait you've developed on the way to where you are now?
VB: My life is a never ending journey. At times I reach pit stops where I can rest and celebrate victories but the destination is forever changing and I love it! My most valuable skill is my ability to never meet a stranger –friends turn into family and family turns into happiness.
Eleanor, you’ve been living a life of adventure and tried so many things, many of which are probably difficult for others to imagine - especially for many women in China. What do you see as some of the greatest challenges facing women in China at the moment?
EM: Embracing their individuality, trusting themselves, and taking action for what they truly want and desire in their life. There are cultural expectations, an obligation to parents, of who they should be. It's a problem all over the world, and specifically in Asia. Within Asia, China has so many more opportunities for young women to advance, grow, develop as a woman; educationally and in the workplace. I hope that no young woman, anywhere in the world, overlooks or passes up any opportunity that is set in front of them.
That said, do you have any advice for China's young women who are starting (or continuing) their own journeys?
EM: The same advice I give everyone, not just in China, not just women but also men. Speak from the heart, be honest, especially with yourself...and trust, always trust your inner voice.
About the speakers:
Eleanor Moseman is a photographer and solo explorer that documents and shares stories of ancient civilizations and disappearing traditions throughout Asia. Focusing her work on women among religious cultures, the working class, and those enslaved in poverty, she gives a voice to many that may never be heard or recognised. Raised from humble beginnings in Appalachia, Moseman is also an activist, humanitarian, and storyteller. When not roaming around Asia alone and living among locals in far-flung regions of the world, she is photographing architecture and interior spaces throughout China. In her TEDx talk ‘It's Time to Live Fearlessly’, she’ll speak about making conscious choices to persevere even when frightened, which can lead to ‘a world of unimaginable possibilities’.
Valerie Brown is currently the Director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai, promoting U.S. food and agricultural products in Eastern China. She is the founder of the Women Of (American) Wine (WOW) group in China; the author of a motivational book entitled Go Team You; and host of Cooking with Mei Mei. She is the proud parent of five children and is attempting to eat her way around the world. At TEDx event, Brown will be presenting her talk ‘Trust the Procrastinator’.