We visited North Korea for ten days in April, in part for the hundredth anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth.
North Korea is amazing.
This trip surpassed our first in many ways, as before in ways we could never have predicted and, having experienced it, can’t explain, much as we’d like to. Everyone on the trip agreed, as happened with the first trip. You had to be there to feel it, but we’ll do our best to convey what we experienced, because at the root we communicated, shared experiences, increased understanding, and all the things that create peaceful interaction in all directions. (My travel-mates already started writing and posting pictures, mainly Joseph and Jordan.)
Most people in my group explained that seeing and experiencing the people and culture revealed how great the differences were between their expectations and observations. And how little they realized these preconceived notions. Realizations and revelations like this are the foundation of growing and learning.
Next, they talk about how much fun they had. Granted, our group had some rad individuals — people who will have fun, learn, and grow anywhere they go no matter what they do, and infect others with the same spirit. But North Koreans are amazing. You can’t imagine the feelings of warmth, curiosity, sharing, and fun they exuded. How much they wanted to learn about us and share.
Tell me if you see it differently, but I find it hard to look at these kids and think “axis of evil.”
Wait until you see the videos! (I’m in China now, which blocks YouTube, the dorks, so you’ll have to wait until I return to post videos)
If you had seen or experienced how much fun we all had discovering each other’s cultures — I hope you do — I guarantee you’d see the world differently. A common thread you’ll read in my posts on North Korea will be the difference between a country’s “leader’s” interests — which often include polarization and overstating how much another country threatens yours — and the regular people’s — which often include just talking, trading, or playing games.
High-fiving North Korean soldiers
We didn’t have fun interactions only with kids. I shook hands with North Korean soldiers. I shook hands with whole crowds of North Korean soldiers, all of us laughing and joking. I high-fived whole crowds of North Korean soldiers. Sorry, you’ll have to wait until I get the pictures and video of it from my travel-mates before I post it (assuming they got footage. You tend to forget photography when you’re having so much fun, finding out the people your government told you to fear the most are human beings too, just like everyone else).
It seems language barriers don’t matter much when everyone is smiling enough. And you know what? It’s not that hard to smile and get others to smile with you, no matter who.
Forgetting you’re supposed to fear someone gets pretty easy too when you’re having fun with them. Actually, you start questioning who wants you to fear them and why.
If you’re starting to think I’m forgetting some duty to my country to hold them as an enemy, consider this — many of them have never seen an American before at all. Their propaganda about us is even stronger than ours about them. Through my group, they’re learning to befriend us even more than we are with them.
How about this North Korean soldier we flagged down while he was biking some flowers to someone? Did you ever expect to see an American shaking hands with a North Korean soldier with flowers with a smile like that?!
Anyway, usually I separate my North Korea posts from my main blog page. I’m including this one as the first from April’s visit.
Also, my group