Thursday, October 07, 2010


This week I finished a book called This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood, by Hyok Kang. Such a sad story. But I recommend it anyway. Hyok was 12 or 13 when he and his parents escaped to China in 1998, in the midst of North Korea's famine and subsequent starvation of its population. He begins his story by telling about growing up in North Korea, attending compulsory school six days a week, as well as three hours' "agriculture" work after class each day and all day on Sundays. Students wore requisite uniforms and badges bearing the pictures of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

After the groundwork is laid, the story unfolds about the famine in the early 1990s, and how North Korean families coped, until there was nothing left to save them. Starvation was widespread for years in North Korea, and through it ran black markets, stealing, ingenious methods for survival, and again: sad stories.

North Korea makes for an interesting sociological case study. Grade school students are encouraged to tell bad things about their classmates and about themselves, kind of like a tattle-and-confessional all in one. This makes the environment fertile for mistrust and unkindnesses, and one can see how this might play into the depths of despair during the famine: few people are willing to trust their neighbors, much less help them. Additionally, the latter part of the book relates how North Korean defectors are viewed by South Koreans: not popular, sometimes not trusted, often called "dwarves" because of their size (no doubt, the author points out, due to severe malnourishment in North Korean childhood.) Again, a case study in sociology.

This book is a very simple read, although there were a few paragraphs that I opted out of due to the gory details. But it gave me pause to think: would I have the wherewithal to boil grass and bark simply to live another day, or perhaps half-day? How difficult it must have been to be a parent in North Korea in the 1990s. So...I leave it up to you to check this book out of your local library and see where it takes you.

* * * *

I got up and cooked that Spouse o' Mine breakfast at 3:37 am today. No, nope...not something I normally do, and he doesn't normally WANT breakfast at 3:37 am, but that is how our day started. And I'm not feeling too fresh right now.

Later in the morning I read online that K-State was expecting hordes of Nebraska motorists to be buzzing down our roads later this afternoon and that if we had any errant errands to be done, do them earlier in the day. Or at least, that's how I took it. So I left early to run some UPS errands. I returned home to read an email stating that the College Boy needed to pay tuition. WHAT?! I went to his online tuition thing, and it stated he paid weeks ago. WEEKS AGO. So I called up the money people at WWU, and was promptly told that they had mistakenly emailed all the students who had already paid tuition instead of the ones with outstanding accounts. Oops.

Soon after, I received a call from our local bank: They needed a new address for the Grad Student. I tried to give it to them, but she said she couldn't take it over the phone. And could I deliver the message to the Grad Student, so she can call them? I asked how that works, exactly, if they won't take the new address over the phone in the first place.

This was about the same time my 3:37 am common sense left me anyway, so I called the Grad Student and left her a ridiculous message, and then went and made myself a stiff cup of coffee.

* * * *

I have barbecue chicken in the oven for dinner and some collard greens out in the "winter garden" ready to pick. My winter garden looks about as haphazard as my summer garden did. Believe it or not, I STILL have tomatoes coming on the vine. They won't make it to red, but maybe I can make some green tomato somethingorother with them. The horseradish has completely overtaken the tomato vines, but now I have hauled the stringy vines to lay across the giant (waist-high) horseradish leaves in an attempt to get them exposed to more sun, which is how tomatoes turn red in the first place, we all know. And I planted more lettuce (up!), delectable fennel, the aforementioned collard greens (good vitamins), some random carrots and probably things I have forgotten but once matured, will jog my memory. All-in-all a very unsightly garden, but still, it's producing some fun things.

* * * *

In my quest for fun and games when it comes to physical fitness, I have embarked on a virtual trek across the US on my virtual bike and with my virtual running shoes:

Tools to Keep You Active:

So far I have run and cycled virtually to Mechanicsville, VA, not quite straight north of Richmond, which Daughter #2-The-Career-Girl now calls home.

I could give her an imaginary phone call
and drop in for a cup of imaginary tea,
if she has an imaginary bike lock:
(The black shows how far I've gone, and the blue part of the line...uh,...
reminds me that I shall be running and cycling
until I am 98 years old.)
At this rate, I should be seeing the west end of Virginia in, say, January 2011?

1 comment:

Claire Hilary said...

I almost wanted to move there! It is literally about 5 minutes away!

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