As you may have noticed if you’ve been reading along, I take my camera everywhere I go. So naturally, when I drove my mom to the Korean grocery store, I brought a camera to record some of the sights. If you haven’t already, please do look at yesterday’s post. I risked my life for those pictures!
Everything was going swimmingly until we reached the housewares section. As I started taking pictures of the pretty and colorful dishes, an agitated ajumma* in an H Mart vest came scurrying towards me, chattering away like an angry squirrel. I don’t understand Korean, but I could tell that for some reason my picture-taking was making her nervous. I pretended not to notice and kept shooting away, but visions of a wrestling match in the aisles of H Mart were flitting dangerously in my head. From the corner of my eye, I could see my mother shuffling over in paaaaainfully slooooooow motion to join the fray. I was sure the ajumma was about to leap onto my back and take me down with a choke hold, when my mother finally intercepted her. Was my mom going to whack her with her cane? Was I going to be in a three-way rumble with this ajumma and my aged and venerable mother right there in the middle of the housewares aisle of H Mart? I kept expecting to hear the resounding “thwack” of my mom’s cane, but instead I heard her fend off the woman with a few words in Korean spoken in a mild tone of voice. Suddenly the murderous gleam in the ajumma‘s eyes died out. Her shoulders relaxed. She gazed upon me benignly, and…was I imagining it? perhaps pityingly?
As we drove home, I asked my mom what she had said to disarm the ajumma.
“Oh, I just told her you were a country bumpkin and that you had come to visit me in the big city and were soooo excited about all the sights, so you had to take lots and lots of pictures of everything.”
*ajumma: a Korean woman who is middle-aged or older. In order to qualify as a true ajumma, she must also have a bad home perm, known in Korean as a “pama.”