Pictures of North Korea, part 2: preparing for our first adventure

October 14, 2011 by Joshua
in Freedom, NorthKorea

Continuing writing about my North Korea trip

More pictures. Click on them for larger views. Today’s pictures are more about our group than North Korea, per se, but they do feature some of the first North Koreans ever throwing frisbees (actually Discrafts, for those who know the difference).

Outside the Yanggakdo hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

The morning after we arrived, waiting to get in the buses to go south to the Demilitarized Zone. We’ve all met enough to shake hands but not all to converse yet. I think by this point no one knows everyone, though we all got to be friends by the end of the trip. Ingrid on the left, her boyfriend Neil, Joseph, Jordan, Gabriel, and John. Joseph and Jordan have planned the most, for about three years.

Outside the Yanggakdo hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

We don’t waste time standing around. We start throwing frisbees. I wasn’t sure how the ultimate tournament would go, but word had gone around that I had played a bunch before so they identified me as a ringer. It would flatter me except they don’t know the difference between how I played in my prime versus now. On the other hand, since I don’t think any of them had seen competitive ultimate, they seemed impressed by my throws, which are my favorite part of ultimate.

Outside the Yanggakdo hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

By now we would have had our first breakfast at the hotel, so we would have been thrilled at the novelty of the new food. Little did we know we wouldn’t see much variety or freshness. Note the company name on the side of the bus: Korea International Travel Company. KITC runs all travel in North Korea. You’re reading this, so you’re on the internet, which means you aren’t in North Korea, which means you’ll travel with KITC when you visit.

Outside the Yanggakdo hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

One of the guides catching a disc, I believe. I don’t recognize him so he was probably from a different group. His conservative attire was typical for North Koreans. I don’t think we saw any wearing jeans, patterns, brand names, or bright colors. Now that I look, he’s wearing a lapel pin of Kim Il Sung. All adults wear those lapel pins and they don’t allow foreigners to buy them. I think you get in trouble if you lose yours and Koryo told us trying to acquire one would offend so we didn’t, though you can buy forgeries in China. I remember being annoyed after 9/11 at politicians wearing stars and stripes pins as if to show pride, but I felt like they were polarizing — with-us-or-against-us type stuff. Little did I know how much more that game could be played.

Outside the Yanggakdo hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

More of us playing before loading up on the bus. Dan on the left and Andrew with the watch. We brought a bunch of stuff with us since we would sleep over in Kaesong that night. We also came to spend a lot of time in those buses. I’ve recommended visiting for everyone since returning based on how much I learned and how much fun I had. The group I went with was amazing, contributing to both learning and having fun. I don’t know how much of the value of the trip for me I owed to them, as opposed to North Korea the country. So maybe if people go with a less fun group they won’t enjoy it as much. Lesson: go with awesome people too. And go when a tournament is scheduled.

Outside the Yanggakdo hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

To an ultimate player, Jordan’s stance hurts to see. Bad form for ultimate. I don’t remember this particular moment. Our group, as always, is having more fun than everyone else. Here I think Jordan is trying to share the fun with others. The guy in blue on the right looks like one of the drivers — not the red lapel pin. The guy on the left in the patterned shirt looks Chinese — the shirt has a pattern and he’s wearing white sneakers, stuff I don’t remember seeing much of there. We saw many Chinese tourists there.

Outside the Yanggakdo hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

I shouldn’t talk about throwing form anymore. Two more people from our group: Alex in black, with whom I doubled in the hotel rooms, and Hannah, the woman on the right, who was our guide from Koryo. The woman to her right is Jasmine, also with Koryo, who led another tour. Every group had North Korean guides and guides from the outside company that organized everything with KITC.

Outside the Yanggakdo hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea

One more of us, Jim. Jim and I coincidentally found each other online before the trip began. I had also met Neil briefly so I knew a few people before the trip. As suggested by Jim’s Thailand shirt, I think everyone on our trip had plenty of travel experience.

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