For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has always been tough on me. She’s always yelling at me or hitting me over the head with something. (It’s usually with whatever is right within her reach, but now I think she just walks around the house with a shoehorn). The reasons are: why are you always late, why can’t you stand up straight, why can’t you speak perfect korean and more recently, why aren’t you married yet! at first i would just “chah-muh” or relax about the situation and just let her do her thing, but now because I live in Korea, this “jahn-soh-ri” has been a bit overwhelming. I almost got to the point where I snapped back at her, but I could never do that to my poor “hahl-muh-ni”. She cared for my mom and she cared for me as well as the rest of my family. I could never do that to her.
I recently asked my friend how to handle this situation. I could just completely avoid her, but that would be going against one of the main REASONS why I am in Korea (note: bullet point number 3 in June 28s xanga). Plus I could never disrepect her in that way. I want to care for her as she has cared for me in the past. I want to take her out and buy her “sahm-gye-tahng” (chicken soup) when the weather is hot, take her to the hospital when she catches a cold, etc. etc.
The next solution? It’s called “eh-gyo”. “Eh-gyo?” you may ask. Now this is something that I’m familiar with, but I never knew that I could use it in this capacity. You see, “eh-gyo”, the “eh-gyo” that I’m familiar with, is when a Korean girl kinda baby talks to a man. Cuddles up to him and acts really cute in an almost kiddish manner. Apparenty Korean men love this. They love it as much as a girl serenading them, cutting fruit for him in front of his friends or as we know in America: a girl cooking him dinner. Its part of the Korean culture. But I never thought of it as a means to mush up to a “halmoni” or my grandmother. And for a guy to use it for that matter. In fact, I always thought it was a tool only used by women to get the man and that it would be a bit feminine should a guy do it.
But guess what? I tried it on her and she absolutely loved it. It cut the usual 10 minute “jahn-soh-ri” down to about 30 seconds. I had no idea that this was what she had been yearning for this whole time. For the 30 years I’ve known this women, it finally put a smile on her face. In America, this would have been laughable. Here, I had no idea that it could be such a powerful tool to handle Korean people. And yet, it was such a simple solution. But the thing is, this is something I would have never have bothered to ask should I had been in America. Finally understanding my grandmother means so much to me. This moment right now, I would never want to take back This journey out to Korea, my motherland….I wouldn’t trade for the world.