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Fan Death and Korean Superstitions

April 4, 2013

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We mentioned in our video that we have a few more Korean superstitions to talk about in our blog post. They’re not as fun or interesting for us to talk about like the other ones (like Fan Death: seriously guise…FAN DEATH!), but they’re cool to know if you’re interested in facts about stuff and life and you know.

1) Don’t Eat Bread on an Exam Day:

Question: did you ever wonder why you failed that last test? Did you eat bread on that day? If you did, then that’s probably why, dummy! “Bread” in Korean, “bbang” is also the word for 0. So, if you eat 0, you get 0. See how much that makes sense? Atkins diet, FTW!

2) Don’t Eat or Do Anything Slippery on an Exam Day:

Hey: remember that test that you failed, dummy? Did you eat any seaweed soup in the morning (FYI, if you didn’t know, seaweed soup is an acceptable breakfast meal in Korea). Did you put conditioner in your hair when you showered? If you did either of these things, which are slippery, then you let your test results slip through your fingers, or something like that. I don’t know. Don’t do slippery crap on test days! What about slides??? WHAT ABOUT SLIDES!!!???

3) Don’t Crack an Egg on an Exam Day:

WTF YO? What’s with all of these things you’re not supposed to do an eat on exam days? Why so many superstitions about exams? Korea takes its education seriously. You know what’s North American superstition for exam days? Don’t sleep in on exam days. It’ll result in bad grades, because you didn’t attend the damned test!

4) Dream of Pigs or Dragons…not G-Dragons:

You should totally do it. If you do, then hop on over to a convenience store and buy a lottery ticket right away. Dreaming of pigs/Dragons means that you’ll have good luck with money, or something, so buy a lottery ticket. You know: I have no idea how lottery tickets are bought in Korea. I never actually saw a lottery ticket before. I’m gonna have to figure out how to do it. We should make a video about how to win a million bucks via the lottery in Korea. That’d be great.

5) Be a Jerk on Moving Day!

Well, don’t be a total jerk, but a partial one, meaning: don’t sweep up your apartment when you’re about to leave. Pack up all of your stuff into the moving van, and leave the floors dusty. It’s supposed to confuse evil spirits into thinking you haven’t actually moved and are still living in that old place. That seems crappy for the next people moving in, unless in sweeping up your crap they throw away the spirits? Someone help me out here. I just remember being told on our moving days (we’ve had a couple while we’ve been here in Korea) not to sweep up ALL the dust. I wasn’t about to beg like “OH PLZ LET ME SWEEP I LUV SWEEPING” so I left it. Thank you, Korean superstition!

On the opposite side, I like how in Korea people don’t care about opening their umbrellas up indoors, which was a superstition I grew up with (but didn’t care about). Oh, and no “blessing” people after they sneeze. Try it out on your Korean friends/students/co-workers in Korea and they’ll be like…um…WUT.

Also, I’ve never asked about breaking mirrors, but my superstitions tell me you’ll get seven years of bad luck for it. Does Korea have the same thing? All I know is my Baka (“grandmother” in Croatian, not “idiot” in Japanese) broke a mirror-magnet I gave her, and then I (Martina) broke a bone every year for, like, seven years and she blamed it on herself. Which doesn’t make any sense, because the bad luck should go to her, but she explained that because I gave her the mirror, the bad luck went to me. How about I’m clumsy? That’s a good reason! Anyhoo, share your superstitions stories with us! I love seeing how different cultures have similar superstitions and then polar opposite superstitions at the same time!

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Fan Death and Korean Superstitions

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  1. Hi, I am from Austria and I think most of the superstitions are the typical one, like the number 13, or breaking a mirror and so on.
    But we got some, I think they might be interesting.
    I don’t know if this superstition is known in every area of Austria, but they say if you see a stork you’ll get pregnant soon.
    If you shake the hand of a chimney sweeper on New Years Eve, you will be lucky the whole year.
    Oh, and Austrian people don’t like to sit at the corner of a table, because they say you will get an evil mother-in-law if you do so.
    Knocking 3 times on wood will prevent bad things to happen.
    It’s an very interesting topic, altough I don’t believe in that kind of stuff. :3

    6 years ago
    • I’m from Germany and we have some similar superstitions! There are also a few differences though…shaking hands with a chimney sweeper generally means you will be lucky and I know of the knock-on-wood-thing to prevent bad luck as well, but three times?

      other superstitions I know of are e.g. that you shouldn’t walk through under a ladder. and if you place your shoes in front of your bed facing the bed, bad spirits will put them on and then climb into your bed or something like that. ^^;

      oh, and there’s a german saying that shards bring good luck, but I’m not sure if that goes for shards of broken mirrors too….

      6 years ago
  2. I live in the U.S., and I’ve only seen a gun once, and that’s because a really close family friend is like, total besties with the security guard at my church. (Yes, there’s a security guard at my church. And he wears a real gun for all to see.) My parents were thinking about getting a gun, but we never did because 1. Guns are friggin’ expensive, yo! (At least, in the US they are) and 2. My parents kept arguing about what mm. of gun we should get. So… Meh. I do have a friend, though, who lives in another part of the US, whose family owns 36 guns. I’m not kidding. She took a video of her house to prove it. I find that, generally, people who live in the country, especially guys, own at least one gun for hunting, while people who live in the city generally don’t have guns. There are always exceptions though.

    I have honestly never heard of fan death. XD In the summer I do that aaaaaaall the time. Why? Because I’m going to suffocate if I don’t because IT’S FRIGGIN’ HOT. Wow. That’s so absurd. XD

    Yes, Simon, that actually happens in tornadoes. I learned that in my science class. XD

    There’s always the black cat superstition in America. If you see a black cat that’s supposedly bad luck, but don’t believe it. My aunt has two black cats and she’s never had really bad luck. :P

    Koreans sometimes use hanja, (don’t they?) which originated from China. (Didn’t it?)

    6 years ago
  3. I think my favorite bad omen in the US is spilling salt. If you do you have to take a small pinch from the container and toss it over your shoulder. This is to ward off the bad juju. Also, the whole right side up/upside down penny thing still exists. I just say, “hey free penny.” Throwing coins into fountains is good luck or makes a wish come true.Broken shoestrings are supposedly a bad sign. Don’t tell your wish after you blow out your birthday candles. Don’t go into the dark basement alone.

    One I have learned from my Native American friends and classmates is that snakes are bad juju. So is stepping on a grasshopper, which brings on nosebleeds. Also they can’t tell certain tribal stories during certain times of year or that brings bad luck.

    6 years ago
  4. I don’t know if these are common everywhere, but here in Portugal, if your ears turn red or get really warm it means someone is talking bad about you, walking or driving by a black cat means you’ll have an accident soon, small spiders in the house mean money and killing them means that money will go away… Also, leaving your purse on the floor sets your life back for many years.

    6 years ago
  5. I visited Ukraine a couple years back for VBS, and it was super hot!!! But windows shouldn’t be open because you’ll get sick and die. So they made special windows that are super small way up high on the walls that opened up so when a breeze came in it hit the roof instead of the floor aka you: but they weren’t very common, at least where I was staying. The buses and trains were awful hot because you weren’t allowed to open a window! I got on a train and my companions and I opened a window in the train hall, but a person in charge came and closed it angrily. :( The room we stayed in on the train had no window either so we were dyeing…. A breeze will get you sick and kill you…

    6 years ago
  6. In the Philippines, you eat noodles on your birthday for long life. If you have a mole/beauty mark on your hand, you’ll be rich. If you have a mole/beauty mark on your foot, you’ll travel a lot in your life. This next one I’m not sure why we do it, but when someone dies, you must pass a baby over the dead loved one in their casket. There’s a lot, but those are some not so complicated ones.

    6 years ago
    • WOA, I didn’t know that about moles, and I just noticed one on my finger. Will keep y’all posted when I win the lottery! :D

      6 years ago
  7. yup, that’s true, there is absolutely no wind in the center of a tornado. for once, Martina’s right (only once though)

    6 years ago
  8. We have a few old ones in Norway, but no one really believes them anymore *shrug*.

    1. If it rains during the wedding, the married couple will get allot of crybabies (/spoiled, /rotten).
    2. If it snows during the wedding, they will get rich!
    3. Children should not look themselves in the mirror until they had their first birthday, if not it would lead to a unhappy life.
    4. Pick 7 different kind of flowers during midsummer eve and put them under your pillow, you will dream of your future partner in marriage .
    5. Do not give your girlfriend socks, it means “dead love”.
    And a howl lot more…

    6 years ago
  9. Fan death is super funny. Probably 90% of the south east asian population would have been wiped out if this was true. BTW, I’m in an enclosed room with a fan blowing at me.

    6 years ago
  10. My family has a superstition that you put butter on someone’s nose on their birthday so they’ll have good luck for the year. We got it from my Polish grandma but I have no idea if it originated in Poland.

    6 years ago
  11. one that i’ve heard is:

    don’t whistle at night, or you’ll get robbed

    the rest involve not eating certain foods at certain times.. but i think that’s just my family trying to trick me into not eating foods i like and making stick with veggies xD

    6 years ago
    • When I’m a kid they say a snake will come… lol! (Adults trying to shut kids up)

      6 years ago
  12. One I grew up with (In the US) is don’t play with fire or you’ll wet the bed. Then A few years ago, I learned that, that superstition originally comes from Japan..

    6 years ago
  13. I was thinking about superstitions in Austria and there are really a lot of things like everything you do could be bad luck or so ~
    For example:
    when the bridegroom see his bride in her wedding dress before the wedding
    when a single man sit at the corner of a table his mother in law will be evil
    when you leave your hairbrush on your bed somebody in your family will die
    the same thing when you spill salt

    6 years ago
  14. the ones I can remeber (from Argentina) are, if your palm itches you are supposed to put it on your pocket so you will receive money, if you say the same word at the same time with someone you have to Knock on wood to take the other person’s luck. you are not supposed to sweep near someones feet or they won’t get married, you have to tie a red string to your baby’s wrist to avoid “el mal de ojo”… and that’s all I can remember

    6 years ago
  15. i grew up in the south eastern US. if you give someone a wallet or a purse as a gift you’re supposed to put money (usually a penny) in it as well, recieving an empty wallet/purse a supposedly leads to bad luck with money. and of course any time you mention something bad that could happen you’re supposed to knock on wood after you say it to prevent it from happening. the 666 thing isnt really about luck, it’s about an association with Satan.

    6 years ago
    • When I was a kid, there was always a penny in a wallet if you bought it at Sears, now I know why (same with penny loafers). Not any more – cheapskates……

      6 years ago
    • That is actually the same as Chinese culture i.e. shouldn’t give an empty wallet as a gift :)

      6 years ago
  16. In Croatia, when student has his first exam at university parent should throw water after him when he leaves the house. Because the exam should ‘flow’ well and you’ll pass it.

    6 years ago
  17. OK, update on my latest post (as I’ve finally watched the video itself.

    Firstly…

    Yes, evil, frickin fear of fans exist. I had a korean roommate in China, and the lucury of being an international student was to have a fan & heat combo in our rooms. Now, this fan was situated above her desk and she pretended it didn’t exist. I, on the other hand, live on the Northern cold part of the globe and decided to use the heat of the fan to warm up. She seriously freaked for a while until I showed her, it was not a torture device for cold, it was to make us both a little warmer. She seriously seemed to believe cold wind on your would kill her.

    I, who live north, know very well that no such thing will happen (unless you’re in your undies in a snowstorm). A little cold air won’t kill you, however if your body has manifested a virus and gets cold, then be sure to be sick. My friends who went through the military for a year also told me that the cold doesn’t create colds.It can trigger it, if you already have a slught cold, but if you’re 100 % healthy, no… you wont catch a cold. Seriously, one of the military drills was to bath in a hole in the ice. It was apparently really frickin cold and only something vikings would think of, but no one died from it.

    Secondly…

    4, or 四 in Chinese is seriously yes a superstitious number, so superstitious you barely every see it in China. The best lucky number is 8 八,which corresponds to fu 福 (?) which means good fortune, in the general belief of richess. An 8 can erase a 4, so whithin Chinese phone numbers you may have a 4 in it, if you have at least one 8. (Seriously China, you are so superstitious at times).But anyway…

    Korea used Chinese characters at the beginning of their history, so in early days they wrote in the same language (after all, they’re neighbours). However, a Korean king remade the alphabet based on the tongue’s position in the mouth, hence the characters changed drastically. (Sidenote: Japanese was created by women, who weren’t allowed to write in Chinese characters, so they created their own language, hence the modern spelling in Japan). But I guess, since China and Korea have been quite close throughour most of history (with the slight exception of the last 60 years when South Korea allied with the US). that those old habits have yet to die out.

    [boring detailed information that has nothing to do with Korea starts now, CAUTION seriously, don’t read this if you’re a sensitive person.]

    After all, 13 is one of the oldest bad numbers in the Western world (North America/Europe). It comes from the last meal Jesus had with his apostles. There they were 13 to dine, and an old saying goes: when 13 dines, the first to rise will die. In the bible this was Judas, who according to John’s chapters of the bibles got possesed by the devil to eventually betray Jesus for 30 silver coins.

    In those days 30 silver coins was a lot (but apparently not enough for the life of the Holy son. In any way,Judas bretrays Jesus by a kiss, and the Roman guards arrest him. Jesus is inprissoned, tortured brutally (I’ve seen the tools they used, hole mother of God, that had to hurt a lot).

    Judas regrets his deed and throw the coins back into a holy Sanctum, which pretty much damages the holyness of it as the money is bathed in blood (as a figure of speech, he was paid to betray Jesus). Judas later dies some time before jesus (actually) by hanging himself.

    Jesus later has to carry his cross towards the place the hang him on. Crosses were a common way to kill thieves, murderers etc. because they were probably very effective. (After all, you could physically see the people in pain). Several inch long nails were jammed into his feet and slightly below his hands. At first, he most likely had a place to sit, because if you hang in such a position you suffocate (proven by sick experiments on Jews during the War). This way you could control when a person died as well, because the sitting place allowed you to rest for a while (with limited air supply). The prisoners literally struggled to survive, when they relaxed they couldn’t breath and as soon as they had some energy they would try to stand. Eventually, you’d run out of strength and die.

    But, God kills Jesus prematurely 8as by the bible), and the rest well… well, you know. Jesus is ressurected and all that.

    But this literally brings forth the unlucky number 13, because it was pretty unlucky, wouldn’t you say?

    [End of none-Korean topic]

    6 years ago
  18. Out of the infinite number of numbers, 4 had to be unlucky :-(
    The number 4 is actually my favorite and lucky number, it sort of follows me around lol

    6 years ago
  19. i have slept in a closed room with a fan blowing at me for a good 7 years, i have not died yet…

    6 years ago
  20. haha Simon and Martina, the whole high heel thing is a North American superstition as well! …I guess maybe not in Canada?

    6 years ago
  21. We have loads of superstitions here in Sweden ^^

    When someone is serving you a slice of cake you shouls be able to tell if you’re ever going to get married. If the cake tips over and lands on it’s side you’re not, and if it stands you will :)

    If a girl on Midsummer’s eve, pick 7 different types of flowers in complete silence and puts them under her pillow, she will that night dream of the person she’s later going to marry. ^^

    You should not leave your keys on a table as it means bad luck…

    If a black cat were to cross your path you should spit/pretend to spit three times over you shoulder to scare off the devil (The black cat is apparently the devil) xD

    Don’t step on manholes/wells with an A on them, it means bad luck. But if you step on one with a V or a K on it means good luck ^^

    Some people might not like it if you thank them for saying “prosit” (bless you) after you sneeze as it’s supposed to kill a house elf.. :(

    Don’t step on cracks in the street (especially not on friday 13th!) as it means bad luck.

    There are soooooo many more but couldn’t write them all ^^

    6 years ago
  22. This one may be more of a personal or a family superstition rather than a national one because I haven’t heard of it outside my family. I first heard it was when one of my great grandparents died when I was smaller, My mother says she saw an oriole that day.

    I believe it was my grandma that said the souls of the ones close to us will visit us with an oriole before they leave. I didn’t believe it at first but on the day we had to put my cat down ( I had her since kindergarten and loved her very very much) was the first time I ever saw an oriole. (it was a bright orange Baltimore oriole so there was no mistaking it)

    I wonder if anyone else has a tradition/superstition similar to this one because I really don’t know if it’s some cultural thing or just a personal family one.

    6 years ago
  23. the rain in the wedding day is luck is here in Romania :)) and we have another superstition (superstition that very few now believes it)is: “do not drink directly from ladle, because you will marry an ugly man/women” :)) or “do not eat in the corner of the table, because is bad luck” :)) and another one “do not sweep your feet (or someone else sweeps them), because you will never marry” (or something) :)) but elders believe them more these days :)

    6 years ago
  24. In Ukrain besides main superstitions about mirror and etc. we have belief that if black cat crossed your way, then you’ll be unlucky. So its better to go completely another way or to sing a special song about not you being unlucky but a cat that crossed your way (yes, people even made a special song for this case). And another one is if you went out but forgot something from the house and you need to go back, you have to look in to the mirror before leaving the house, otherwise you will be unlucky all day.

    6 years ago
  25. That bird poop thing. My mother is Dominican and one of the beliefs they have is if a bird poops on your right hand you’ll receive money. If it poops on your left you’ll lose money. I had both happen to me in a period of two days, got a tax refund of $1,000 then a bill of $500 right after xD

    Another one is that if it rains while it’s sunny, like tends to happen when there’s a drizzle, a witch is getting married and it means good luck to anyone else getting married on that day.

    6 years ago
  26. Here in Finland we also have the shoe thing! But it doesn’t have to be high heels, just any shoes will do.

    I don’t know if this applies to theater in general, but at least in Finland we believe that if the dress rehearsal goes badly, the opening will go great. (and vice versa)

    and Martina, as many have already said, you’re right about the tornado :)

    6 years ago
    • I didn’t know we had the shoe thing in Finland also :D

      I can’t really come up with any superstitions, except the belief that if girls pick out seven different kinds of flowers and put it under their pillow on Midsummer’s night, you will see your future husband in your dream (hasn’t worked for me tough yet, even if I do it every year as a tradition lol).

      Oh also when where on the country side vising my grandma and she makes coffee and pastries, there has to be seven kinds of pastries on the table. Don’t remember for what reason though. But there seems to be something with the number seven here…

      And idk if this count also but on Christmas when we eat rice porridge, you put an almond (or more which our family does) in it and the one who gets it receives luck in any near future activities they’ll have/do.

      6 years ago
    • so many love related footwear superstitions! :-0 Socks in Norway (as Lise Lie) said, shoes in Finland and Korea… I wonder where it comes from!

      6 years ago
  27. I wonder if these are international or only here in Finland but:

    1. Sunset glow is beatiful but it means next day is going to be very windy.
    2. Morning glow means that the weather will be bad and rainy later on.
    3. You must spit three times after seeing black cat or you will face bad luck.
    4. Snail coming out it’s shell means that it’ll be fair weather.

    Learned from anime: If you sneeze someone is talking about you behind your back.

    6 years ago
    • In relation to the the first two about sunset/sunrise: “Red in the morning, sailors take warning, Red at night, sailor’s delight” seems to still be said around in the western hemisphere. Works too (in Ontario anyways). A red sunset means it will be fair weather tomorrow, a red sunrise (usually only see these in winter) means that there will be a big storm later in the day. This is because storms usually move from west to east around here, I gather it’s similar on the spice sea route from Europe to Asia.

      6 years ago
  28. It’s funny that they think sleeping with a fan is bad luck because I can’t sleep without one.
    Hmm… I tend to disregard superstitions because I think they are silly but I remember a few that my mother told me.
    My parents are from Costa Rica so I guess these are Costa Rican superstitions.
    1) don’t pick up and bring home anything off of the street after 6pm because that will let evil spirits in.
    2) if you point at a cemetery, bite your finger or else it will rot with the newest body buried.
    3) pregnant woman shouldn’t raise their hands over their heads because the umbilical cord will strangle the baby
    4) cover mirrors during a lightning storm.
    5) wash your hands and feet outside of your home after a funeral so that the dead don’t follow you home
    6) if you hear a dead person, a person that you know is dead, call your name don’t answer it.
    7) don’t bring an old broom and mop to a new home.
    I just realized how morbid some of these are.

    6 years ago
    • LOL, I am the same way. Even if I have the air-conditioning on, I NEED the electric fan on. Can’t sleep without it.

      6 years ago
  29. In Sweden, if you see a dragonfly you get one wish.
    On midsummers eve you’re supposed to pick 7 or 9 different flowers and put them under your pillow and you will dream about your future spouse during that night. Do not pick the heather flower and take it indoors because it means death.
    If your left palm itches, you will recieve money.
    A horse shoe should never be hung up on the wall upside down, the luck that’s in the shoe will fall out.
    walking on a manhole cover with the letter A on it will bring you bad luck.
    Killing a spider will make it rain the next day.
    knock on wood (a table) and say “Peppar, peppar ta i trä” (pepper, pepper knock on wood) to prevent any bad things to happen.

    There are a lot more superstitions in Sweden but these are some that I know of. ^^

    6 years ago
  30. I’ve heard about when you sneeze that means someone is talking about you. The most strange one I’ve heard is someone that I know who went to Spain and apparently it’s good luck or something to have a mole on your face. Because of that, other people WILL try to TOUCH the mole on your face O_O It happened to her, so when she caught on she made the people stop doing that.

    6 years ago
  31. One supersition in my country that i know is dont sweep the floor during lunar new year because you’ll sweep away all the fortune and luck

    6 years ago
  32. i learned a whole new set of superstitions after being pregnant in korea. my mother in law wouldn’t let me eat duck meat because the baby would be born with webbed feet -__-

    6 years ago
  33. 4 is not the character death in Chinese – It just that the word for 4 sounds similar (but has a different tone) to the word for death. Since Koreans had close relations with China for a long time, it’s not surprising they have the same superstition (though I haven’t seen the number 4 being replaced in China, people do try to avoid it. For example, in the US, some Chinese would not buy houses if there was a lot of 4’s in the address). Koreans used Chinese for a long time. Since Chinese characters do not have to be pronounced the same for the same meaning to come through, it was versatile and very meaningful even across languages.

    I was always told to let the fan blow directly at me – always set it to rotate since it’s easier to get a cold with constant wind blowing at you. Never heard that it would lead to death or anything…
    There’s a ton of superstitions in Asia. One in China is that you shouldn’t share a pear with someone since the pronunciation of “split a pear” sounds the same as “separation.” So if you share a pear with someone, you will be separated from that person.
    Also, don’t give a clock to someone as a gift – it’s a sign of time running out and death. Though people say watches are fine, especially given the current craze about quality, high end watches.

    6 years ago
  34. I actually love it how most of the superstitions are actually very logical or easily explained (not all of them, but most…. i think… of them)

    6 years ago
  35. I live in the US, some classic superstitions: Step on a crack you break your mothers back, Throw salt over your shoulder for good luck, A rabbits foot will bring you good luck, The number 666 is EVIL, Knock on wood to eliminate bad luck, Oh! and make a wish on a wishbone.

    6 years ago
  36. in Italy we have many superstitions, but it surprised me that the one about rain during wedding is the same as in Korea! we say “sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata” which litterally means: wet bride, lucky bride. About gifts, we say that you shouldn’t present a girl with pearls because pearls bring tears, and everyone who gives you a pin (like a safety pin) should prick his finger before: otherwise it means that he hopes you will get hurt by the pin and…die soon I suppose (?)

    6 years ago
  37. okay… i am having deja vu or something

    SimonAndMartina.. please tell me you’ve mentioned fan death, boyfriends shouldn’t buy shoes for their girlfriends, planned bouquet catching and raining on wedding being a good sign in previous videos..

    because my brain is adamant that you’ve made a similar ..like extremely similar video before >.<

    ah.. maybe an EatYourKimchi connoisseur can help me out? i just can't seem to recall..

    6 years ago
  38. Not a superstition but I remeber my Mum telling me not to write letters/cards etc in red pen because it was rude. I don’t know if this is a common thing in the UK or not…

    6 years ago
  39. from what i know the black cat superstition if slipped somewhere where white cats are the devill…

    6 years ago
  40. I dunno if this is a superstition or not, but there is a belief here in Alaska that if you whistle to the northern lights, then they will answer you back. If you do it the correct way they will give you a nice display, or stay with you longer. However if you do it wrong, then they will make something bad happen…

    *I say Alaska but this is not a well known belief all over the state, more of the interior and northern areas. I have friends that are Yupik, and Athabascan who taught me to whistle correctly at em…

    6 years ago