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Thoughts + Musings | Ruth Tshin

In a nutshell – almost October

Conference is happening in less than 5 days and we’re anticipating major flooding at the office and around the conference hotel.  *Sigh*  C’est la vie…

Excited about: meeting new people who teach agricultural extension in Burma and seeing old friends who work in Laos; photographing the Foods of the Forest course at the farm in mid-October; making Karen pork curry soon!

Busy with: making sure we can process over 150 seed orders at conference; putting stickers onto conference certificates

Reading: umm…seed orders

Eating: this week alone – sour southern Thai soup; crab fried rice; tom yum noodles; buttered toast; Karen curried frogs; masala chai

Watching: not going to deny it – the Rachel Zoe project

Feeling: tired with a very sore neck; but having fun hanging out with Betsy, pilule Marcia, Rick and Ellen at the office

Should be: sleeping earlier and getting a massage

Shouldn’t be: sleeping late

Thankful for: Twitter and Facebook to keep track of flood water progress in Chiang Mai

Frustrated with: when is the rainy season going to just go away???

Enjoying: air-conditioning and dry feet

Looking forward to: spending a weekend in Bangkok and another at Doi Ang Khang with the seed bank crew

Ant eggs in my underwear drawer…

…and other rainy season miseries.

Mr. Scorpion hanging out on my screen door.

Let me list them:

  1. Green mold growing outside and inside of my plate cabinet, unhealthy and my clothes closet. Black shirts look especially nasty when moldy…
  2. The smell of mildew that pervades my bedroom at the farm.
  3. People who just don’t get it.
  4. Laundry that doesn’t dry because it’s always raining.
  5. Internet being literally washed out by the rain (I’m not kidding).
  6. No sunshine (bring on the S.A.D.!)
  7. Cockroaches in my toilet paper (this happened about an hour before sitting down to write this!  I screamed really loud.)
  8. Getting road dirt all over my face and legs when I motorcycle to and from the office in the city.

And yet, stuff simple joy comes along with these miseries: of seeing my friends in the seed bank grow into their roles and responsibilities, look watching Kym eating passion fruit straight without any sugar (this constitutes her successfully passing my “eating in Thailand” midterm exam!), and knowing that somehow,  I’m growing in patience and tolerance towards the plethora of things that upset me here in Thailand (certain frustrating relationships, no sidewalks, the humidity, language fatigue…).

I love what Sarah Menkedick says about the never-ending cycles of cultural adjustment:

“I think the hardest thing about expat life is the inner battle – the struggle to get beyond judgments and frustrations…What it means is learning how to navigate the maddening along with the captivating, and to distill one’s hostility so that in the end it becomes part of a deeper empathy…It means finding or creating the capacity to roll all the anger and the annoyance up with the awe and the gratefulness, the true overwhelming gratefulness that comes at times to be living in another culture and another place and to discover and marvel at it, and to take them both in with the kind of complex love attached to home.  The foreign culture [and all the maddening relationships that come with it] doesn’t have to be home and you don’t have to lay out the cheery faux grass welcome mat to try to make it such – but by allowing it to be complicated and maddening, familiar and empathetic, you give it the depth and the freedom of home.  You allow it to be many things at once.”

In a nutshell

I’ve been in a season of busy-ness and contemplation lately (weird how the two are so intertwined!) and haven’t  really posted anything here, decease so in a nutshell…

Excited about: B+T’s wedding in August (new dress: should I?  shouldn’t I?)

Busy with: seed catalogues; planning a pest survey; Thai lessons

Reading: books on burn-out (!!), New York Times

Eating: this and that from here and there 🙂

Watching: music videos on Vevo

Feeling: sad/blue + enjoying the moment (like I said, weird but true)

Should be: using my bicycle and riding around town; eating more fruit!

Shouldn’t be: drinking coffee during the week; worrying about things I can’t control

Thankful for: people who write me about what’s going on in their lives and people who pray for me

Frustrated with: the rain and humidity; hair that flattens under a motorcycle helmet

Enjoying: sitting in an air-conditioned cafe in Chiang Mai!!

Looking forward to: going home in November for a break; planning seed saving training curriculum for the new year

As Lausanne 3 approaches…

At small group tonight, stomach we covered the history of the Lausanne Movement together, hepatitis including reading aloud the Lausanne Covenant from 1974.

The first thing that struck me is the incredible scholarship but elegant simplicity of the Covenant itself.  The second thing was that this event is the culmination of accumulated wisdom of global Christian thinkers and leaders and an amazing feat to gather them, cialis 40mg put aside differences and dialogue together, including about mistakes made in the past.  This is especially poignant at a time in my own journey as I’ve been moving towards setting aside pet peeves within Christianity (which we all have, admit it!) and towards the person of Christ and how he unites all Christians no matter the scope of our interests or passions.

But the third thing that struck me is the “spirit of Lausanne” and how it is relevant it is for Christians to be articulate in what we believe but to always temper our beliefs with gentleness and love in all situations.

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.

Grasping at things not yet understood

October marks three months back in Canada and the first time I’ve experienced fall in about five years! The sky is grey all the time and the weather has morphed from a pleasant coolness to having the brittle edge of winter.  Experiencing the transition from summer to fall has accompanied thoughts I’ve had lately about my time back in Canada and as I’m getting ready to head back to Thailand.

The first thought – The past two years have been HARD.  And it won’t get any easier.

The second thought – These difficulties are a requirement, refractionist the cost if you will, mind if I believe what I’m doing is in line with what God is doing in the world because of His love for the world.

The frustrations, intensity of loneliness, wondering my relevance professionally and in lives of friends, family and continued mishaps & misunderstandings of cross-cultural work – none of this is a walk in the park and has required constant and continual adjustment to new norms (which include having huge ant eggs in my room up north).  Each return to Canada gets harder and harder because my opinions no longer fit with what is acceptable in Canada as a result of my continued reaction/struggle/acceptance (whether partial or full) of what is normal in Thailand.

This doesn’t get any easier because I choose to remain in a vocation that requires commitment to choices and resulting consequences I’d rather not have and results in a necessary exclusion from things I’d embraced as “normal” before.  Cases in point – It’s tiring to train my co-workers in Thai on basic concepts of project management that high schoolers in Canada understand and when I have time to connect with good friends/family, our exchanges are often challenged by physical distance, time differences and my current exhaustion and I’m often hurt by their lack of interest in my work.

Or, Questioning the relevance of what I do when I come back to Canada and my friends are warmly ensconced in homes of their choosing, with partners, children and income streams, but I’m raising money to go back overseas and have much less control over things like housing and transportation.  Don’t get me wrong – I have many privileges in life and am in no way suffering like many others.  But take my cases and multiply it over and over again in the almost six years I’ve lived outside of Canada.  Believe me, I’ve questioned the sanity of what I’ve committed to.

This brings me to my second point – exhaustion and questions of relevance, among other things I’d rather not struggle with, are requirements if I believe my role of being “the hands and feet of Jesus”.  At the most basic, accepting these discomforts have led to a better understanding of my co-workers’ struggles and that of their communities (not enough food to eat, no dignity in the work they do, discrimination by Thais, etc.).  I’ve also begun experiencing Jesus as my comfort (vs. only my comforter), something I’m not sure would be possible for me living in Canada.  Along the way, though, I’m beginning to grasp at the edges of something bigger, beyond my comprehension.  That this is for the benefit of my soul because it’s within the will of God.  Whom I choose to believe in.

Here’s the long stretch forward.  Sheldon Vanauken, in his deeply moving book “A Severe Mercy”, describes this better when he reflects on the death of his beloved Davy with whom he had a beautiful love story.  That God required him to experience two separations from his wife (the physical one of death, and then the “second death” of no longer sensing her presence) so that Sheldon’s heart could be truly full of God’s ravishing love for him – the severe mercy.

So.  I continue grasping at things not yet understood but with this certainty: that working out my faith and my vocation requires a constant belief in things I don’t yet understand.


I’ve been sick all week with a second bout of sinus congestion + headache and all over body aches.  I’m just thankful this didn’t turn out to be sinusitis, read more where I’m usually out cold for at least 2 weeks.

But this brings me to vitamins, website like this and how the average American may consume their daily fix of vitamins and minerals.  Yes…look very closely…Diet Coke Plus contains vitamins and minerals.  Not sure to what amount of the daily recommended dose though.  I took this photo at a Publix in Fort Myers, Florida.  I haven’t come across this type of Coke in the GTA (yet).

On closer look (and a quick and dirty google search), Wall Street Journal wrote back in 2001 about how multinationals have been dispensing vitamins and minerals by fortifying popular drink products sold in developing countries – benefiting the local population and “extending [their] relationships” – or does that mean boosting sales?  What about the big picture about good nutrition with basic foods?  I’ve noticed in Thailand, many mothers feed their kids under 5 years fortified milk products by Nestle, for example, but allow amazing amounts of sugar products in their diets too.

In response to the latest hunger stats

FAO and WFP released the latest global hunger figures yesterday

Courtesy FAO

FAO and WFP released the latest global hunger figures yesterday.  The figures still stun me:

  • Globally, thumb
     925 million people are undernourished
  • In Asia alone, disease
     578 million people are undernourished
  • 98% of malnourished people are concentrated in developing countries
  • 2/3 of the above are concentrated in just 7 countries: Bangladesh, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan
  • More than 40% of the above live in China and India alone

A prayer from Peru:

Vos sos el Dios de los pobres (You are the God of the poor ones)

El Dios humanos y sencillo (God, visit this site
human and simple)

El Dios que suda en la calle (God who sweats in the street)

El Dios de rostro curtido (God with wrinkles on your face)

Por eso es que te hablo yo (This is why I speak to you)

Asi como habla mi pueblo (The way my people speak)

Porques sos el Dios obrero (Because you are the worker God)

El Cristo trabajador (Christ the worker)

From the US:

O God, grant us Your vision in our time.
Help us to write it so large
that even a runner can see it.
Make it so compelling that even a cynic will pause,
so convincing that a skeptic
will risk trying to bring hope to others,
And so inspiring that the committed will stand
courageously in faith,
leaving the results to you.

Marian Wright Edelman

FAO’s hunger stats

My work in Thailand has come out of a personal journey seeking how to be effective working with the poor in developing countries as a means of demonstrating God’s love.

During my first stint working abroad in Uganda, herbal my eyes were opened to the perspective of “food as fuel” in a subsistence-economy society, noun versus our culture’s thinking of food as gourmet art or a socializing activity.  In my year working on a farm in the US, information pills learning to handle a machete or how to tell when my goat was pregnant, I experienced first hand the challenges of food production by farmers who don’t have access to much water, arable land or technology.

As I write this, I’ve lived two years in northern Thailand, immersed in a community of co-workers who come from misunderstood and marginalized ethnic groups.  All of them live off the land, have limited education and consider a dollar (30 baht) a large amount to waste.  God has given me the privilege to to share everyday life with them and to learn their stories, and in turn to journey into His plan for redeeming all the nations on earth through the land!  I plan to return for a 3rd year in Thailand this fall 2010.
According to the latest UN figures (2010):

  • Globally, surgery
    925 million people are undernourished
  • In Asia alone, ailment
    578 million people are undernourished
  • 98% of malnourished people are concentrated in developing countries
  • 2/3 of the above are concentrated in just 7 countries: Bangladesh, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan

Courtesy FAO

FAO and WFP released the latest global hunger figures yesterday.  The figures stun me:

  • Globally, visit
     925 million people are undernourished
  • In Asia alone, pilule
     578 million people are undernourished
  • 98% of malnourished people are concentrated in developing countries
  • 2/3 of the above are concentrated in just 7 countries: Bangladesh, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan
  • More than 40% of the above live in China and India alone
  • In Thailand, at least 10 million are undernourished


Middle class guilt

Today I went to the Big Carrot and paid 5 bucks for a 500 ml bottle of tonic water made with  all-natural ingredients, neurologist and shipped in from the UK.

Since I’ve been back in Canada, I experience waves of middle class guilt as I satisfy my desires for things – good-quality things I can’t get overseas (the best justification), pretty, yummy, scented, functional.  I like things.  Always have.  This has been my continuous struggle as I have interludes in the west between living abroad in communities that survive on subsistence (Uganda) and salaries of less than $200 a month (northern Thailand).  Even though I fund-raise my salary, I have more disposable income while living in Asia than most people.

A friend reminds me to live faithfully with what I have and that I’m not alone in experiencing this guilt.  My pastor reminds me to keep record of my spending and coldly evaluate what is spent on “celebration” (for me, eating out, leisure activities with friends, said pretty things), “life” (basic living expenses) and “giving” (more than just 10% tithing of my income – an attitude towards generous giving to people in need or in ministry).

It is a matter of keeping perspective, I know.