North Korea- 2008 – Leader under Glass

Today we went out for another bus ride. My wife has decided to get on the bus before the minder. She hands a piece of chocolate to the bus driver and proceeds to go and sit in the back seat to take more photos. Our minder has been sitting there previously. He is flummoxed, but says nothing.

We are not to take photos of any military vehicles or structures. He is watching my wife closely.

As we ride to the giant mausoleum, our minder reads his dossiers on all of us. He looks down and sees author, and looks across at a distinguished man near by and thinks in Korean, “yeah, I get that.” Then he looks at an older woman near us and looks at her dossier and it says historian. He thinks again in Korean, “yeah, sure, I get that.”

Then he eyes me with suspicion and looks down at my dossier and it says “contractor.” He looks at me again with more suspicion and thinks in Korean, “this guy and his wife need watching, why would a drywall contractor and a grocery clerk come here to North Korea, somethings “fishy.”  Then he looks at my wife. “She took my seat, damn it.” My fate is sealed.

So great, I’m on his list now, no doubt. I can see it in his eyes. Meanwhile my wife is in the back of the bus snapping away without a care.

Let me ad here that all of our minders speak English very well, but with eastern European accents. They all went to communist satellite countries to learn English I guess. It is interesting to speak with a North Korean and hear a Polish accent coming back at you. By the way, the guides at the different spots we visited show up at other tourist spots along the way on our trip.

Meanwhile, we arrive at this giant parking lot and there are large groups of soldiers and citizens milling around. Not many tourists, what a surprise. They are all waiting for the site to open, as we soon are. We line up and then slowly proceed into a long low building. Off in the distance you can see a looming, white and grey, marble structure.

We enter the building and we are soon showing our cameras and purses to the ladies dressed in uniforms. They take everything and place our belongings in lockers. Then we are guided onto a people mover. That’s right, a black, rubber, moving contraption that slides us off in the direction of the structure that we are going to visit.

Then the crazy begins. There are jets of air strongly puffing at the sides of our shoes. The air is blowing debris from our shoes. That’s right. We wouldn’t want to make the dead guy sick, would we.

So, we eventually get to the building and we enter. It is made of one North Koreans few exports, grey and white swirled marble. The hallways are gigantically tall and the rooms are as well.

We enter the first room and there he is. The current leaders grandfather. In a glass case or coffin, no less. We are asked or informed that we must bow to him as part of the price of admission. O.K. The guys dead, it’s the least we can do. In my mind I know that that bow in no way says that I agree with his government or its tactics.

So we continue and see the sights down these giant halls. A statue here, a statue there, you know the drill. But the funny part is that it is like a giant maze, with halls coming off of the one were in and going off to who knows where.

We turn right here and we turn left here, and we double back and turn left here again. I think “hey din’t we see that guy a little while a go back over there?”

I think the deal is that they take you through this maze in such a way, that if you tried to go off on your own, you’d be lost in seconds and never find your way back. Needless to say, we were with more and different minders the whole way through.

So we leave. Remember the department store from the day before and the long trip to it? Well this was the same thing. A long drive to a beautiful historic spot.

I get that, but when we got back to our hotel yesterday, I looked across the river and there sat the department store. It was maybe a quarter of a mile away.

They like to keep us confused, I think. My wife and I have a nice meal with our group and go back up to our room. We talk very quietly for fear of our room being bugged. We say nothing negative just in case. I like the food, but we don’t want to stay longer than our group, if you get my drift.

Read “Grandpa Ernie’s Secrets on Amazon. It is an interesting “Spy” novel.