Mark works at Osgoode Hall Law School and last week was his end-of-term Convocation Dinner. I have attended this swanky dinner with him since 2004, and it is a lot of fun to get dressed to the nines and talk with law professors and law “celebrities”. Since I work in the library department which houses the legal collection, I even know who some of these York University professors are since we carry their books. Authors always are flattered to find out that libraries carry their books.
Last week we chatted with the former Associate Dean. She was Mark’s boss and always took an interest in our love of competitive Scrabble, and of my trips across Europe to study minority languages. She asked me what I was planning on doing this summer. Instead of feeling hesitant about revealing my plans, I told her as naturally as if I had announced that I was planning a trip anywhere. The former Associate Dean could not believe it–and insisted that she sit at our dinner table that evening.
Now that my trip is only two months away I have begun to tell people about it. Those who have been reading my blog since February have been in the know already for months; yet I had been hesitant to tell people about my plans for fear that they’d think I was some kind of comsymp nutcase. I must admit, the reaction of the former Associate Dean has been typical of the reaction I have been receiving: fascination, stunned wonderment, and full of questions.
Accompanying these reactions is usually a request to bring back some kind of souvenir. I have been inundated with requests to send people postcards. I will definitely write, as that will be the easiest souvenir to get for people. I am surprised however to have received multiple requests to bring back DPRK pins. Everyone in the DPRK must wear a pin of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung or the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il. It is mandatory. Even the Dear Leader himself wears a pin of his late father.
Since everyone in the country wears a pin, my friends are probably under the impression that they are available everywhere. These pins are supplied by the party and are not for sale. You can find plenty of pins for sale on-line, yet these are all counterfeits. One can even purchase counterfeit pins in Peking. I will not be buying any pins while in China, even if they are advertised as “direct from the DPRK”. The pins are small and there is always the chance that they might come unattached and be lost. I am sure pins are lost every day on the streets of Pyongyang, yet how do DPRK citizens acquire replacements without revealing that they failed in their duty to the Fatherland to take good care of them? I cannot imagine the penalty for being seen not wearing such a pin. The only way I will be bringing home a pin is if I find one on the streets of Pyongyang, and then I will be lying awake all night wondering what will become of the poor soul who has found himself without.