Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ahjummah Mountain

An “ahjummah” is a middle-aged lady, like your mom. Not a grandma, not a young miss. We spent the morning and early afternoon hiking Nam Han Mountain, which is “Ahjummah” Mountain to me because that’s who was on it. We three ladies (me, my mom, her sister) plus swarms of other ladies of leisure, their men all at work on a weekday afternoon. The hiking ladies wear huge black visors and face masks so that they won’t freckle or tan. They’re all decked out in Goretex and have at least one walking stick, or ski pole, sometimes two. To see one marching towards you from afar is to lay eyes on the most alienesque non-fashion outfit ever.

The few men who were on the mountain were obviously retirees. They had radios in their backpacks. Traditional Korean folk, a drama, pop music. You can hear it coming and then retreat down the trail.

Koreans are crazy for mountains and fitness. There are stations throughout the trails where you can stop, lift some weights (no thank you) or my fave, use a weighted hula hoop. This ain’t no Beyonce move. These hoops are heavy and at first, it feels like you’re mangling your insides. It gets easier. Mom and I killed ourselves laughing over the photos I took of her trying to keep the hoop up although my personal favourite photo of the day is one that I call Jack Nicholson Mom.

At least fresh air, trampling around and funny photos can make you feel better about an argument the day before since our only other recourse is good old-fashioned Korean repression.

It took a few hours to get to the very top of the mountain where there’s a fortress. Walls on these things look the same the world over – laboriously piled rocks with lookout holes for spying the enemy and slinging arrows. History is so crazy. This thing is more than 1000 years old but has been rebuilt a lot over the centuries. They hid the king here whenever Korea was invaded. We had a mini photo shoot and I took the opportunity to show my mom how you should position your face when someone’s shooting from below. My aunt was impressed with how much I seem to know about posing.


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