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Monday, April 18, 2016

Death by Hot Chocolate: Sweet Stories from Vancouver's Hot Chocolate Festival

"Do you have any suspended coffees left?" I asked the cashier.

"Unfortunately no, we are completely sold out." She replied

"OK, then I'll buy one then." I gushed.

Her face beamed with gratitude, thanked me for this gift I was giving buying the first suspended coffee of the day. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a suspended coffee is a coffee you can prepay in advance for a homeless person to be able to have a drink. There are several places in Vancouver that have this program, East Van Roasters was one of them.

This particular exchange took place when I was visiting EVR to sample their hot chocolate that was part of the hot chocolate festival going on in Vancouver. Looking back, I'm glad that I wasn't silly enough to go make some new yrs resolution about losing weight or eating healthy because that resolution would have been out the door the moment the hot chocolate festival started.

There may be many tasty places to visit in Vancouver but what makes East Van Roasters extra delicious is that every order comes with a taste of charity. Located in the Rainier hotel, all the women who work at EVR also live at the hotel. And all the income from the sales of food drink and merchandise go directly towards these women, enabling the women of downtown vancouver to be able to support themselves. And most of all for these women to be able to live a life of dignity.

The Hot Chocolate Festival took place from Jan 16-Feb 14. Like a bull unleashed from its pen, I galloped through every nook and cranny of the city satisfying my sweet tooth with sinfully delightful cups of hot chocolate. There were more than 59 flavors of hot chocolate available throughout the city. And 5% of all the proceeds from the whole event goes to support East Van Roasters.

It was at another one of these vendors, Butter Baked Goods where I had another interesting experience that opens up a whole new topic that's been on my mind for awhile. The topic of accents and languages. The cashier at the hot chocolate vendor was latino so I started speaking to her in spanish. She said she was from Peru and recognized immediately that I was from Argentina the moment I opened my mouth. 

This isn't the first time this has happened, there have been several other times where I've started speaking and people recognize that distinguishible accent that could only belong to someone who has spent time in Argentina.  It got me thinking about a topic that has been on my mind for awhile. And that is the idea that perhaps one someone is learning another language the very first country they adopt the language from will be what they sound like.

While I was in Paris on a tour with Urban Adventures, our tour guide had an accent that sounded like he was Australian. But upon getting to know him, it turns out that he's native to France but his girlfriend is from Australia so when he speaks english, it has an Australian slant to it.

The other point that language experts have recently done some research in is the possibility that when people talk another language, their personality changes along with the language they are speaking. This may actually be true because I have a Chilean friend who when I start speaking spanish, he told me I get a personality change and I get LOUD. Interestingly enough Chileans aren't loud but Argentineans are loud when they speak. So not only do I speak spanish like an Argentinean but my personality seems to shift to be similar of that of Argentineans when they speak.

The psychology behind languages is a fascinating subject for me on how knowing more than one language affects the brain. Studies are beginning to show that bilingual people may have better multitasking abilities than those who speak only one language. And research is also being done to see if having a second language affects the cognitive function of the brain in a way that may slow or prevent the onset of things like Alzheimers.

All this talk about languages reminds me of another beautiful moment that I had while making my rounds during the Hot Chocolate Festival. One of the vendors is a boulangerie French Made Baking. I actually ended up going there a couple of times and each time not only was I pleased at how delicious the hot chocolate offering was, but I was pretty pleased at my french language skills in being able to have basic conversation and was even able to place an order for monkey shaped macaroons for Chinese New Year......entirely in the language of french.

During my time making rounds at the Hot Chocolate Fest served me not only just cups of delicious hot chocolate, but cups of delightful unexpected moments as well. At East Van Roasters my beverage was infused with a taste of charity, compassion and philantrophy. On my visit to Butter Baked Goods, my Argentinean accent gave me away immediately to the latino cashier. And at French Made Baking, my drink was served up with a spoonful of language learning stirred into it.

Death by hot chocolate indeed.......

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas