The Legend of Pepero Day 11.11

Tomorrow in South Korea is Pepero Day. What is Pepero? It is basically Pocky as far as I am concerned, but don’t say that to any South Korean! My sister in law who is Korean is adamant that Pepero is different from Pocky (Pocky being the original chocolate dipped stick from Japan).

Pepero is a Lotte product and is specifically “Korean”. According to my research the cookie stick came into existence in 1986 and there are nine flavors, including a yummy cookies and cream flavor and a plain hollowed out stick full of chocolatey goodness.

The word pepero means skinny stick in Korean. The legend of Pepero Day comes into play here when supposedly two South Korean middle school girls were eating Pepero on November 11th and the one girl said to the other girl if we eat eleven Peperos at 11:11am in eleven seconds on the 11th of November they will grow up to be tall and skinny like a Pepero stick. It is a silly legend and most likely contains little truth to it, but it is also kind of cute…

Above two middle school South Korean girls in their school uniforms which is mandatory for all students to wear once they hit middle school and high school.

Why Pepero Day is on the 11th of November is because the said month combined with the 11th looks like the Pepero cookie sticks 11.11. It is basically a Hallmark holiday like Valentine’s Day (however there was a real Saint Valentine); a day to give your friends Pepero and eat as many sweet sticks to your delight.

I became curious about this fun day of cookie stick consumption when I noticed stores having an unusual amount of Pepero on display and gift packs which I did indulge in myself. I bought some for my niece and nephew and some to take back to Canada.

There are games to be played on Pepero Day and if you dare you can attempt a Pepero kiss; it is a bit like Lady & the Tramp in the spaghetti scene… You take a stick and share it as per the below advertisement and eat as much as you can without touching lips. Or maybe you do kiss? I am not sure…

You can buy K-pop Pepero designed boxes or what I purchased, the KakaoTalk friends.

You can buy elaborate gift sets of Pepero or some choose to empty a box and roll up wons instead. It is a day to exchange Pepero and related gifts to friends and loved ones.

It is a fun day for kids & and many make their own Pepero sticks and decorate them in colorful icings and sprinkles to exchange with friends and crushes.

All in all, Pepero Day is meant for fun & 11:11 has been known to be a magical number combination, and the time of day when you make a wish.

For those who may be celebrating; I hope you have a fantastic Pepero Day!

Peace & Love – Rachel

Cafes Abound in South Korea

I remember back in 2001 when I first traveled to Europe, the only place I could find a big cup of strong coffee was at McDonalds. I went to countless cafes and always ended up with a teeny tiny demi-tasse of espresso or a large bowl full of cafe au lait.

Coffee has taken over the world since 17 years have passed and it has become a beverage of choice for many including Koreans (thank God).

A popular South Korean cafe is Paris Baguette where you can find yourself a sweet or savory snack & coffee. They offer adorable take out coffee cups with a Parisienne character clearly who has joie de vivre.

In the above, I snapped a pic of the Paris Baguette less than a five minute walk to my brother’s place.

I remember when I came to Daejeon, South Korea in 2012 and there were a number of cafes, but it was once again more specialty coffees like a caramel macchiato or a latte, but now in 2018 you can order a straight up coffee or an Americano just about anywhere. Even at a convenience store; you can pick up some ramen noodles and coffee to boot!

Another popular cafe in South Korea is Angel in Us Coffee. It is a strange name for a cafe, but quite popular and several are set up across the country.

They have angel winged back cozy chairs to snuggle up in and it would be a great spot to sip on a coffee and read a good book.

Even their lamps are decked out with the Angel in us Coffee logo and the cage is in the shape of a mug. Adorbs, I know…

You can also order some simple food like sandwiches or pastries and of course other non-alcoholic beverages if you don’t fancy coffee.

My sister in-law and I went to Nonsan on Friday to visit the Mr. Sunshine TV set and in the Glory Hotel they had a Dal.Komm cafe inside the hotel where you could order coffee, tea or a cold juice to drink. It was pricey but the fact a cafe was set up to serve tourists just goes to show you how popular coffee is considered a necessity.

Of course in any major city of South Korea you will find your standard number of good old American Starbucks, but the menu items are quite different including the beverages offered.

I had an Americano with green tea cake which was delicious. A sweet treat I cannot purchase in Canada is always fun to try.

The juices and sandwiches are different from what you will find in the US or Canada and some of the lattes offered were unfamiliar to me. You can still have sugar with your hot or cold beverage of choice but they offer simple syrup if this is your preference.

There are many more cafes I did not feature in this blog and because of the priciness of take out coffee in Korea, I brewed my own at my brother’s place. I would say a common price point for an Americano at size medium ran between 4,000 wan to 5,000 wan which is like four dollars and some change to five dollars and some change. Presently, the Korean wan is worth more than the Canadian dollar if you were to look at 1,000 wan to one dollar.

I bet you are now in the mood for a hot cup of java. Go for it and enjoy.

Peace & Love – Rachel

Korean Translation Failure

I am living proof that illiteracy can hurt you, but in my defense it was early in the morning and I didn’t have my glasses on & therefore didn’t see the small English print.

I was unable to locate my deodorant so I went into my brother’s medicine cabinet to borrow his. The closest thing I found was the below.

Okay, maybe the bee on the front should have been an indication that this wasn’t a roll on deodorant, but in my defense, my sister in law has other products like toothpaste with bees on it, so I thought whatever, Korean signage often doesn’t make sense.

For example look at the above, if it weren’t for the English saying “Cold Brew” one might think this is a hair product or skin product… Yet, it is a cold coffee beverage. Okay… I should have seen the small print but I didn’t….

And I wasn’t lying about the toothpaste. It has a bee on it. Not sure if it is honey flavored, not planning on finding out.

So, epic fail on my part, I applied the insect relief with the large like deodorant roller ball and found my armpits on fire within minutes. I went back to look at the deodorant and then saw the small print, and proceeded to wash the antiseptic off. I was okay, no hospital visits or anything like that…

A lot of Korean products don’t have any English on them and really why should they? It is arrogant to assume everyone will know English and Korean products should have both languages.

This product is distinctly Korean (I think); it is milk soda. Did milk soda ever hit Canada or the US? I don’t think so; it is a Coca-cola product. My brother told me it was very popular with young kids, so I bought a can from the vending machine, had a couple of sips and gave it to my nephew. It wasn’t terrible, but it was very sweet and a bit weird.

The above two photos are of a popular snack which is dried seaweed wrapped rice with a variety of different flavors including tuna fish, cheese steak, kimchi and bibimbap. Relying on pictures alone is a risk, my sister in law translated for me. By the way, we found these at the local 7-11. No nacho chips and hot cheese sauce here!

There is the fun novelty of trying stuff I haven’t had before, and cannot try in Canada, but after two weeks of eating my weight in rice and kimchi, I am ready for some home cooking from home.

Above is a pic of the popular side dish kimchi which is fermented cabbage in a hot spicy red pepper sauce. You can find it served with every meal including breakfast. You can have kimchi fried rice or kimchi stew and have kimchi on the side if you like. The taste is growing on me, but the smell almost always offends my nose at first whiff.

Below is kimchi fried rice my sister in law made with seaweed sprinkled on top.

Only a few days left before I return home.

Peace & Love – Rachel

When You are the Foreigner…

It has been five days since I came to South Korea, and I am visiting with family who can show me around, translate for me and explain to me cultural differences. And there are a lot of differences which I will talk about in another blog.

Picture of me with my niece and nephew:

I am the minority and painfully obviously Western from my blonde hair and blue eyes to my large hips & height of 5’10”. I don’t mind being the minority; I am here to enjoy my family & try to experience Korean culture.

What reminds me that I am a foreigner is my inability to communicate besides a few necessary words I have learnt, mainly hello and thank you. I just learnt the words milk and sugar as that is what I take in my coffee and I need my coffee!

A face mask my sister in law translated for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have known it was a moisturizing mask:

I am not able to read Korean, I am 100% illiterate. Words are just a bunch of incomprehensible symbols. I have been to the grocery market a few times and I have to rely on pictures to figure out flavors or what are the main ingredients. I cannot ask for help as I don’t have the words and believe it or not many Koreans don’t know a lick of English. This whole go anywhere in the world and people know English, some do, but many here do not. Being illiterate is frustrating, not being able to communicate with your words is even more exasperating.

What does it all mean?????

I had a situation yesterday where I saw an older lady trying to carry a massive bag of radishes and she was struggling, taking breaks every few steps. I wanted to go up to her and offer to carry her bag to where ever she was going, but I couldn’t. I went over some scenarios in my head of how I could communicate non-verbally, and they all ended with her screaming and hitting me, so I did nothing. Many others passed by her who could have spoken to her, and maybe culturally it would be insulting to offer help, but I suspect it was because I am on vacation I was able to slow down enough to notice.

Kitty and restaurant close by to where I am staying; what do they serve? I have no idea, but they have take out…

In Canada it is not a big deal to smile and say hi or good morning to a stranger on a beautiful day, but I get the impression from many rejected smiles I have offered, it is not customary here.

The few people who have approached me have spoken pure Korean to me and I don’t understand a lick of it. They figure out pretty quickly the conversation is going no where.

I am illiterate, I am unable to speak the language, I am unsure of all the cultural anomalies, but I am returning to Canada on November 7th. Only five days in, I have experienced so much and it is daunting at times.

Downtown Daejeon:

I now know how important it is to be aware in our own countries the struggles immigrants or refugees must face, but they are not able to go back home and they don’t have family who can help them along the way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am having a wonderful visit, but it is a visit. I am going home in a couple of weeks; if I had to stay longer or indefinitely, I would be discouraged. However, I am grateful for this eye opening experience and have a new appreciation for literacy.

A new favorite drink, banana milk:

More to come in the next couple of weeks.

Peace & Love – Rachel

Tips for Traveling on a Long Flight

I am writing this blog while regrets are fresh in my mind and the things I did do right I am ever so grateful for. Last early Friday morning, I left for South Korea, and right off the bat I did a few things wrong. The main flight from Toronto to Seoul was 13 and a half hours. Learn from my mistakes my friends.

Don’t pack the night before an early morning flight

I really didn’t plan things well; I worked until 6:00pm as I didn’t want my coverage feeling overwhelmed with a list of things to do. I got home in a bad mood and I had to pack, and barely had any time to spend with my fiancé besides barking at the poor guy.

Book your seats in advance & pay the extra money if you can for the extra leg room

I missed the check in and seat selection which I could do 24 hours before my flight. The only seats left were the monkey in the middle seats & the emergency exit seats which cost an additional $120.00 to upgrade. My fiancé took pity on me and spotted me for an upgrade.

Get a good night’s sleep!!!!

If you are traveling for more than five hours it is going to be a long day; if travel time including connections, cabs, subway, or whatever is over 20 hours, you really need your rest the night before. I went to bed at 11:30pm and got up at 4:30am. I packed until close to 11pm and then called my parents hence the lateness, hence the pack in advance.

Drink lots of water before the flight(s), between connections, during the main flight and after the flight

Drink copious amounts of water, especially if your flight is longer than ten hours. Don’t worry about how often you have to get up and use the teeny tiny airplane toilet; it is so important to stay hydrated.

I did drink water and probably a liter of it with the 24 hours of travel but it wasn’t enough. Traveling by air is super dehydrating and it also can contribute to the dreaded “traveler’s constipation” where you cannot “go” for days. Hydration is your friend.

Wear a moisturizing lip balm.

I did not wear a lip balm and my lips are now chapped to heck. Didn’t even think about the dry air impacting my lips, but it did. Chapped lips are super uncomfortable. I have been soothing my lips with Burt’s Bees, but preventing the issue would have been better.

If you plan on sleeping bring a sleeping eye mask.

In case of screaming babies or chit chatters when all you want to do is grab some shut eye, be sure to put a pair of ear plugs in your carry on.

And a neck pillow for comfort and so you don’t end up rolling over on the passenger sitting beside you. I did bring a neck pillow, thank goodness.

Bring hand cream and wear comfy shoes. Recycled air wreaks havoc on your skin and the dehydration causes your body to retain water, and your feet will swell, I have had friends who have taken off their shoes to rest and then struggled getting them back on before landing.

I like my Birkenstocks and I love L’Occitane’s hand creams; lavender is a nice relaxing scent.

I have done my share of long flights, but I have had some bumpy rides along the way and a few landings which brought me to tears. My anxiety around flying is intense now, so attaining a prescription of Ativan has been a life saver for me. If your anxiety around flying is preventing you from traveling or making you a nervous wreck for hours on end, I recommend talking to your doctor about what options might work for you.

Bring snacks with protein for in between flights or domestic flights

In Canada, we no longer get a snack on our domestic flights (unless you are flying Porter). Food, water and snacks at airports are comparable to buying popcorn at the theatre now… EXPENSIVE! So, if you’re hoping to not drop big money before you reach your destination bring snacks. I like almonds, and a piece of fruit. However, the fruit has to be consumed before crossing seas. As for water or beverages, you will have to bite the bullet and pay a high price or bring a container and fill up with tap water.

Enjoy the free alcohol BUT don’t over do it…

International travel usually includes cooked meals and free booze and they don’t limit you on how much alcohol you can have, but when you are 30,000 plus feet above the ground, the altitude can make you susceptible to feeling your drinks a bit more intensely. Also, alcohol is dehydrating and you’re likely to obtain a wicked headache. Make sure you drink water with your beverage of choice.

I enjoy a glass of red!

I am using a picture from Air Canada as they are the ones whom I chose to fly with for this trip.

During a long flight get up and walk around a bit. Stretch your legs to avoid cramping

Be kind to the flight attendants and be kind to those sitting near you too. Just be kind and be patient. Flying is stressful for a lot of us and many of us have connecting flights and limited time between flights. If you are not in a rush, step back and let others take the lead when exiting the plane.

Happy travels! Stay tuned for more on South Korea as I try to embrace a culture tremendously different from anything I am familiar with.

Peace & Love – Rachel

The Greatest Currency is TIME

In my quest for a less cluttered life and embracing minimalism; the reason for the pursuance of less is to free up the precious commodity which none of us seem to have enough of is “time”.

The more busy I become with work, navigating traffic during rush hour, checking into social media outlets, I have noticed I am in a constant battle against time. I am perpetually trying to find more time, or beat time so I can arrive on time and have more down time. I work in the position I do so I can enjoy my time, by buying what I need or want, and use those items to make my time pleasant.

Every time I purchase something, I think how many hours of work did this take from me? As essentially the possessions we have can be broken into hours and minutes. When you think about spending money as spending time, depending on what you value more could determine whether or not you indulge.

We work so we can enjoy our time while we are alive. However, how many of us our killing ourselves with work and not taking the time to take care of ourselves? How many of us sleep beside our phones turned on at night so we don’t miss an important text or call in the middle of the night. Do we own time or does time own us?

Better yet, I think we need to ask ourselves why we do what we do & what is the end result? Are we meeting this end result? Is what we make worth our time or is it maybe time to find work which provides more balance in life? Is earning six figures a necessary evil to maintain a certain lifestyle at the expense of your health?

When sick with something terminal if not in excruciating pain, what is the one thing people say they wish they had more of?

It is time. Not money, not a new car, not a new face, but time, and why time? So, they can spend more time with their loved ones.

If you ask me, all of our efforts to save time with technology has done the complete opposite. We have less time, less work life balance and heaps of possessions we have no “time” to actually enjoy. We live in some very shallow times where we have been fooled to believe that working towards a life of opulence is the way to go.

Opulence doesn’t come for free. Anyone I know who has a better than average take home salary, they work hard for their money. Some work so hard they do let their health slip; self care is not a priority and when you don’t take care of yourself, you are putting yourself at risk of exhaustion, health issues and you will become disenchanted and bitter.

I leave you with this question… If health is wealth, just how wealthy are you?

Peace & Love – Rachel x

Cell Phone Zombies are Real!  

They walk among us, slowly & sloppily with their heads hanging low avoiding eye contact.  We are living amongst cyborg zombies who have infested our streets and sidewalks without mercy, clumsily bumping into sign posts, cars and other zombies.


Then there are individuals like myself who enjoy walking for the sake of walking & looking at the scenery.  However,  I am often in a hurry to go from point a to point b, and I am focused when I am either driving or walking and for good reason, as it would seem the majority of us are distracted.
 

 

Elon Musk made a statement during an interview that we have all become part cyborg as the cell phone has become an extension of our bodies, and it is true. 


 We are all utilizing artificial intelligence on a daily basis and feeding the beast every time we “google” a topic. Despite more information than ever being fathomable in its availability; it is filling our already busy brains at a rapid rate.  We are not machines, we are human. Yet somehow, I believe many feel they have evolved into a hybrid form of human with knowledge at their fingertips waiting to be explored. 


 Take a look around you the next time you are out walking down a busy sidewalk while you dodge the many slow walking cell phone zombies who believe they can text and walk at the same time while not paying attention to their surroundings. More often than not today I find myself dodging walkers who are coming towards me and have absolutely no idea I am coming towards them. Thank God one of us is paying attention. 

 

I don’t care how well skilled you are at texting and two thumbing it; if you’re focused on texting and communicating a message – you are not focused on the other task at hand. 


 Try walking amongst a whole pod of cyborg texting zombies coming at you from every which way direction, it is like a video game, where it would appear the goal of the game is to make it to your destination without having someone bump into you. 

 

In addition to texting and walking, there is talking and walking, more often than not with headphones plugged in which is must better than the texting walker. I think back to less than a decade ago and people who would be walking and talking without a phone up to their ear would be considered mentally unstable, but now you can hear one side of a conversation with information I would rather not know.  


These cyborg cell phone zombies are oblivious of their surroundings and carry on spewing profanities and loud guffaws of laughter, or the uncomfortable awkward lover’s spats when one is spazzing out on their special person who thank goodness cannot be seen, yet, my audio space is invaded by these highly personal conversations.


There used to be a stigma attached to loud talkers on their cell phones, but now it seems to be anything goes, and as for discretionary conversations, forget it… Perhaps, we can blame reality TV for that one! 

 

A coupled of weeks ago I was driving on the highway going ten KMs above the speed limit myself, and the highway divided allowing for a passing lane, I went to the right, but a guy went zipping by me with his cell phone in the centre of his steering wheel texting away as he passed me in the left lane.  I was going around 120 KM (110 zone) so he must have been going 140 or more as he passed me quickly, it wasn’t a gradual pass and all I could think was, what if I wasn’t paying attention, what if I pulled out in front of him, would he have been able to react as quickly as someone who wasn’t on their phone texting?  I don’t think so. 

 

We have heard of the numerous car accidents because of driving and texting, yet it still continues to happen daily and frequently. As a pedestrian I also have to watch out for texting drivers at stop signs when crossing a street and basically, I feel as though I have to be on my game 110% as we are living in a sea of cyborg cell phone zombies. It is exhausting, and after working on a computer all day at my work place, the last thing I want to do is engage in social media or text conversations. 

I don’t feel safe driving anymore.  I feel as though I cannot rely on anyone to be paying attention to the road and I need to be on high alert.  Come on Elon Musk get the self driving cars out stat!  Self driving cars are supposed to 100-200% safer, and with all those cell phone zombies behind the wheel possibly 500% safer. 


Thanks for indulging in my vent on cell phones. 

 And remember….


And don’t become…


Peace & Love – Rachel