Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back from the DPRK

Yesterday I returned to the relatively-more-free world. North Korea was a lot like I expected it to be (I've done quite a bit of reading/documentary-watching in recent years). I imagine what I saw was a lot like what China looked like 30 years ago - lots of people walking and biking everywhere, dilapidated buildings, absolutely zero advertising anywhere. We had a little more latitude than I thought we would. Everywhere we went we were guided, but there were occasions where we got to interact with locals. There isn't much spoken English so it was mostly just smiles and waves. The worst thing was seeing young people who clearly suffered stunted growth from living through a famine. We saw a work unit full of 18-year-old men who were mostly all much shorter than me and one of them looked as if his head was too big for his body. 

We saw a lot. We watched Mass Games. We boarded the USS Pueblo. We paid our respects to President Kim Il Sung (who, by the way, holds an honorary doctorate from a phony US university, it was on display at the mausoleum, all the Americans in our group got a kick out of it).

My birthday was a week ago, 25 - woohoo! The year is 2/3 over, so I started thinking back to my new year's resolutions. One was to travel more, the other was to save money. So far this year I've been to rural Anhui, Xinjiang, Qingdao and North Korea. Plus I've picked up a bit of freelance work (and all but one of those trips was work-affiliated) so I've managed to accomplish both. I'm also doing pretty good on reading more books. I could still stand to find more language exchange friends, but I haven't been drinking much Coke. 

More on my DPRK adventures later. Hundreds of pictures to sort...

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