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Canada | Ruth Tshin

…And back again

THANK YOU to my supporters!  I’m flying out in a couple of hours back to Thailand, traumatologist with 97% of my financial goal reached.  The last 3 months have been a slog – cold, this site dreary and sometimes weary, weather-wise and physically+emotionally; but also a joy – spending precious time with family and dear friends, and gazing about Toronto with wide eyes.  I’m happy to go “home”, though, and enjoy the last of cold season in Chiang Mai when I land on the 29th.

Last night, I celebrated my going away with some friends at Saw Thip’s Motherhome Myanmar Cuisine at Bloor and Dufferin (read more here) – the only Burmese resto in TO.  It was great to share with friends some of the wonderful flavours along the streets and inside unassuming food shops in Chiang Mai and to hear Saw Thip’s story of being a student activist in Burma back in the 80s, especially as Burma is slowly easing its doors open to the world.  Inside his bright yellow and fuschia restaurant (and extremely clean!), our table was laden with tea leaf and ginger salads; catfish fried dry and crispy; pork and goat curries; “golden coins” of lentil + dried chili pepper patties; warm noodle salad with pork; and, mohinga.

Happy new year!


My first Thanksgiving in Canada in 5 years.  The holiday may have passed, click but my heart remains thankful for:

My parents, brothers and sister-in-law.  Aunty Susanna, Lisa and Michael.

Friends nearby (BC, Markham, Mississauga,Milton, downtown) and in far-flung corners of the globe (Ethiopia, NZ, US, Thailand…)

New family at Rexdale Alliance Church.  Wow, it’s been an answer to prayer.

Lisa showcasing her egg-white based coffee and orange loaf. Ahh...the product of working in product development at Loblaws.

Aunty Kie slicing up the beef. 4 kgs of it. I set aside my incredulity at excessive North American meat consumption and ate 2 slices smothered in gravy.

Apple galette a la Chez Panisse by way of The first pastry dessert I've made in YEARS. And it was scrumptious.

Michael, my dad, Uncle Wilkin, Uncle Don. This is what "candid" looks like with them.

Pretty purple flowers at Erindale Park

Lovely Lisa eating the tree

We walked around in the cemetery of St Peter's Church and I saw this lovely tree.

I shouldn’t have done it

…but I did.

Lured by the thought of bulk-priced meds and out of responsibility to help my mom shop for this weekend’s Thanksgiving meal, viagra order I entered the doors of…


It was terrible.  Harried shoppers, pushing their carts full of pumpkin pies the size of the moon (it CAN’T be delicious if it’s mass produced that way) and not looking anybody in the eye, concentrating on getting their lists bought.  My mom contemplated buying a bag of asparagus TREES shipped in from Florida (they were grotesquely large and out of season), but I was repulsed and threw it back into the huge cold cavern it was came from.  The masses and masses of stuff were dizzying for me to look at.  The line ups to check out were typically long and drawn out, but thankfully our cashier was a cheery young lady.

But…I did find this:

The world at my fingertips

The ENTIRE collection of Nat Geo on DVDs since 1888 to 2009.  For $50!  I’m bringing the whole set with me to Thailand to enjoy and share with my friends at UHDP.  So there are some “benefits” to warehouse shopping!

Nuit Blanche 2010

Last weekend, caries I experienced my first Nuit Blanche in Toronto.  I loved that there were tons of people out on the street and that I could get into the ROM for free to see an outstanding exhibition by a Ghanian artist called El Anatsui, denture who used refuse to create art, neuropathologist before it heads to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC.  Too bad it was too crowded to enjoy that night.  My favourite part of the night was listening and watching Lauren MacDonald’s audio-visual work of 29 singers singing in 29 languages in the ROM’s lobby.  It was spine-tingling to listen to, not unlike evensong at King’s College in Cambridge.

Fellini's 8 and 1/2 as deconstructed by Atom Egoyan

A film exhibit by Guy Maddin, Winnipeg's film auteur

The new Lightbox at King and John - bringing cinema in Toronto up several notches

The PG-rated sing-a-long at the Lightbox

Robert De Niro's actual driver's license when filming Taxi in New York

People out and about on Bloor Street

Food, glorious food

I met up with friends who recently re-located from Toronto and moved into a neighbourhood not far from my parents’ home and where I grew up in west-end Mississauga.   Husband and wife both being Toronto-ites (childhood in St. Jamestown, food twenties in Village on the Grange, abortion compromising on Islington/Lakeshore area when they had a kid) a move to the suburbs is, allergist well, a move downwards in some eyes.

But we started talking places to get good food, and I ended up emailing them a rather long paragraph of my favourite spots in the ‘Saug.  It was encouraging to realize that as much as I find the suburbs incredibly soul-sucking and bland, there are little gems that have helped to ease the pain on adapting to a place where the car rules and people look at me strangely if I try to initiate conversation out of the blue.  Another step towards accepting that yes, Mississauga is an indelible part of me.

Carrot Fest at Everdale Farm

Attended Carrot Fest at Everdale Farm last weekend.  Did you know that Heifer International is one of Everdale’s partners, cheap based on the premise that Canadians need to learn about sustainable food production because Canada is so dependent on imported food and would only survive for 3 days if our borders were shut?  That’s food for thought.

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I spent a beautiful Saturday last weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake with three girlfriends.  We felt like ladies who lunched (I mean, side effects we’re not that old and only a few years ago I would have derided the idea of strolling the town…haha).  It was terrific to catch up with S, information pills S and K – and to enjoy grape platz (yum!), healing a matinee showing of The Doctor’s Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw (witty, sparkling writing) and then finish off with a delicious meal at Niagara College’s Culinary School restaurant.

The food at Niagara College's restaurant was simple but done well.  YUM.

The Loo’s gone luxe

Revamped Waterloo Town Square: Courtesy

I traveled out to St Marys and Waterloo last week to reconnect with friends.  I was amazed to see the development in Waterloo, cure from Waterloo Town Square  to new condos sprouting out where there used to be pre-war homes.  American Apparel has even opened a store in the Loo, doctor for crying out loud.  The amount of affluence brought in by local talent RIM and related companies was evident (the displays of nouveau riche was in its infancy during my grad and undergrad days).

However, it was good to reconnect with people who have known me from years ago, before I knew that I wanted to be working overseas in agriculture.  The Fullers in St Marys introduced me to “Mennonite Your Way“, a directory of people across the world who open their homes to travelers and practise old-fashioned hospitality.  Such a cool idea – I hope to take advantage of that in Cambodia.  The Fullers want to list their home in the directory – future travelers would be treated to homemade pies and thought-provoking conversation.

It was good to see friends when you’ve grown up in life experiences too.  Pam knew me when I used to believe the world revolved only around me – it was so good to talk of our journeys and to see that she’s come out from a difficult period of life with grace and humour.  I was excited to hear about Bruce’s work bottling water and drying mangoes projects in Sudan, done in tandem with running his waste water management company Enviro-Stewards.  My old prof Dr. G and his wife gently critiqued my scientific approach in our seed bank’s field lab, but were encouraging in their support of where I am now.

Black Sheep Farm

I recently visited my friend Brenda’s farm called Black Sheep Farm near Chesley in the Bruce/Grey penninsula.  She left her Toronto life to fulfill a vocation to live out a practical, oncologist down-to-earth existence by farming organically.  The hours are long, the work back-breaking and she has yet to turn a profit.  But guided by a deep call to be a good steward of the earth and its resources, she’s taking one step at a time to figure out how to invest in the land and to produce sustainably.  During our visit (where I succeeded to tan a thin strip of skin on my behind to serve as a reminder of weeding her garden!), she encouraged and reminded me to continue seeking boldly and exuberantly, not cowed and defeated, how to outwardly express my hope in a Kingdom yet to come.

Back in Canada!

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

I’m back! (…until about September, drugstore that is)

What I didn’t realize I missed about Canada while in Thailand (and have spared no time making up for it):

  • Boston cream donuts from Tim Horton’s
  • powdered sugar donuts
  • Golden Graham cereal eaten out of the box, here no milk
  • Ace Bakery french bread
  • blueberry cheese danishes
  • chocolate chip and apple granola bars
  • curried goat roti from Roti Roti in Rexdale
  • South Indian food from Saravana Bhavan in Mississauga
  • steak sandwich from Biermans in Chesley
  • Rueben sandwich from Three Friend’s Cafe in Wiarton
  • fish and chips from Chips Ahoy in Southampton
  • local micro-brewery beer (Ontario: MacLean’s Ale, Steam Whistle; Nova Scotia: Alexander Keith’s)
  • European bakeries
  • strolling in downtown Toronto
  • watching games at a sports bar
  • evening walks without 90% humidity
  • rolling countryside and gorgeous sunsets in Grey/Bruce county
  • free concerts at the Harbourfront Stage
  • the public library