As the years roll by, I grow more certain that the only truth lies within the Word. I’m thinking of the world system, people, agendas and, more specifically, my own life. The certainty I had concerning politics and my general opinion of the world on both the large and small scale has dwindled and I find very few things certain anymore. I suppose that’s the natural way of things, the older one gets the more one realizes they don’t know as much as their 20-something-year-old selves arrogantly thought. It’s embarrassing, now, as I face turning 42 next month and consider my life situation both past and present. What arrogance I once had, even a few short years ago, to think I had it all figured out. Especially considering the overly-sheltered, restricted and yet spoiled bubble I’ve lived in my whole life. Is that an American thing? This smug certainty that everything is exactly as we perceive it? I don’t know, but I’m glad to be free of it because it harbors lies and deceptions. I’m not particularly fond of deception.
I’ve said all this to make this ridiculously simple point: I will never be well-traveled. I am resigned to that fact. While I cannot know the future, circumstances and common sense direct me to this conclusion.
I can, however, be well-read. Everyone who loves to read knows books educate, broaden one’s horizons and make for a rich and interesting thought-life, not to mention interesting conversation if we are fortunate enough to chat with someone who is willing to step out of the shallow waters and into a deeper pool.
This brings me to my latest read. I like books of all genres except romance and fantasy. Biographies and personal accounts are particularly enlightening as they allow a look into a different point of view, and sometimes a different culture.
My latest read is a book titled My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth by Wendy E. Simmons. It her account of ten days spent in what is considered one of the most dangerous countries on Earth. Yes, she went there on vacation. Unlike me, Ms. Simmons is well-traveled. She took her first solo trip to another country (Mexico) at just twelve years old and has been travelling the world (alone) ever since.
The fact she travels alone impresses me. The fact she traveled to North Korea impresses me exponentially. The fact she traveled to North Korea alone? Well, that makes her the gutsiest (if not craziest) woman I’ve ever heard of. Yet she made it out, and with quite a story to tell. Fortunately she did not find herself in any real danger, though she was certainly paranoid that the slightest infraction would land her in Noko jail. Her story is both amusing and fodder for deeper contemplation.
With an Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass theme, Simmons recounts her bizarre stay in NoKo (a term she thinks she coined). Several oddities struck me about her description of the mysterious country. One: she found it nearly impossible to get an honest answer from her handlers (personal tour guides). They evaded most questions and made the most ridiculous assertions, even when the contrary was evident. Two: personal handlers were required. The only time she was alone the entire trip was while sleeping. She could not leave the walls of her hotel alone. Ever. Even a trip to the bathroom required an escort. Three: the nation is frozen in time, the 1950s to be more specific. All clothing is outdated and she recalls her handlers (two women) as reminiscent of retro airline attendants. Four: despite being stuck in the 50s, they claim to be on the cutting edge of technology and industry, yet it was obvious they are NOT. Five: It was dark everywhere they went. Very dim lighting in most places and some had no lights, or electricity, at all. Six: She was constantly bombarded with anti-American propoganda and presented with a false history. Seven: the people believe (or at least claim to believe for fear of punishment otherwise, no doubt) that the two deceased former leaders still appear and give guidance and instructions. The Kims are both their father and their sun. Eight: twins/triplets are revered and given “special” opportunities-becoming wards of the state and thus relieving their families of the burden. Apparently, women WANT to have twins as a result. Nine: She was never allowed to interact with “normal people”. Everything was tightly scheduled and arranged and photos could only be taken upon permission and even then under controlled environments. Ten: No water, no toilet paper in the bathrooms. The hotel had specific times allotted for water availability. Eleven: despite all the above, the guides insisted NoKo was the greatest place on the planet. Ms. Simmons could never determine if they truly believed the ridiculous claims they made or if it was a survival mechanism.
All of the above, as well as the details given in the book, lead me to ask: why? Is NoKo an experiment by the “powers-that-shouldn’t-be” or is it legitimately the result of an evil dictatorship? The brainwashing and propoganda sound so extreme. How can a nation last so long without the people revolting? Isn’t having a modicum of freedom and independent thought a natural desire for all people? Maybe there are revolts but they are squashed and we never hear about them.
Mostly I came away from the book with a deep sympathy for the people of North Korea and a profound gratitude for having been born where and when I was. But for the grace of God, go I. I pray for them, that the Light shines in the darkness. I take comfort in knowing since Jesus makes Himself known to those trapped within Islam, He is Perfectly Capable of doing the same for the North Korean people. For all people.
It is because of those last thoughts that I’m so glad I read this book. By no means is this book an exhaustive expose on North Korea, but it doesn’t claim to be. It’s just one woman’s account of ten days spent there. Sometimes we Americans need reminding it isn’t all about us and we really have no clue about that which we vehemently declare on social media.
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.
Proverbs 4:7 NKJV
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Find the book: My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth https://www.amazon.com/dp/B011IVBA5I/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_x4jsCb17NEGEM