This will be a story about a kindness of local, a food, and a warmness of an old lady who once prepared the food, instead of just selling it.
Halmeoni Joah (할머니좋아), a Korean food store which was run by an old lady (halmeoni) located only steps away from a guesthouse where I stayed during my trip to Jeju. It wasn’t a real name of the store, but a made up name by my Jeju friend. It was generated from two words: halmeoni (할머니, grandmother) who owned the store and Joah (좋아, I like or good).
I recall one night after spending one exhausting and confusing day in Jeju (I share about this someday); I was starving and extremely tired. I hadn’t had any proper meal since 10 a.m (I couldn’t count one gulp banana milk and less than 10 cm long chicken sausage as proper meal though). At day, I was running here and there to find few spots and to deal with confusing bus system in Jeju (because of my ignorance), so I couldn’t have meals and truthfully, I couldn’t think to have it all.
When I arrived at guesthouse, I saw this one man was preparing his way to the nearest beach with few bottles of soju and beer on both hands. We already changed so many words right after I entered in to guesthouse, so casual conversation had become usual for us, and then I asked him where he was heading. It was the beach, which sounded interesting but I had no energy left to tag along although I really wanted to. Few minutes later, the conversation focus on me, one of which was whether I already had dinner or not. The answer previously revealed.
He suggested me with various possible food around us, however from all of the choices, I felt like having this Halmeoni Joah. According to Jeju Friend’s explanation, it was kind of rice and sundae soup. I had never had such a food before; it was quite unique remembering what sundae was made from. My curiosity triggered this taking-the-risk-part-inside-me because he sounded adore it that much. In other minutes later, I briskly walked to the instructed direction. However, after passing the road forth and back for few times, I wasn’t sure where was the store, once again because all of the stores were written in Hangul. I even entered few wrong restaurants. I gave up and went back to the guesthouse. I still didn’t feel like having the others foods, but that Halmeoni Joa because it was also my last night in Jeju.
I had no idea whether that was how halmeoni served the food for her costumer neither because my friend already humbly begged halmeoni, she mixed all the sauce, soup, and anything for me. I was grateful for her kindness. I felt like the food was served by my grandmother whom I hadn’t met for so long time. Yah, it reminded me the time I went to my dad’s mom and my grandmom treated me the same way. The warmness of halmeoni was delivered through her meals.
It was my first time eating such unique meals, actually not my favorite remembering what sundae was made from, however, that was the most delicious food I ever had in Jeju Island. The savoury and warm broth of sundae soup were really able to warm my stomach and it was fulfilling and satisfying. As satisfying as you do something with heart. Like you sell food not only to make a living, but to serve the best food that people would love to have. I felt it. I meant it. No wonder Halmeoni Joah was said as my friend’s most favorite meal in Sinchon village. I think that has become my favorite too ever since, and I will visit halmeoni again when I visit Jeju.
Few minutes after Halmeoni prepared me the meals, two ahjussies entered the room. I got no clue about the conversation that those ahjussies and Halmeoni had, but finished chatting, one (looked much older) ahjussi greeted me and asked me where I came from, how I landed at a quiet village like Sinchon, or whether I had married to one of Korean man which brought me there. If it wasn’t for the awesome food that Halmeoni had offered in front of me, I would have been annoyed by such questions. I answered the ahjussi curiosity with smile one by one. And later when he knew that I came from Indonesia, where he once did his business, he offered me soju. I was flustered.
I read somewhere that if a Korean offered you a drink, you should be grateful for one or few reasons, and for courtesy, you better received it. A refusal would be thought as impoliteness, especially when she or he much older than you, unless you weren’t drink. Just said it. So I received with my two hands (just like additional information that I read somewhere), I tried my best. But I forget to take the drink slowly and let the ahjussi had it first to make him telling me to drink it slowly. Okay. We were done with the greeting. We continued each other meals with one or two nods in between when we accidentally see each other.
For whatever the reason those ahjussies gave me soju. I felt like being really welcomed to that area and I was touched by the kindness of both ahjussies and halmoni. I did.
It was one of my best travel moments, despite of the limited time I spent there. Thanks to all of them who made my Jeju trip was filled with the warmness and kindness. It was more than just beaches and exquisite sights.