Monthly Archives: October 2012

Ardice Abroad: Today I Learned To Cross the Street

One of the best things about traveling abroad is that I become an instant child.   Not only I am looking at one thing and then another with wild amazement, I am forced to learn a whole new set of cultural rules.

For example, I come from southern California where pedestrians have the right away.  Almost every intersection has a stop light and walk and don’t walk signals complete with audio for the seeing impaired.  “Walk sign is on, Walk sign is on to cross Ocean Avenue.”  If there is not a light there is a crosswalk (most of them equipped with blinking yellow lights) and driver beware who does not stop for the fines are frequent and heavy.   It’s the equivalent of pedestrian heaven where those of us on foot have the power to command everything from the fuel efficient hybrids to the Mercedes SLs to city buses to stop.

Not so in Phnom Penh.  Here everyone (and I do mean everyone) is on a small motor bike, in a Tuk Tuk powered by a small motor bike, or in a vehicle.  Whole families ride with a child sandwiched in between mom and dad.  Little preschoolers snuggle up against their mom on a motorbike while grey haired grandmas make life threatening U-turns to grab a parking spot

Actual stop lights with walk signs are scarce.  On the 2 mile stretch down a modern 8 lane European style roadway there is ONE, I kid you not ONE stop light.  Every other major intersection, of which there are many, is a roundabout.  Roundabouts are nothing more than a constant stream of traffic moving in all directions with vehicles of all sizes and shapes cutting across lanes to move into position.  There is no stopping.  There is not even a moment of slowing down.

When crossing, the tradition of looking left and right is futile since at any moment some little motorcycle can cut across traffic or round a corner.

But – aha – I have learned the secret of crossing and in just my first 48 hours.

Here is the formula for success – You must choose the moment of crossing and be fully committed.  You must choose your exact trajectory and speed and never deviate lest the traffic bearing down on you gets confused and tries to swerve to avoid you.  You must never look up to make eye contact with any driver of any vehicle large or small.  An exchange of glances might make you think the driver wants you to speed up or move to the left or right and this will for sure only end in disaster.  It’s like being on a sailboat.  Claim the right away and do not deviate.

And lastly you must trust that the dozens of tiny motorcycles bearing down on you are being driven by adept experts who have grown up casually moving in and out and avoiding collisions of any kind their entire lives.  .

Now I understand why so many people think it is strange that I walk everywhere.

In Phnom Penh the message is clear “learn to cross or take a Tuk Tuk.”


Find more stories from Ardice Farrow’s experiences in ‘Ardice Abroad’. 



Ardice Abroad: Things were said, sites were seen…

You can’t go back.  You cannot rewind a day, take a mulligan and start again.  What the day does, what I do to it by midnight is done, complete, the end.  I grew up Catholic and one of the practices they taught us was before we go to sleep to go through the day and think of all the sins we committed, all the wrongs we had done during the day.  In other words take an inventory of what an annoying jerk I had been and remind myself of my lowly status as someone who was predisposed to get it wrong.

My life now is 180 from there.  Now when I put my sleepy little head on the pillow I am awash with all the incredible, amazing things I saw, people that made me smile, flowers that made me laugh,  conversations that brought me home to the heart.

Last night was no exception, except it was exceptional.  As I prepare to leave I tend to go everywhere to see old acquaintances and folks I know who are doing great things.  So last night I had got a last minute invitation to a photography exhibit at Creative Visions.  How could I say “no”! I wanted to pick up some books from them and their offices are on the beach in Malibu.  Any excuse to go visit is a good one.

(If you have a moment checkout – a moving and remarkable story about a mother who keeps alive the inspirational work of her son by helping others follow their dreams of being change makers.)

So I grab my dear friend Jeanie Madsen (check out Jeanie’s gallery and we take a sunset drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu.  So you can see already the evening is turning out pretty special.

When we arrive the offices of Creative Vision are awash with incredible folks up to incredible things.  A female journalist who is traveling the world to report on child sex trafficking and then fighting for stricter laws to protect them.  A man, who was the pastor of St. Paul’s across from the Twin Towers on 9/11 and served a community that was shattered and heartbroken with a message of forgiveness.  Young adults barely out of college following the path of Dan Eldon and living a life of creative activism.  And of course Kathy Eldon and her daughter Amy, the fairy god mothers of it all floating through the space acknowledging and celebrating every visitor.

Then we see the remarkable photographs of Robert Vockerman from his new book Kindsight.  The simplest most intimate photos of individuals and their profoundly moving human stories.   It was not easy to view them without overwhelming emotion.  Lined up like soldiers of inspiration along a long wall.  Each one touching a different chord of emotion.

And Robert’s words quoting another artist and I loosely paraphrase here

“The more intimate and personal my work the greater connection and impact it has.”

Simply said.  Hard to forget.  So let’s get busy and get personal with ourselves.  Step into a world where we are swept away by our own enthusiasm and self-expression.  A world where we touch the depths of our own heart so we can touch others.

Find more stories from Ardice Farrow’s experiences in ‘Ardice Abroad’. 


Ardice Abroad: Mother Goose is MIA

It is a week before I leave and my focus has shifted from “me” “me” “me” – my visa, my packing, my shots, my shoes to a wondering about the kids I will see and meet – the  children young and old who will let me into their lives to play and learn and love.

I was thinking of how easy it is to relate to kids here in the US.  Old and young we have so many shared stories, memories and fantasies.  Most of us have some familiarity with fairy tales like Cinderella, Snow White, Peter Pan and thanks to Disney’s somewhat sacrilegious but entertaining versions we know the Hundred Acre Woods and the friends of Winnie the Pooh.  Many of us learned or taught our children ABCs with the help of those fuzzy Muppet creatures. As children most of us drew pictures of houses and gardens and rainbows and tall trees where little birds built their nests.   Generations of us can hum the theme to Star Wars and most young kids know what to do if you put a light saber in their hands.

We can dream of castles, wizards, far off planets, pirates, voyages under the sea and following a flock of dancing penguins across Antarctica.

One of my favorite childhood memories is my dad sitting on the edge of my bed in the dim light of my bedroom reading from a giant blue Mother Goose book.  His deep soothing voice washing over me like a warm breeze until I fell into a deep sleep and dreamt of fairies, magic kingdoms and make believe lands full of lollipop trees and gumdrop highways.  I know I have a US centric view and probably more narrow and unrealistic – a Southern California beach gal centric view.  But I also know that wherever there is community and consistency there is culture.   Indigenous tribes, remote villages in Nepal, native cultures around the world have stories that are told, songs that are sung.  There is a visual language of expression passed from generation to generation.

But for children who grow up in vicious poverty on a dump piled high with the cast off garbage from others dreams – what do they dream of?  For a child who wakes every day hungry and is driven all day long to find a way to end that hunger if just for a moment, for children who grow up in war torn areas where bombs, body parts and death is their everyday experience, for these children I wonder when they close their eyes at night what do they see, what images fill their dreams.  And when they are awake what are their imaginings?  What visuals fill their hopes?

As I get ready to leave I imagine these children at CCF as beautiful, exotic creatures of another land.  It’s like Scuba diving.  I am immersing myself in a world I do not know.  I will be swimming about in a constant state of awe and discovery.  Love will be the oxygen I breathe and playful friendship will be the currency of exchange.  And if I want to get up close and personal.  if I want to have those moments of intimacy and connection then I must move quietly, lightly…

Find more stories from Ardice Farrow’s experiences in ‘Ardice Abroad’. 


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