Photo by Eli Duke CC-BY SA 2.0

This is the story of the remarkable life the former Toronto debutante chose instead: to work as a missionary among the Kayapo tribe in a remote corner of the Amazon jungle. She has, by her count, survived multiple bouts of malaria, battled typhoid, worms, fleshing-eating maggots and burrowing fleas; dined often on armadillo (it tastes like chicken); impaled her foot on a poisonous fish; been shocked by electric eels and chomped by caterpillars, whose bite she equates to “liquid fire.”

She has narrowly escaped death by anaconda, witnessed a villager get his finger bitten off by a piranha and been asked to bury a dead Brazilian on a beach — after her Kayapo hosts murdered the man for straying into their lands. Thomson used to spend up to a year, without break, among the Kayapo in her younger days. Now 76, she spends up to half the year in Canada.

Fifty years ago they didn’t wear clothes. Now they call Thomson on their cellphones.

At The National Post, Joe O’Connor shares the story of Ruth Thomson, a Toronto debutante-turned-missionary who eschewed society life in 1965 to spend 50 years living with a remote tribe in the Amazon jungle.

Read the story