American Movies

A tap on my shoulder woke me up. I rubbed my eyes and looked out the window, only to find the same monotonous stretch of mountains that had first lulled me to sleep. We were still on the potholed-ridden roads of the Pyongyang-Wonsan highway.

“Why’d you wake me up?” I said to Park, the young North Korean guide who sat to my left. I spoke to him in banmal – Korean without honorifics – because of our age difference and the growing rapport between us. But, also from my displeasure of being woken up.

“Your iPad fell from your lap while you were sleeping.”

I thanked him for looking out for me and promptly picked up my tablet from the bus floor. I turned it on, tapping the screen a few times to make sure that no serious damage had taken place.

“Do you have any movies on that? We could use something to pass the time.”

“I don’t think you can watch these,” I said with some regret. “Everything’s American.”

Park proceeded to list a number of Western films: James Bond, Iron Man (1 and 2, but not 3), Mission Impossible, The Avengers.

“How in hell were you able to watch these films?” I exclaimed with incredulity. “You and I both know the situation here.”

“That’s a secret.” Park gave a mischievous grin that was all too telling.

“Anything from the South?” I knew I was pushing the conversation and so expected that smirk of his to disappear. But, it did not.

“I’ll take that as a yes, then.”

This conversation was translated from Korean. The name of the guide has been changed.

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