Toward the end of our week in North Korea I asked all my travel group-mates what they considered their favorite moment of our trip and why.
Jordan liked playing Frisbee most for interacting with kids. Here he is with some kids he threw the frisbee with, in a picture by Joseph Ferris.
Alex said he liked the Mass Games for the spectacle, emotion, synchronicity. Here he is at the Mass Games.
… or to shoot guns with them …
… but he seemed to have succeeded at each.
Gabriel said he liked the caves we spelunked for their natural beauty. I couldn’t find pictures of the caves, but we saw a busload of kids viewing the caves at the same time who were just about the most exciting fun kids I’ve ever seen, and the most eager to high-five us. Andrew Lombardi took these pictures.
EDIT: Correction: I found an image of the cave, from Ingrid:
John said his favorite moment was singing in the same caves. I think that moment must have afected everyone strongly. Deep underground when the power went out, we found ourselves in probably the darkest and quietest place we’d each ever been. In one particularly large cavern with excellent acoustics, John, the opera singer and teacher, beautifully and resoundingly sang How Can I Keep From Singing.
I don’t have an image of him singing then in the pitch black, but here he is just after having sung a song for our guide, Ms Yu, a few days earlier, near Kaesong (one picture from me, two from Andrew). Come to think of it, streams ran throughout the cavern, so I misspoke about the quietness. We would have heard rushing or flowing water — in any case, natural sounds.
John also counted watching the Mass Games with Ms Yu narrating as a memorable moment. Everyone except John sprang for first class or VIP tickets. Since guides had to go with us everywhere, he watched the show with Ms Yu alone, who narrated the story for him, which the rest of us didn’t get. So he got to understand the story. Only afterward, when he told us what she told him, did I realized how closely the show followed a narrative of North Korea’s version of its history.
Dan also liked playing frisbee for the fun of throwing the frisbee with the kids, for the genuine uninhibited interaction, and for introducing something new to them.
Here is Dan with Jordan and two of the women who catered our lunch and dance and sang for/with us (Joseph‘s pictures).
Here are some examples of the genuine, uninhibited interaction that came from introducing something new (more of Joseph’s pictures). Given the scripted and controlled tours North Korea provides, I found these genuine, unscripted, spontaneous displays of emotion, especially of pure fun and joy, rare. From the pictures online of people touring North Korea, I don’t think many people experienced such open interaction with North Koreans. Then again, when you take away the political systems surrounding us, how different would we expect regular, everyday people to be?
Tomorrow: part 2
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