The Origin of Eli the Halmoni

My nickname from 5th grade to 12th grade was Halmoni – La Abue (which means ‘grandma’). My classmates came up with this nickname for me because I was a year older than most of them, but I think the primary reason this nickname stuck was because I was such an old soul.

I would say things like:

“Dear, please do not copy that homework. Give this to me and I will help you complete it yourself. C’mon, it’s better to do it yourself. You will actually learn.”


“I don’t understand why you’d want to go to a night club. It’s so noisy, smoky, and it must smell terrible. Staying at home makes more sense.”

I was so abuela that I got the <The Abuela in Charge of the Yearbook> Award back in high school.

Then, I came to college. And I didn’t tell anyone my nickname had been grandma. But lo and behold, soon enough people started calling me halmoni too!

Then, I started my first job in Seoul. By the end of the first week, my boss and co-workers called me halmoni.

So until yesterday night, I thought my halmoni spirit had been with me since 5th grade. However, reading over my 2nd grade report card proved me wrong (read the last sentence of the report card):

(The last sentence of the report card: She works cooperatively with the group and is highly respected by her friends.)

Highly respected by her friends.


I don’t know why, but the idea that my 2nd grade teacher took notice and wrote the words ‘highly respected’ about a 2nd grade student in her class was just so funny. How halmoni-like must I have acted that I was regarded with high respect amongst my peers?

Evidence now shows that symptoms of my halmoni-ness showed since at least 2nd grade.

My big discovery of the week.


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