Well, I’ve been back in the country for a week now. I’m not sure if it seems like yesterday or a lifetime ago that I was in DPRK – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). I wish I could recount every moment that I was there- but even if I did that, you still wouldn’t be able to grasp the experiences that I had. I think what I’ll do is copy a few journal entries that I wrote while on the trip- to give you a taste of what I did and what God was doing in my heart while living this dream of mine.
Wed 9/7/11 6:15 am
“My first morning waking up in Korea has been beautiful! My new traveling buddy, Sarah, and I have an amazing view of Pyongyang from our room. Yesterday was insane! Immigration, customs, turning in my mobile (pronounced moe-bile because I am surrounded by British accents), going to a World Cup qualifier match (Tajikistan V DPRK), and then getting to make new friends over a beer… It was incredible!
I am more in love with this country than I was to begin with (if that’s possible). When flying in, the weather was perfectly clear (very unusual from what I’ve been told) – so I got to see the terrain and beauty of the country before I even set foot in it.
The hotel that we’re staying at the first 2 nights is the Yonggado Hotel. It’s on an island (where they put all the tourists). It’s affectionately known as “The Alcatraz of Fun”. The Futball (told you, I think British now) stadium is on the same island, so we were able to WALK back to the hotel afterwards. That is UNHEARD of for westerners. We got to walk side by side with workers, students, military, REAL PEOPLE! We aren’t that adept at communicating yet… but we got lots of smiles!
Today is open for more adventures, experiences, and general mind blowing. We haven’t been in country for 24 hours yet, and I already feel as if I got my money’s worth.”
“Touched- I think that’s how I can sum up my emotional state at this point. Yesterday we went to the DMZ (pronounced Zed as I think in Brit). I think I am finally beginning to understand their views of the war, their patriotism, and their sense of honor. I really am touched by this beautiful nation. DPRK is packed full of history and culture. We saw museums, waterfalls, tombs, palaces, beautiful countryside… amazing. Today we paid honor to “The Eternal President, Kim Il Sung”. I cannot begin to explain how this moved me. The sheer display of respect… no… REVERENCE- shot through to my core. More on that later though [did not write more as I wanted to wait till I was out of the country].
After the mausoleum (yeah, when I say we paid honor, we bowed 3 times at his amazingly well preserved body) we had a picnic BBQ (so in love with grilled onions) lunch on a mountain and then our FIRST 30K bike ride from Pyongyang to Nampo. The experiences, relationships, everything… this has been amazing.
[I have a ton of entries so I’m going to begin to just do snippets here]
After cycling yesterday we went to a “spa resort”. Hot spas, gasoline clams, soju, falling asleep before even changing… ridiculously fun night. This morning we went to the Barrage (a great and mighty feat of DPRK – separating the see from the river). Then we drove to a mountain to do some cycling- stunning vistas, perfect weather, and knowing I’m the first American girl to do this… AMAZING!!! Went to a park after the (super amazing and fun) ride and this old lady who was drunk as a skunk grabbed me and dragged me to a pavilion so we could dance together. The other locals who were also plastered started singing songs so we could dance. Just stop and think for a moment about dancing with North Koreans. Mind boggling huh? Yeah. I did that.
Went to the Arirang Mass Games. Wow… you have to look that up on youtube (or I’ll post some video once I figure out how). Anyway…. today in a word… INCREDIBLE.
Literal mountain top experience. Went to Mount Paektu. Hiked up it (while sick as a dog by the way) and was greeted with the most beautiful view ever created. I cannot think of one thing I’ve seen in my 30+yrs of life that was more stunning than the view of the Crater Lake. The crazy thing is that we were on the border of China at that point- the only thing separating the countries was this lake. I could see China’s guard house from where I was standing. Later on was some more cycling (and “greeting” by a military guard).
Today that false sense of reality crashed a bit. I saw what I was both hoping to see and not see. We were in a certain area… and there was… anyway… I saw something that reminded me of why DPRK is my passion. I don’t think I’ve prayed that much with that kind of intensity before. [My heart is still breaking thinking about this].
We went to a Kindergarten to see a show put on by 5 year olds (who were brought in especially for us as today is a holiday). It was “cute” but disturbing at the same time- the level of efficiency and excellence that these kids have… was both amazing and saddening. I guess back to false reality.
Some highlights of the day: proposing to a Korean whose response was jumping off of the bus while it was moving; late late late night acoustic Karaoke with some of the best people on the planet; dancing and doing the “hokey tokey” (British version of the hokey pokey); choosing to stay out of my comfort zone and actually forming relationships with people.
Side comment: I wish I had practiced dancing and going to the bathroom in a hole before coming out here.
We gave away our bikes- so the cycling is now done (kind of glad, because umm… sitting was becoming less pleasant. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost over. I fly back to Pyongyang today and then Beijing tomorrow. This time in DPRK has been amazing. I’ve gotten to see so many amazing things. I am starting to miss home a bit (mostly when there isn’t running water or there’s only cabbage soup…). It will be good to see my friends and family… even get back into a work routine again (though I totally want to quit my full time job and just work at Starbucks and write). But I will always miss DPRK and will cherish the time I spent here… and will definitely be saving up for the next time.
I left DPRK yesterday. It was so incredibly sad. I wanted to stay forever. At least we made the last night a blast. Long story short… we went to a bar (first time westerners were allowed in). We were having fun and everything was going well (even found my new favorite drink- Makjoli- it’s a fermented rice milk drink- way tastier than described) … until… one guy… You know how there’s always “that one guy” on a group trip (or school field trip or at work or whatever) who seems to cause problems… but never enough to really get in trouble enough to kick him out…yeah… THAT GUY. So That Guy decided to not only say something bad about Kim Jong Il but he did it in ear shot of Koreans… and it was mocking him because of his stroke. Not only is that not cool… but you DO NOT DO THAT IN DPRK!!!! So… anyway… it became quite the situation… like… tense… like… BAD. The Korean authorities wanted him out of the country immediately. It was that bad. Yeah. Anyway… after some diplomatic relations and a written letter of apology… we went back to the hotel and went off to do some Karaoke. Well… we got kicked out around 4 when the girl working the Karaoke bar wanted to go home. A group of 5 of us and the guides were just talking- real life stuff- love, spirituality (yeah… I got to talk about REAL spiritual matters with North Koreans in a Karaoke bar over Heineken), jobs, real life stuff. The time that I got to spend with these 2 men was beyond valuable. No matter what happens in my life, I will hold onto moments these moments and know that there will be more to come.
I hope to go back in 2 years. I will definitely request to have the same guides again. It was so hard to wake up and not see them the day after I left. When we had to say goodbye they were shaking hands (quite affectionate for DPRK men). I asked for a hug and they let me! I got to hug them and love them (and silently pray over them). I suppose my summary prayer for the trip is that God keeps these guides safe, that He reveals more of Himself to them, to send Christians better than me to them, and to allow me to return to them.