Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day 5 - The great study hall of the people - Shenyang again

We only had time for one attraction this morning, which was this great study hall of the people. Apparently, this is like a library, except more. They hold various kinds of lectures there, and even have professors on hand to answer any questions one might encounter in their reading. As we were led into various rooms full of people studying, nobody really batted an eyelash - they were apparently used to this sort of thing.

At one point we were lead into a music listening room, full of stereos.

Earlier in the tour, the Great Hall tour guide had asked me what nationality the people in our group were, apparently making small talk. Here, I found out what I think the purpose of that conversation was. I think she had somehow communicated that to somebody or other, and as we came into this room, we were presented with a choice of American or Dutch pop music. We turned the stereos, loudly - definitely disturbing a couple of other people in the room who had been listening to music - and hung out for a few minutes before heading back.

Then the ride to the airport - I managed to miss the picture of Korea's single billboard, again - and that was about it. At the airport, the Dutch people managed to score some Korean currency from our guides - definitely illegal - and I managed to find my map of unified Korea that I had been looking for. On the plane back our newspaper yet again didn't disappoint. Apparently, according to it, some US admiral had taken a break from his sailing and for some reason decided to stop off in Pyongyang in time to see the mass games we had just seen earlier - all the while somehow escaping our notice the whole time we were there. In addition to being impressed by the games, he was apparently so entranced by their culture that he took some aspects of their grammar for his own as well:

"This is my first visit to Pyongyang. What an unbelievable moment to come and visit the capital city and see the incredible show. It is like a magic. It seems like a hundred thousand people are creating a magic. It is the most incredible show that I've ever seen. I've got an insight into the Korean history. Well, I think it deserves to be given an access to the Guinness World Records. It's amazing that such a nice organization
can happen. Sailing is very tired but I think I am so lucky as to have an opportunity to see 'Arirang' in Pyongyang."

The flight attendant we talked to on the way over said hi again on the way back. And that was about the end of that...

Coming back to China was initally a letdown from what I had experienced in the last five days. It really was amazing how much cleaner Korea was than what I was used to - and I had seen too much of the country for this to be a simple propaganda job. The standards of everything really were quite a bit higher than I had gotten used to over the past year. I hadn't had to do just about anything in the way of thinking for myself over the course of the trip, which I thought maybe to have been a bit relaxing. ...But as soon as that thought entered my mind I remembered the guides sitting over my shoulder, watching my every move, and that doesn't sound like a life I or anyone would want for more than a few days at a time.


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