Nothing to Envy

22 Dec

In light of North Korea’s recent loss, I thought I would mention an excellent book on the country.  I saw a bit on the news tonight  about the mass hysteria that has erupted throughout North Korea at the loss of their leader.

Okay, tangent here.  Lenny Kravitz is being interviewed right now.  Okay, uh, wow.  I mean seriously, uh, wow.  Woo.   Wow, he is 47 and looks 35.  I never salivate like this but something about him . . .

Okay, back to North Korea as it were.  When I was in London last year (sigh, London and other parts of England call me again.  I LOVE THE U.K. AND EUROPE) I went a few times to Foyle’s Books.  Physically finding Foyle’s Books proved to be a bit of a challenge.  It is on Charing Cross Road so I thought that getting off at Charing Cross Tube station might do the trick. Hmmm.  Seems the road is rather diagonal.  An hour and many interesting directions later (‘you will cross a little bridge’) I found the store.   Score!  Anyway, I found this book – “Nothing To Envy” by Barbara Demick.  The subtitle is: “Real Lives in North Korea.”  She outlines the country’s history and talks extensively to some North Koreans now living in the south and to some still there.  It is an excellent and disturbing book and I’m certain it is available in our library system at here now.

I do love bookstores in the U.K.   Of course they have their fluff like every other bookstore on earth but they also have books I wouldn’t necessarily find here in Canada.  I love that. I loved spending hours in Waterstone’s in Brighton where I was staying and deciding what I would get. I even liked going to the airport earlier than I needed to and looking through WH Smith. 

Now some folks dis the London Guardian newspaper but I really like it.  And there it was every day when I was there – INSERTS INCLUDED (as they aren’t here).  I’d pick up the Guardian, the Independent, the Sunday Times.  Vague bliss really.  Yes, yes, online, yes, yes.  Though you do have to pay for the Sunday Times now which I, well, don’t.  But there is something about the paper right in front of me. . . sigh.

When I taught ESL (and where I will undoubtedly have to dip into again), the (South, obviously) Korean students, all young men in their early 20s, had served their 2 years in the military.  It’s mandatory and it is brutal.  They have described it to me both as brutal and as tremendous tedium.  It’s not easy for the boys – high school students spend 3 years, 16 hours a day, doing nothing but studying (they tell me it’s a bit easier now) and then the boys have to go into the military.  At various times in the last few years, I’d been fairly certain that they would be called back to their country to serve.  Not yet.  But now,  I wonder.  Korean culture is quite a drinking culture as well.  This would not, I don’t think, offend any Koreans I’ve known, they usually just agree.  It is deeply entwined with business there and young people, wowza do they drink.  Yes, yes, young people drink here too.  But there it  is often every night. It was usually my Korean students who would come in hung over.  And on occasion, still a bit drunk.  That soju is a strong drink I’m told.

Hmmm, I seem to be missing teaching a little bit. Well, just a little bit and mainly because I’m not doing much else at the moment.


5 Responses to “Nothing to Envy”

  1. Mike December 23, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    I loved “Nothing To Envy,” it’s a great read. Strange, compelling, well written . . . amazing how there’s an entire “different world” going on so unlike our own. It’s like a massive sociological experiment and the book describes it really well but also the human element too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: