Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

          The sunlight woke me after a fairly sound sleep.  I thought it had to be seven or maybe later.  John said he would wake me so I never set my alarm because he was so punctual everymoring rising to teach school.  This was his day to sleep in so I thought he overslept and I was late.  I had everything ready to go so brushed my teeth , washed my hair, dressed and then bid him good bye.  There are NO clocks in the house…not even the microwave.  He looked startled and said I thought you weren’t leaving until 7:30….I thought is was 7:50 already but forgot to change my suitcase clock from Seoul …it was 6:50…I thanked him and decided to have breakfast at the airport.  Saturday morning there was hardly any traffic and I got a taxi as soon as I stepped out the door.

      The driver dropped me at the entrance of Terminal 2 where David, the tour operator said the Koryo Air office was.  I first decide to orient myself so when our scheduled meeting at 8:45 happened I would be there.  I could not find it.  I asked David directions the day before and instead of : Just inside of entrance 4 on the right….what I got was:  It is a small terminal, you won’t have a problem.  I walked the entire terminal on both sides and both floors while asking two different information booths and numerous people, security, ticket agents, and shop owners.  No body knew but one information girl recognized the name Air Koryo and checked the flight list and informed me that my plane departed gate 3 at 10:30.  I knew that but how do I get a boarding pass without a ticket.

                  Breakfast gave me a chance to calm down and think about my plan of action.
Terminal 2 was divided in two sections.  There was Domestic and International.  I saw other tour groups arriving by bus so just waited at the entrance in the International area…it was now 8:50 and no David the tour leader.  Finally they came in like “well what’s the problem”.  I got in line with the rest and we waited and waited to get our boarding passes.  Then the flight was scheduled to board at 10:30 but changed to 10:40.  When we were seated at around 11 pm the runway was backed up with over six planes waiting….but wait …our plane wasn’t ready to join the line.  We still had a whole group of new passengers boarding.  It was a full plane when we took off around Noon for a ninety minute flight to Pyongyang the capital of DPRK.

       A light lunch was served with beer.  It was tolerable.  The woman next to me had a monologue going with the guy on the other side of her.  Part of the plane fell off the ceiling just after takeoff.  She never stopped talking the entire trip.  I pretended to be occupied looking out the window and he just kept nodding and a uh huh once in a while.  She kept dropping things but couldn’t reach down over her belly to pick them up.  I retrieved compact case for her and actually it was a struggle for this belly.  We landed and took a bus to immigration where we waited in line again.  Then after getting into the claim area waited for our baggage.  Now we had to go through customs where I was called aside to search my bag.  They thought my mouse for the computer was a cell phone.  They do NOT allow any cell phones in Korea.  
          We had to wait until everyone cleared customs to board our assigned buses. 
We did that, loaded the bags and heading out for our hotel.  Along the way the tour company introduced the guides that would be with us for the trip. They were not KGB agents or anything of the sort. They gave the rules…no  photos without asking and never of any soldiers, no poking fun in public or joking around, and no political or controversial questions to the people.  
          They did one 5 minute stop on the way to take photos of the Arc de Triumph…which was bigger than the one in France.  We arrived at the hotel after spending the last part of the ride collecting money for the Mass Games that evening.  $150 Euros for a one and a half hour show…but it might be the last of it’s kind.  We all paid to go that night after dinner.  We were all falling asleep while waiting in the lobby for the keys to the room. We got one key between my roommate Jerry and myself. Best Hotel in Pyongyang?
        We unpacked in the room and took off for a beer before dinner.  We realized half way through the quart beer, that dinner was in minutes.  The waitress and manager came over to tell us we couldn’t take the beer we just paid for to the restaurant.  We left it behind and after popping in three different restaurants in the   hotel we found ours…the foreign one.  
        Everyone was waiting outside for the buffet to begin and had a beer.  We went to the gift shop to buy another for ourselves The refrigerator full of Beer, Soda and bottled water, was unplugged and it was all warm.  We decided to just go eat.  
       It was an OK buffet and at the end you could get a FREE cold beer.  We did. Jerry and I sat together along with a couple of other independents from another tour group.  They came in from England and said they were surprised to see all these Americans in North Korea.  Another couple introduced themselves from out group.  She was a head person at the INF and knew everything about dual or even triple and quadruple citizenship holders.  People were getting fed up with the way we waited in line for everything.  Well , we really didn’t have a choice.  I was glad I didn’t sign on for the additional tours.

       We all awoke early this morning to be at the airport for a 90 minute flight and it is 7 pm at night and we have done nothing but stand in line except for the photo shoot of 5 minutes.
      When Jerry and I unpacked we  wanted to freshen up before going to dinner…no HOT water.  They don’t make it available until 8pm.
      We also found out that we ALL were NOT going to the Mass Games….David, the tour leader’s bus load would go tonight and Hilda’s bus load (that’s me)  would go tomorrow. That suited me just fine.  Jerry had been on the tour leader’s bus so he left while we were eating.  We only had one key and he left his glasses at the table.  I stopped at the front desk, got him a key and jammed the lock with it so he could enter if I was asleep.  I left a note for him outside the door, put his glasses in the bathroom and took advantage of the HOT water so I could shower, and wash out my underwear and socks.
       We leave at 7 am for breakfast so I have to get to sleep. It is Saturday night and I have to stay up late to see the Mass Games tomorrow.

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