Monday, November 11, 2013

Fulbright Youth Diplomacy and Activism Conference (YDAC) (& two random holidays)

Dear friends, happy Pepero Day! I got a large chocolate pepero (called "pocky" in Japan and the US) from an anonymous student, and today's lunch included a packet of almond pepero, but otherwise, nothing special yet.

Pepero Day is a day to show a little love... and a lot of consumerist tendencies. The holiday was completely manufactured by snack food companies. What better day than 11/11 to buy your friends and lovers (literally) tons of the sweet stick-shaped crackers and spend money that you could otherwise be donating to...

YDAC! The Youth Diplomacy and Activism Conference, run completely independently by Fulbright teachers in Korea, is held once each semester. Teams of bright and hardworking high school students compete in a day-long series of debates about everything from foreign policy to social issues in their own country. There are four conferences throughout the country, including one in my province. My students do not participate, but my colleagues' students do, and they need your help!

Without warning, YDAC lost its funding for its upcoming fall conference, and its organizers are scrambling to come up with enough money to secure transportation, food, and the venue for the conference, all of which have been completely free for students in the past. Will you help us meet their fundraising goal? About $300 more is needed! There are only 5 days left!

You can contribute to their fundraiser here: click on this link.

That's all for my shameless plug. 안녕!

[edit] I found out from a student today that there's a traditional Korean holiday that also falls on 11/11 but which has been around for quite a bit longer. That holiday is 농업인의 날, or Farmers' Day. Farmer's Day apparently started in the mid 1960s, a few decades earlier than the earliest recorded Pepero Day observance, when livestock and agriculture cooperatives in the northern province of Gangwon-do (a very rural part of the country) got together and... did stuff? They chose the 11th day of the 11th month because in hanja, or Chinese characters, "11" is written as 十一 (shibil/shi2yi1), which can be combined to form 土 (to/tu2), the character for earth or soil.

About a decade ago, when Pepero Day was really taking off, people either 1) didn't like the cultural competition, 2) were concerned about the amount of sugar and empty calories kids were consuming on the day, or 3) both, and launched a campaign to distribute 가래떡 (garaetteok), a kind of long sticky rice cake which, when paired, is also shaped like the number 11, instead of the chocolaty 과자. Hence, 가래떡 데이 vs. 빼빼로 데이. Today, after taekgyeon practice, I received two cute packages of 가래떡, bringing my own 11/11 full circle. Well, tteok is certainly healthier than pepero, but honestly, it's not as good a treat. ;)
가래떡 (garaetteok), squishy cylindrical rice cakes, shaped like the number 11. Happy Garaetteok Day!