The last night ended with UB taking a bath in our room as we sat outside in the two story cottage that was given to us for the evening. The three of us in a little home. UB didn’t have a bath or shower as she was placed in the maids quarters on the first floor. We, the first two foreigners she had met and after three days the traditional university student had no problem taking a hot mineral bath in our room. NK is a traditional place that has not been spoiled by outside influence. It is open to every country in the world for tourism and increasingly business, even if it is during certain times for Americans, it is an accessible place. It is not closed. It is open, although organized. Our visas were processed in under four days. But the outside has yet to breach any of their culture and traditions and especially politics. BBQs are a favorite pastime and cold noodles are a favorite treat. UB told us that about 80% of female students wear their traditional clothing to class if the weather is suitable. Otherwise their clothing is simple and conservative and always decorated with a lapel pin of a leader. Boyfriends and girlfriends never hold hands in public. The environment is pristine and they respect their country. Being quiet and simple is still respected and homage is always paid to their leaders. Lunch time. Up to this point we had only eaten one meal together. UB delivered us our meal in Styrofoam boxes. As she said bye to eat her lunch I told her ‘no.’ I said that friends eat lunch together. She smiled and said she will talk to minder number one. She went back into the NK dinning car and told Mr. Pok that she wanted to eat with her American friends. Mr. Pok also said he wanted to eat with his American friends. The others mentioned if you really want to eat with your American friends then we do too. UB returned and said come eat with your NK friends. Tom and I were delighted to share a meal in the back of the train with 60 “guides”, telling stories, laughing , dinking and carrying on. There were no barriers. There were no walls, no censorship, no wiretaps, no secrets. The food served to tourists in no doubt ably more nutritious and extravagant than their meals. Theirs consist mostly of a broth-like soup and rice. Filling and provides sustenance. Even in the countryside people are a little plump and the soldiers are thinner than the farmers. The peasants ride large blue Chinese trucks to their posts, ride bikes or walk in groups with smiles and friends. They freely wave and chuckle when they see foreigners. There is no fear and no worry of reprisal. Fat and happy! The train arrives and Tom and I find one last souvenir shop. The processing takes about two hours and consists of the NK army boarding the train and searching your bags. The search is similar to the first search on arrival, not very thorough, although they do make me turn on my camera and show them four or five pictures. Out on the platform we waited. Others being searched, the train to arrive, paperwork… and during this time UB went off to add something personal to our journals. She returned and would not relinquish our books until it was time to board the Chinese train. She said, read it when you get back to China. As I boarded she shyly opened her own book to the page of my message and showed me the pressed little yellow flower I had given her from the pools of singing angels two days before. The train jerked and pulled away as everyone began to cry. I waved out the window and our friends waved until there was nothing to see. I read what UB wrote in my book. I smiled with tears. She had torn her address from Tom’s book.
© branson Q 360 °