So this one time, in Korea, I got a somewhat panicked phone call from Jon. At 9:30 at night while I was on the bus home and literally one minute since his last, less panicked, phone call.
“Babe? Where are you? Are you here yet? I’m still at the park. I think I am being forced to have a drink with an adjuma. Can you come? She kissed me and said she loved me so I don’t know how to get out of here.”
Me: “Ummm…ya? Ok…I’ll be there in one minute. I clearly do not want to miss this.”
Oh and I am glad I did not miss it, my friends. I hopped off the bus and rolled on up to the park, as you do, much to the delight and possible dismay (at having lost her one-on-one audience with the handsome waygook man) of a crazy adjuma. Said adjuma had wild hair and gold in her teeth and I am unsure whether the grime on her hands and clothes was because she was unkempt (and maybe homeless) or led a hardworking life, but I would bet my last dollar on the latter (homelessness exists here but is not particularly prevalent. Old ladies working their asses off, however, is the norm). I think they were the old school fillings – you know the ones – but it was also dark out and had her smile not been so genuine, the whole thing might have been a little creepier. Anyways, she did her best to adjust to this change in her plans seamlessly, and gave me a big whopper of a kiss – smack! – hello. Right on the cheek closest to my lips, avoiding my lips only because I managed to crane my head away a centimetre while she manhandled my neck to lean in. Close call!
I laughed and Jon laughed and the adjuma laughed while Daisy stared up at us with her incredulous eyes wondering just what the HECK was going on here?!
So the adjuma is chatting to us in Korean and I am catching about one word out of every twenty, as she unscrews the bottle of makali (rice wine) she acquired while Jon was making his panicked phone call to me. She hands Jon a paper cup, and then one to me, and proceeds to fill them on up, chastises Jon for his lack of Korean etiquette (it’s TWO hands to hold the cup, never ONE), cheers us, then takes a satisfying swig from the bottle.
We took a swig, sure, because it would be impolite not to…which seemed to cue her to reach into her pocket and pull out some candies. But she doesn’t just hand them to us. No no no. She rips one open, grabs Jon’s jaw with a hand, and smooshes it into his mouth with her fingers. Looks at me and (because I did NOT want my jaw grabbed, on top of it all) I opened my mouth obligingly and let her pop one into my mouth. So, I let a crazy person feed me is what I’m saying here. We deduced that the orange flavoured candies really brought out the flavour in the makali by her gesticulating madly at us about drinking up.
She sits back down on the bench at this stage and proceeds to hug me and squeeze my leg, squish her cheek up against mine, and just generally love on us for a few minutes. All the while chitter chattering at us in Korean and seeming mostly unperturbed that we had very little idea what she was saying. Or what was happening.
THEN. She BLEW on our CHEEKS like they were the bellies of babes. Yes. This is REAL LIFE.
Then she goes to walk away, but first makes a huge show of explaining (in Korean and gestures – you should know this by now!) that if we leave she will cry, and that she is only going back to the store. As she is walking away Jon and I exchange a look that clearly screams “what the hell do we do now!?” but we are polite enough to wait until she is out of earshot to voice it. I mean, what could we do?? We did NOT want to be responsible for making an adjuma cry but nor did we have all night to be sitting on a bench getting drunk on makali with a wild woman, however well-intentioned!
She saved us from our indecision, kindly, when she returned to the park with an adjoshi in hand. He did not seem one bit interested in Jon, at the very least, and we took the opportunity to scamper back to the safety of our apartment. She yelled at us until we were out of earshot but I don’t think it was mad yelling, maybe just expressive I love you’s to Jon!?
One for the memory books, or blog roll as it were. For sure. The night we met the crazy adjuma in the park and drank wine and were hand fed candies from grubby but kind hands.
If there’s one thing to learn here folks, it’s that you never know what a Korean is going to do next. 😉 And also, that people just want some love and affection and someone to share a drink with.
* An adjuma is the common term for an older lady, more than middle aged, but possibly not old enough to be a grandma just yet. It’s a blanket term used for, frankly, a lot of women.
* Adjoshi is the term for the corresponding males of a similar age, etc.
* Waygook just means foreigner