Today I must beg your indulgence. I wrote today’s Friday Fictioneers story in Korean. Yes, it is pertinent, and yes, there is a translation. However, only the Korean version is 100 words long.
I wrote it with non-Korean speakers in mind, but still I’d like you to read the Korean first (there’s English in it). Try to make guesses about what’s going on before you read the translation. Consider it a metaphor for living abroad, when you can catch part of what is going on, but not the whole thing, and many times, not the most important nuances.
외국사람 커플 들어갈때 식당이 조용했다. 다른 손님이 없었다. 3시: 점심과 저녁의 바쁜 시간 딱 사이 있었다.
직원이 와서 남자가 메뉴판을 얼른 보고 손가락으로 가리켰다. “Also, fork please. Fork?” 포크로 먹는 손짓했다.
“You should try using chopsticks, Mark.” 여자친구가 말했다.
그때 한국인 할아버지 들어왔다. 외국사람 커플 밖에 손님이 없는지 확인한 후에 자리에 앉아서 떡볶이를 주문했다. “그리고 포크주세요” 라고 말했다.
마크가 들어서 웃었다. “You see? Even Koreans are using forks these days. Chopsticks are history.”
할아버지가 코트를 벗었다. 왼손이 없고 오른손에 엄지 손가락만 남았다. 떡볶이를 받아서 포크를 느리고 아프게 들고 먹기 시작했다.
이제 마크가 웃지 않았다. “Maybe I’ll try chopsticks after all.”
And now, the translation:
The restaurant was quiet and empty when the non-Korean couple entered. It was 3:00: right between the lunch and dinner rush.
The waitress came over and the man scanned the menu and pointed to something. “Also, fork please. Fork?” He mimed using a fork.
“You should try using chopsticks, Mark,” his girlfriend said.
Just then, an old Korean man came in. After making sure there was no one in the restaurant besides the foreign couple, he sat down and ordered. “Fork, please,” he said.
Mark heard him and laughed. “You see? Even Koreans are using forks these days. Chopsticks are history.”
The old man took off his coat. His left hand was gone and on the right, only the thumb remained. He got his food and slowly, painfully picked up the fork and began to eat.
Mark wasn’t laughing anymore. “Maybe I’ll try chopsticks after all.”
July 23rd, 2014 at 11:19 pm
I liked that experiment. Very cool, David.
July 23rd, 2014 at 11:41 pm
Thanks, Helena. It’s fun to try new things sometimes.
July 23rd, 2014 at 11:26 pm
I really liked that. What an elegant-looking language Korean is, too.
July 23rd, 2014 at 11:40 pm
Thank you, Sandra. My mom says she can recognize it since it’s the one East Asian language with lots of circles. 🙂
July 24th, 2014 at 12:04 am
Outstanding story this week, David! I enjoyed the way you posted this week with the Korean story first. It touches the heart of my photo in a whole new way. Thanks!
All my best,
July 24th, 2014 at 2:00 am
Nice idea, David.
July 24th, 2014 at 2:02 am
Absolutely elegant, touching, intelligent and well rounded post. I’m still a little surprised by the end. Well done David 🙂
July 24th, 2014 at 3:25 am
This is a lovely take on the prompt. I did try to guess what was being said in Korean, but failed miserably.
July 24th, 2014 at 3:57 am
This is really touching. An unexpected end.
July 24th, 2014 at 4:10 am
A very eye opening example of jumping to conclusions.
July 24th, 2014 at 11:47 am
True. That’s something I’ve been guilty of before. It’s especially dangerous in another culture.
July 24th, 2014 at 4:45 am
Wow! That went from light-hearted to deadly earnest in no time flat! Well-done.
July 24th, 2014 at 11:46 am
Thanks, that was what I was hoping for, especially since the reader wouldn’t know what was happening between the comments about chopsticks and forks in the Korean.
July 24th, 2014 at 6:21 am
That was fun to figure out… and thanks for the translation. I liked the object lesson with the story… nice, David.
July 24th, 2014 at 11:44 am
Thanks, Ted. It was a fun way to mix things up.
July 24th, 2014 at 11:17 am
Well done in both languages, David, although how many of us would know whether the Korean says what you say it does or not. 🙂 A lovely little story with more than one possible lesson.
July 24th, 2014 at 11:43 am
I wasn’t sure how it was going to end, but this is how it ended up. I didn’t want to paint foreigners in Korea in too bad a light. As for the Korean, it was a bit intimidating, since I have Korean speakers who read my blog, but I think it’s mostly correct. 🙂
July 24th, 2014 at 11:45 am
I’ll take your word for it, David. Oh, wait. I already did. 🙂
July 24th, 2014 at 4:34 pm
beautiful and touching! loved the story.
July 25th, 2014 at 1:25 am
July 25th, 2014 at 3:04 pm
July 24th, 2014 at 6:15 pm
What’s Korean for “show-off?”
In all seriousness, this is one thought provoking story. Most excellent writing as always. I really did enjoy the fact that you wrote it in Korean first, although it was just a pretty picture to these American eyes. 😉
July 25th, 2014 at 1:25 am
Well, as long as it was pretty, then it’s okay. 🙂 I was going to tell you what “show-off” was in Korean but that would be really showing off, and I don’t think I know it offhand. Of course, that Korean could all be gibberish, right? Anyway, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it.
July 24th, 2014 at 6:15 pm
This was a fantastic variation on the theme we bang our heads against each week. It was a perfect lesson, too, to those who think one thing habitually, and then are brought up short by reality. So very good. thanks for surprising us and for making us think.
July 25th, 2014 at 1:20 am
thank you for the comment. It’s fun to try new things here, especially when they work out. Have a good week.
July 25th, 2014 at 12:05 am
Dave, I am a sucker for this kind of stuff and you did it. Fun read!
July 25th, 2014 at 1:18 am
Thanks. I’m glad you liked it.
July 25th, 2014 at 1:14 am
Oh how touching. I feel for the old man, eating when there are no witnesses because he must use a fork.
July 25th, 2014 at 1:18 am
Yeah, in Korea only young children use forks, so it would be humiliating to have to use one.
July 25th, 2014 at 1:28 am
I’ve not been to Korea, but my brother has. He talked about the lengths at which some people would seem to go to not lose the ability to use chopsticks, even when arthritis or other impairments would dictate otherwise. I was so young then I couldn’t understand. It makes more sense now, as an adult aware of shame, both personally and socially inflicted.
July 25th, 2014 at 2:45 am
now that what I call a flash fiction! you are a master in it Dear David !
July 25th, 2014 at 3:46 am
Thank you most kindly. 🙂
July 25th, 2014 at 5:22 am
Interesting story – and the experiment too. Like Rochelle, I couldn’t make head or tail of the first version except where the English intercepted, but it made the anticipation of the ending all the stronger and gave a great taste of life abroad too.
July 25th, 2014 at 11:42 am
Well, I wasn’t expecting anyone to read the Korean. The point was to see the isolated English and then read the translation. Glad you liked it.
July 25th, 2014 at 7:46 pm
David, I understood the Korean script as well as I understand the Marathi and Hindi script here. Not at all. I’ll have to take your word for what it says. That was a truly good story. I still think I’ll stick with western utensils. Well written. 🙂 —Susan
July 26th, 2014 at 1:48 am
India has a lot more languages and scripts, which makes it more complicated, to be sure. Thanks for the comment. I guess no one uses chopsticks there?
July 25th, 2014 at 10:41 pm
All the superlatives have been taken, and so that leaves me with:
I loved your story and your presentation of it. AND, I agree with everyone’s praise of it. Very original!
July 26th, 2014 at 1:54 am
Thank you so much, Lynda. I appreciate it. 🙂
July 26th, 2014 at 2:05 am
I’m starting to regret not reading your blog for a while! I’ve definitely missed the originality in your posts!
July 26th, 2014 at 5:58 am
Didn’t see that one coming…I am so impressed you can pen in Korean…my my…and a poignant tale to boot. It’s wistful, a farewell of sorts.
July 26th, 2014 at 6:33 am
Thanks, Susannah. I wouldn’t write normally in Korean but the chopsticks seemed to make it appropriate. Of course, now I’m paranoid some of my readers who speak Korean will see it and pick out mistakes, but you do what you can, right? 🙂
July 26th, 2014 at 7:07 am
Yeah but they’ll still think it’s awesome…wonderful tale.
July 26th, 2014 at 12:00 pm
love that you wrote it in Korean. what a great and unexpected ending that was.. 🙂 wonderful story.
July 27th, 2014 at 8:27 am
Thanks, KZ. It was a fun experiment. 🙂
July 27th, 2014 at 6:39 am
Great lesson in never to take things at face value.
The English words in the Korean version, gave a brief idea of what was happening in the restaurant – the full English version brought the story to life.
Well written, as always.
July 28th, 2014 at 1:12 pm
N E X T story P L E A S E
July 29th, 2014 at 2:58 am
It’s on it’s way. 🙂
July 28th, 2014 at 6:18 pm
David आपकी कहानी बहुत अच्छी है and I really enjoyed it.
July 29th, 2014 at 2:56 am
July 29th, 2014 at 1:43 am
So far you’re the winner as the best story I’ve read so far this week. It’s partly because of the exercise of reading the story in Korean first but really more for the pathos of the second.
July 29th, 2014 at 2:54 am
Wow, thank you Michael. I appreciate it. 🙂
July 29th, 2014 at 5:14 am
Loved the way you did this and a great story, too.
July 29th, 2014 at 10:58 pm
Thanks. It comes from a very specific place in my life right now.
July 29th, 2014 at 10:59 pm
…Or at least, it comes from experiences I’ve had in Korea, although not exactly like this.
July 30th, 2014 at 5:11 pm
Dear David, You have a wonderful story here and must have a lot of empathy for people – which is a very desirable trait! I love that you wrote it in Korean and then, thank goodness, you had a translation. I wish I knew more languages, but was raised in Arkansas and Korean wasn’t offered in our schools. Well, really, only French and Spanish was. Great story and you are a nice person David! Thanks! Nan 🙂
July 31st, 2014 at 9:36 am
Thank you so much, Nan. I appreciate it. It was an interesting experiment to try and I think it worked well. And of course I gave the translation. 🙂 It wouldn’t have been much of a story without that.
August 5th, 2014 at 1:19 am
Reading the Korean version I had no idea how this was going to end. Well done on a thought-provoking story.
May 17th, 2015 at 7:13 pm
[…] I first met David through Friday Fictioneers, a group currently led by the inimitable Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who happens to be a longtime, real-life friend of mine. David and I initially bonded over chopsticks. His short story “Nobbly Chopsticks” inspired me to snap a photo that was later used as a Friday Fictioneers prompt. […]