Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Beast that is the Ajumma

I still need to tell you all about my weekend super-trip to Japan, but I just haven't been in the mood to write. There's been a lot on my plate this week, as well (including a second open class I have to do tomorrow for the superiors in my program here in Korea. I was one of two chosen to present to them in my province. Real awesome. That's sarcasm, if you don't know me and my socially-awkward/cheek-reddening ways...) 

Oh, but I couldn't resist the urge to record an observation I made the other day.  It's in regards to the ajumma -- the "auntie" of Korea. That's what the word literally translates to. There's "imo" (aunt) and then there's "ajumma" (auntie). In Korea, it's what you call an older lady. It's respectful, though not in a formal sense...It's a little more loving, I guess, though "loving" probably isn't the best word to describe it. It's that or "halmoni," which means grandma, if they are a bit older.

 A fierce bunch, they are. 
I feel I must properly introduce you to the ajumma first, and since I'm not feeling too creative at the moment, I'm resorting to plagiarism instead. No, not really. It's this guy's work (I think it's a guy?). He/She pretty much nailed it. So here you are. Consider him/her my guest blogger for the week (Thanks, man!)
"It’s hard to put into words exactly what makes an ajumma so… majestic, but I will do my best.  To start with, there are a few key attributes that all ajummas share… 
The LookThe easiest way to spot an ajumma is by her attire. After a few weeks of training, you’ll be able to spot an ajumma a half-mile off by her tell-tale giant visor ... and 1980’s man-perm.  Add to that a garishly decorated top, a few missing teeth, probably some dishwashing gloves, and some sort of heavy burden, and you’ve got yourself an ajumma! 
The Attitude - This is where some differences begin to arise within the ajumma population ... Some ajummas will push you to the ground without a second thought if you should have the misfortune of stumbling into their path.  Others will treat you as if you were their own grandchild and will offer to make you dinner, even though you’ve never met them and can’t speak a word of Korean. Maybe their attitude has something to do with the phases of the moon?  I don’t know.  All I can say is, approach with caution, but don’t be surprised if the ajumma turns out to the kindest woman you’ve ever met. 
[My theory] is that ajummas are modern-day phoenixes, rising from the ashes of fried kimchi remains.  If this is the case, then ajummas are not actually human at all but something far more magical, which is what I like to believe. Whatever the case may be, ajummas are a hugely integral part of Korea’s culture, history, marketplace, and life in general.  And sure, some are pretty grumpy, but I feel like after 60-plus years on this earth, they’ve earned that right. "

When I'm not being shoved to the side in the line to get on the bus (which is never), I'm watching the spicy/sweet adjummas hobble on past in their mesh of floral print, neck scarfs and sun visors. I've decided that ajummas are really quite a stylish lot; In fact, I realized I've seen some of their very outfits on Mary-Kate. Now we just need to get that girl a visor!

(For the record, I usually love Mary-Kate's style. But sometimes... well. She dresses like an ajumma.)

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