Chiang Mai FeMail  by Elena Edwards
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Organics again

Is this the answer…and do we really care?

Female emancipation-battles won, and maybe lost

 

Organics again

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 fewer wrinkles!
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 children.
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 ‘better’.
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!