It is funny what miscommunication can get you. For one it got us on the wrong side of town the other night. We ended up near Unamdong instead of home in Punamdong. Sometimes here you really have to pronounce your consonants with a little extra umph. Then today I asked my students if they cared to hear a story about my weekend. Given that they recently taught me how to say directions in Korean, I thought my story about getting lost in a cab would be funny to them. But instead one of my students misunderstood. “A story teacher? A Korean one, in English?” Sure, I thought not correcting her. The following story is what I got. Roughly. Except Suji had to translate the Korean word for “excrement” on-line.
HUNGBU AND NOLBU
The two brothers couldn’t be more different. Nolbu, the eldest, was known for his bad disposition. In contrast, Hungbu was known in the village for his politeness and honesty.
After their parents passed away, greedy Nolbu took all of his father’s fortune and forced Hungbu’s family to move away without any money. Hungbu had a large family with 10 sons and daughters, who all had to live like beggars.
One day, a starving Hungbu went to his brother’s house to get some rice. He greeted his sister-in-law politely and asked for some rice. He explained his family’s situation.
Nolbu’s wife slapped him in the face with her rice-covered wooden paddle. Hungbu didn’t get angry or resent his sister-in-law. He thanked her for the rice that had stuck to his face and left.
One day, a swallow that had made its nest under the roof of Hungbu’s house was attacked by a snake and broke its leg when it fell to the ground. Hungbu discovered the bird, and mended its leg. The swallow was able to migrate to a warmer area.
During the following spring, the swallow brought back a little seed. The next day, Hungbu buried the seed in the ground. The seed bore large gourds. When the family split the gourds open, they were filled with treasures. Hungbu’s family became the richest in the village.
After hearing this story, Nolbu caught a swallow, broke its leg, and then mended it. The next spring, the swallow brought back a seed that bore gourds. Nolbu split the gourds open, expecting to find treasures. Instead, goblins came out and stole the family’s fortune.
Nolbu and his wife became beggars. They went to ask Hungbu for help. Hungbu’s family greeted them warmly. Nolbu and his wife were moved, and repented their selfish ways. They all lived happily for a long time.
“See teacher,” Suji concluded, “happy ending.”