Tag Archives: humor

New Vocab: Dick Fire

I screwed up while teaching third grade today. The Korean teacher stepped out of the room for a few minutes and I ran out of activities in the book, so I improvised. Since we were talking about birthdays, I decided to introduce some new vocab.

My mistake will probably jump out at native Korean speakers, but I completely missed it.


I find that the students enjoy teaching me Korean. Instead of just looking up the words I don’t know, I ask them to help me figure out the correct translation. For some reason, this energizes most classes. I think that it also gives them confidence to watch me struggle with Korean the way they do with English.

Today, I didn’t know the Korean word for candle. I found a picture of a birthday cake in the book, pointed to the candles, and they all began to say: “chot-bul” (촛불). To my ear, it sounded like “jot-bul” (좃불). This seemingly insignificant difference was anything but.

For the next minute or so, the kids giggled and pointed at the board. They recognized that I spelled the word wrong, but didn’t know how to communicate it to me.

When the teacher returned, she gasped and then began laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe. After she finally composed herself, she snapped a picture of the board and then told me that “dick fire” doesn’t really fit into our birthday theme for today. Oops….

Fortunately, she was a good sport about it and the kids weren’t old enough to grasp what had just happened. That’s why I’m writing this post from my work computer instead of the immigration office.

Until next time.


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Just When You Thought…

Just when you thought I couldn’t get any sexier…this happened.


I was out WAY too late last night. I left the bar, thinking that it was 3am, and found the sun coming up. As you might imagine, I am tired today.

I took a quick snooze at the table before lunch and woke up to the sound of my friends taking pictures. It took me a minute to realize what was going on.


No more sleeping at the table for me.

Until next time.


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Dirty Kimbap

On my way home from school yesterday, I decided to take a walk through the old neighborhood and visit the kimbap restaurant that I frequented last year. It’s called Kimbap Heaven (김밥천국). I went there every morning and bought the same thing: tuna kimbap. The ajumma (middle-aged woman – pictured below) who worked the morning shift got to know me and even grew to like me over several months. But our relationship wasn’t always so friendly – my first time in the restaurant didn’t go well. This is the story of my first time in a kimbap restaurant:

Screenshot_2013-03-22-12-45-23It took me a week to work up the nerve to go into the restaurant. In three months I had never seen a foreigner inside, and I was certain that none of the employees spoke a word of English. The fact that most of the employees were in their 40’s or 50’s meant that they were not likely to be patient as I stumbled painfully through ordering in Korean. After I chickened out three times, I finally walked in and sat down.

I spent so much time worrying that I was surprised by the fact that nobody seemed to notice me when I walked in. None of the usual awkward stares and not-so-quiet whispers (look, a foreigner!). Even the employees didn’t give me a second look, which was awkward; they usually get as far away as possible for fear that I might attack them with my English.

I sat patiently as the woman delivered food to other customers. I used that time to practice ordering in my head. I knew that a simple sentence could become a tongue-twister in an instant if I wasn’t prepared.

Finally, the woman walked over and asked for my order:

Woman: 뭐 드릴카요? (What can I get you?)
Me: 잠지 김밥 하나 주세요. (Tuna kimbap, please.)
The woman looked at me like I had three ears.
Woman: ……….뭐??? (………what???)
Me: 잠지…김밥…하나…주세요. (Tuna…..kimbap…..please.)
Woman: 뭐 말했어?!?!?!? (What did you say?!?!?!?!?)
At this point, I was getting pissed. I pointed at the tuna as I spoke.
Me: 잠지…김밥…주세요!!! (Tuna…..kimbap…..please!!!)

I guess that pointing really helped, because she finally seemed to understand. But she seemed angry, even when I was leaving. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong, other than being a foreigner.

I told my Korean friend Leon about my experience the next day. I tried my best to order in Korean, but the woman was not impressed. I used respectful Korean and tried to speak clearly and slowly. For some reason, she was still rude. He asked me what I said to her. When I repeated my order, he started laughing hysterically.

“Taft, you should probably just order the tuna kimbap next time. Most places around here don’t serve vagina kimbap.” Oops…

The difference is subtle: 참치 (cham-chi) is tuna – 잠지 (jahm-ji) is vagina. Hence the confusion. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t go back in for a week. When I finally returned, I emphasized the CH sound.

I’ve never made that mistake again. But don’t worry – I have made plenty of others.

Until next time.


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Spell Check

In accordance with my new plan, I’m going to start bringing you more short, spur-of-the-moment posts.

As my long-time readers know, I have a fascination with the Korean flavor of Engerish (English signs that are poorly spelled or translated by Koreans). I saw a real gem today!


This beauty is hanging high above a main intersection in downtown Daegu. There is nothing better than a giant Engerish sign occupying prime real estate.

For some more great examples of Engerish from around the world, click here. (Thanks Adam!)

Until next time.


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Brighter Days

Have you ever noticed that the quality of an entire day often hinges upon the first hour? I find that, in the absence of an unexpected event, I can usually tell whether my day will be good or bad before I even get to work. That has worked to my advantage lately, thanks to a silly little picture that makes me laugh every time I see it as I walk to and from work.

As I leave my neighborhood, I pass a huge construction site that stretches at least 100 meters along the main road through the city. The university beside my new apartment is building a new teaching hospital. A tall wall separates the sidewalk from the construction site – presumably to protect pedestrians and reduce noise.


The wall is mostly white, but there are a few pictures printed onto the wall’s vinyl covering. Most of them are typical stock photos – fake families posing together, puppies running through lush fields and other equally unrealistic images. They are all boring, except for one. The photo that stands out makes me laugh every time I pass it.

Funny Kid on Wall

I would love to know the story behind this picture, but it’s not possible. So, to break the monotony of my walk to work, I make up my own story. I’ve decided that this picture was taken about fifteen years ago by parents who were smart enough to understand the value of leverage in the parent/child relationship. Her father took the picture, hid it away for a decade, and then threatened to show the world her most embarrassing moment if she didn’t toe the line. Unfortunately, she called his bluff recently and earned a B in school. As retribution, he posted the picture in the most conspicuous place he knew – the giant wall along Daegu’s main street.

The real story is probably not as complicated or interesting as that, but the picture still makes me smile and occupies my mind for the long walk to school every day. I’m glad it’s there.

Until next time.


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