One of the reasons I love living in Korea is because almost everyday there’s something to chuckle at. It may be due to my own misunderstanding, a Konglish word I should have guessed, a spelling error that ends up being something totally different or just a natural inclination of Koreans that is completely opposite of my own. There is just always something.
A couple years ago, I was slicing and dicing in the kitchen and sliced right through the tip of my finger. As soon as I saw the blood start to gush, I grabbed some tissue and wrapped it up. I hadn’t gotten a good enough look at it but I was sure I had cut my finger off… luckily, I hadn’t. My husband whisked me to a taxi and we were off to the nearest clinic to get stitches. Once there, I was led into a room to see a doctor while my husband was left in the waiting room. He tends to come with me inside with the doctor but this doctor spoke English and as I cried, more because I was scared and still hungry and less because it actually hurt, I was sewed up. The doctor asked if I had had a tetanus shot recently, in an accent that took me a minute to figure out what it was he was asking, te-to-noos, and when I replied that I had, but many years ago he told the nurse to fetch a needle. The doctor left and in came the nurse. After pulling shut the curtain, she asked me to show her my “ungdungi”. She couldn’t speak any English, or she didn’t want to, and motioned for me to flip over. I told her my arm would be just fine for the shot. “Ungdungi”, as I had learned from my students so many times before that, meant the butt and I had never had a shot in my butt before. In the States, my doctors always seemed to opt for the arm, which was just fine by me. The nurse wouldn’t have it and just kept repeating “ungdungi”. I gave in, turned around and pulled my pants down to just under my rear ready for whatever she was about to do. As soon as I had done this there was a gasp behind me and she reached for my pants to pull them back up. Of course, I was rather confused as I had always assumed through different conversations and gestures that “undungi” meant the butt. In fact, “undungi” refers to not only the butt but also the hips, really the entire behind area. The nurse frantically pulled at my pants while pointing at her own hip with her free hand to show me I’d just mooned her and she had not anticipated that at all. I’m sure at this point my face turned red as I realized what had just happened and I pulled up my pants so she could get just my hip in her view. She slapped my HIP a few times and stuck me and off I went.
Out in the waiting room my husband sat and as soon as I was done I rushed out and told him what I’d done. He found it hilarious and not only was it hilarious for just the one day, it was hilarious for the multiple trips we made back to the same clinic to get my stitches cleaned. Every time I walked into the clinic, nurses saw me come and began to chuckle and mutter “undungi” under their breaths. Yes, yes, you got me, I mooned a nurse.
As much as I chuckle at odds and ends while I live here, I’m delighted that I could make some Koreans chuckle just as much. I’m sure they went home still talking about the foreign girl that bared her booty.