North Korea by Candlelight

Posted: 8th August 2006 by Eric D in SinoPenn
Tags: , ,

This is actually today’s post, while the last one was supposed to have gone up 4 days ago. So I’m a little behind.. eh.

I’m still in Dandong & last night was one of China’s Ghost festivals. All across the city, people were burning small yellow pieces of paper with chinese characters on it. Perhaps a local could enlighten us laowais about what’s on the paper and a bit more about the tradition. Others were burning fake money. By about 11pm, the streets were filled with piles of burnt ash all around it.

Sabrina, one of the Chinese Teachers at Aston English here, went with me to the river bank. She was trying out a brand new camera, so again… I’m still hoping to get some of those pics to post here. North Korea was on the other side. Looking backward, Dandong was completely lit up. There was music playing at the park next to the river, with fountains throwing synchronized water everywhere. Old men & women were dancing with their flags, maybe about 50 or so as a crowd gathered to watch. Many people were playing badminton or playing with those feathery things that look like hackey-sack.

On the North Korean side… nothing. No music, no park, no dancing, nothing. Only one large light and about 4 smaller lights eminated from the city on the other side of the river. The bridge that extends across has the border between North Korea & China clearly marked. The Chinese part of the bridge is all lit up with multi-colored flashing lights. The North Korean end of the bridge is dark. It was a very surreal scene.

Sabrina mentioned to me about crossing the bridge. The guards on the other side can get right nasty. They don’t see the Chinese as Chinese. They see any foreigners crossing as animals. When one has to cross over to North Korea, the guards try to humiliate them as best they can, trying to get them to act like animals before they can get their passport back. You’re much safer crossing over at night though, as if you do have to act like an animal, no one can see anyways, because the city across the river shuts down all power at 8pm. The only light left comes from candlelights where younger North Koreans study Chinese, Russian or English, secretly & late at night.

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