For those of us who perhaps don’t quite trust the ‘organic’ labels in the
supermarkets, it’s good to know that there is a weekly alternative at Café
Pandau on Soi 13, Nimmanhaeminda Road. Noriko, Café Pandau’s owner,
organises an organic market every Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., selling
products from her own supplier, Wattanaree Tapruk, (Khun Noi).
Khun Noi is a pioneer of organic produce distribution in the city, and also
a well-know seller at the Multiple Cropping Centre market on the campus of
Chiang Mai University. Most importantly, she is also an agricultural analyst
for the Chiang Mai local government. She began her involvement with organic
produce 5 years ago, when she saw the heavy use of chemicals in agriculture
and became aware of the air and water pollution this was causing. On further
investigation, she discovered that farmers who had cut out the use of
pesticides were having distribution problems. Joining a group of organic
farmers based in Huay Sai district, she began to help collect and sell their
produce. Now, she trades with two separate organic farmers’ groups, which
together involve 11 independent growers.
Khun Noi was born into a farming family herself, and is married to a
government officer working with the Forest Department here in Chiang Mai.
She owns a fruit farm, (organic, of course), and takes care of it along with
her family. Her one wish is that her customers and relatives can buy
chemical-free produce, thus enabling them to enjoy good health.
Available at the regular Friday market are fresh greens, eggplants,
cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, burdock, taro, and many more veggies,
all of which are chemical- free. Café Pandau serves and also retails organic
food and drinks, from gluten-free cookies through hummus, delicious (and
fattening, but who cares!), peanut butter, organic oils, rice, grains, miso,
honey, tahini, etc. A real home- made treat, and, unlike many treats, good
for us as well!
Is this the answer…and
do we really care?
For years, we’ve read that this cream, those vitamins, that serum, and,
for the seriously desperate and relatively well-off, Botox or a quick
lift and tuck are the answer to our ageing, wrinkly faces. And, let’s
face it, we’ve surreptitiously envied those of us who don’t give a d*mn,
and got on with living their invariably productive lives!
Amazingly, though, it begins to seem that scientists may have discovered
the secret of the ageing process itself—two connected chemical triggers
which, between them actually regulate the life-span of cells. So what?
you might think… but…the research results build on the growing belief
that the ageing process itself is the body’s deliberate process, rather
than just a gradual failure of tired cells. This rather changes the
entire perspective on that rather depressing process, as, of the two
newly-discovered proteins, (known as SRT6 and NF Kappa B), the first
actually protects against cell ageing and the second promotes it. The
really astonishing discovery is that the two substances influence each
other—leading, in scientists’ minds, to the possibility that
manipulating them in the body could lead to a much longer life with far
It would seem that we are all born with differing proportions of the two
proteins in our body chemistry, which at least explains why some of us
who are older look younger than the rest of us…no excuse now for
jealousy and those muttered comments of the ‘where did she get it done?’
variety, ladies! Seriously, though, the discovery might well help to
explain why some people can eat, drink, smoke and be merry for almost an
eternity, whilst others, having led an exemplary life of self-denial,
move on to the next life at an embarrassingly early age.
It’s quite simply, genetics, we are told by an associate professor of
dermatology at a well-respected USA university. He adds that those rare
individuals who live beyond 100 years have a less- efficient version of
this master pathway, just as children with Progeria—a progressive
genetic ageing disease have the over-active version.
The study—carried out on mice—noted that one group, bred to be deficient
in the SIRT6 protein, aged rapidly and died after 4 weeks, due to an
increase of the NF Kappa B protein in their bodies. The second, elderly
group, in which the activity of the NF Kappa B protein was blocked,
looked and acted much younger than their biological ages. Significantly,
when the increased NF Kappa B in the first group was blocked, the ageing
process was reversed.
The conclusion was that the two proteins work together to help cells age
naturally, with the SIRY6 putting the brakes on the other. The question
it didn’t answer, however, was, ‘Where can we buy some!’, although the
report didn’t add the usual rider that it would be ‘many years before a
practical and safe use for the proven theory will be available to the
general public’. Still, it’s nice to know that our grandchildren will be
able to stay younger longer. Isn’t it?
Female emancipation-battles won, and maybe lost
A good number of female expats here will be old enough to
remember the feminist movement’s efforts to bring about a modern
version of emancipation, both in the home and, most importantly,
in the work place. This writer wondered, at the time, whether
the relatively new advertising medium of commercial TV –remember
those excruciating scenes of the perfect ‘little woman’
housewife gloating over the latest electric gadget just
installed in her pristine kitchen—was the spur for a large
number of perfectly ordinary women to realise that they, too
could have independent lives, even if they were married with
The music industry was culpable as well—two songs in particular
caused fury amongst my friends at the time. The first, ‘Stand by
your Man”, with its suggestion that even if your chosen life-
partner is a 24-hour drunk with a penchant for beating you up
and having affairs, you should stay with him! The second, and
worst of all, was entitled, ‘Time to get ready for Love’.
Remember that one, with its sugary implications that if you let
your husband arrive home from work without immediately serving
him a gourmet home- cooked 5 course meal with your good self
done up like a Mayfair lady of the night, ready to leap into bed
before doing the washing-up, you should expect the guy to run
off with his secretary! Ouch!
It has to be admitted that, in those early days, some of us
–Germaine Greer being a prime example—considered that we were
superior to men, but the movement in general seemed to feel that
what women needed was respect, an acknowledgement of their
individual talents and their different human rights, and,
certainly, equality in the work place. As regards a comparison
with the male sex, most of us preferred to state that we saw
ourselves as different and equally as valid, rather than
In the main, the movement was effective, at least for some
years. Although, in the workplace, the ‘glass ceiling’ which
barred most women from top jobs was, and still is, in place in
many organisations, in our personal and social lives as well as
at work, we enjoyed freedom of speech and opinions and many
wider opportunities which had been considered’ unsuitable’ in
the past, were open to us. And of, course, the birth pill and
the abortion laws freed us to be in charge of our bodies and our
careers. Freedom of choice was perhaps one of the most important
advances won in that long-ago battle. If there is truly a
heaven, the Suffragettes from the early 20th century must have
been looking down from their fluffy clouds at their modern-day
equivalents with huge grins on their faces!
We lived through those times, and got on with our lives and
careers…and then, with families grown up, retirement beckoning,
the loss of aged and dependent parents, or just to answer a need
for a change of pace and space, we ended up here in Chiang Mai.
Many of us will have wondered how difficult it was going to be
to live our own lives in a culture we knew very little about. I
certainly did. Culture shock grabs us, not the moment we arrive,
but when we’ve been here long enough to have ‘settled in’ in the
Western manner. When the house or apartment looks like home—when
the garden has enough unfamiliar items of flora in it to give
you something to water—when we’re used to eating the food but
don’t know how to cook it— that’s when many of us suddenly
realise that’s we’ve pretty much no idea what’s really going on.
And, worse still, no idea of how to find out.
That’s when we retreat into our own community for the sake of a
breathing space, and that’s when we start to notice differences
which may make us feel slightly uncomfortable. Disturbing as we
expected to feel slightly uncomfortable in the general
community, not with our own people. We note that, on many
occasions, formal and informal, conversational groups form, not
of like-minded individuals, but of men and of women.
Eavesdropping on the male conversations, we hear discussions,
not of international events, the credit crisis, politics or
academic issues, but... football! And more football! And
cars…Even in our female groups, the focus of conversation seems
have changed as well. If we don’t have adult children and
grandchildren, we’re out of the loop! It’s as though we’ve
time-travelled back to the 1950’s. Very disturbing.
It’s even possible that we may begin to notice a small trace of
misogynism in our community, with intelligent, capable women
fresh out of high-powered jobs in the West pining for
appreciation of the fact that they have brains as well as good
legs and a 36 B bra. Is this, we wonder, down to age and gender
in the menfolk, or to the subtle influence of Thai ladies who
partner farang men for whatever reason? Either way, whatever
happened to the battles we thought we’d won so many years ago?
Perhaps we try to counter this by moving sideways into the local
community, having learned enough Thai to cope with basic social
situations? Although it’s a rewarding exercise in many ways, we
find that we really have time-travelled! Hardly surprising, as
Thailand never had a feminist movement, and it’s only recently
that women are beginning to look at their lives and decided they
would like some changes. For some years now, there has been an
increase in Thai women starting their own SME’s, often in the
tourism and export sectors, and very tough some of those ladies
are, too! But, very few of them seem to be married, or in
long-term partnerships, in a similar manner to those in the West
50 years ago. In Thailand these days, determined and intelligent
women do manage to achieve commercial success, even in large
companies, but, again, hardly any of this fortunate few are in
permanent relationships. One reason, given to me by a very
successful Thai female friend, is that, at a certain level, a
successful woman will find that she frightens Thai men away. For
those of us who were in the same situation many years ago, this
should sound familiar!
Given that the likelihood of a feminist revolution here in the
Land of Smiles is lower than the present bank rate in the USA,
those of us who hanker after the inter-sex, interactive life we
used to lead, seem to have only one option—find your own—very
small by definition—group of like-minded incomers, both male and
female, and stick to them like glue—your sanity depends on it!