Mishaps at the Mart, Part III

I have a feeling this will become a regular feature.

This weekend is a holiday called Chuseok, and one of the Chuseok traditions is to give gifts to your family. I knew we would be visiting Host Dad’s family for Chuseok dinner, so I wanted to buy a gift for my host family and for his parents who would be hosting us.

On Thursday I went to Homeplus, where a dizzying array of gift sets awaited me. Spam and cooking oil. Lotions and shampoos. Socks and underwear. Coffee, green tea, cocoa. What to get, what to get…?

I stumbled upon a set of jars with pictures of fruit on them. Yum…jam! My host family often eats toast, I thought. They loved my thumbprint jam cookies. This would be something practical because they would eat it, but also a nice gift because they wouldn’t usually buy it for themselves. I’ll take two!

Look at this lovely jam set. Just look at it.


It’s a good thing I always feel compelled to give a gift as soon as I buy it. Because it turns out, that’s not jam.

This morning, Ye Bin and I were eating toast for breakfast. I asked her, “You like jam? Mom likes jam?”

“Yes, all like jam.”

“Good – I bought jam for Chuseok!”

I popped in and out of my room to show her the gift set. She inspected it and said, “Orange, ginger, pomegranate.” Then she looked up at me. “Not jam.”

My face fell. “Not jam? What do you mean, ‘not jam’?”

“Tea! See? It say 차. 차 is tea.”

Sure enough, buried among the other syllables and letters I couldn’t translate, I saw the word 차. My host family doesn’t drink tea. I uttered a four-letter word that made Ye Bin tilt her head to the side like a confused puppy.

So today, I took Ye Bin to Homeplus and she helped me pick out new gifts for my host family and for my host dad’s parents. I decided to give the tea to Host Aunt and Host Grandma because I have seen them drink tea – and even if they didn’t like the gift, it would be a lot less awkward for them to re-gift it than for Host Mom!


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