Call your doctor; say you're going to North Korea

"I'm a bit at a loss...", he said. "I know. They don't keep statistics," seemed the only reasonable response.

For being a nuclear power, my impression of the DPRK is that parts are still very rural. And with the rains having washed out several roadways, I expect mosquitoes to be be in full force. So I'm getting anti-malarial drugs, a typhoid vaccine, and some other goodies. Did I mention a polio booster? Now, if I could only get a smallpox vaccine, I'd have my vaccine bingo card pretty much punched.

The phone call with my doctor did provide my first insight as to what people are going to say, though. His second reaction (beyond being mystified, because apparently he's not seen this this country on an immunization request form before) was, "is it safe?" Followed immediately by, "uh... why?"

The answer to the first, I believe, is emphatically yes. At least, no riskier than flying/driving can be.. and probably a good deal safer. Judging by the videos I've seen of the roads in the DPRK, our bus isn't exactly likely to get into a fender-bender. Or a real crash. And I suspect the internal flights will be damn near the only ones running that day. Having done the research, and being so familiar with the concept of minders, it seems obvious to me that we're not going to be led into a perilous situation. That would reflect poorly on our guides, which would be worse for them than for me. And then there is the actual company that does business solely on reputation (and seems to have quite a good one). I'm going to be watched like a hawk. Safety is not even on my radar as a concern.

As to the "why?" I guess that's a more difficult question. Those of you that know me know why. Logistically, it is the convergence of vacation days, finances, and being at a good time in the software release cycle to take a month away. But if it were just that, I could go anywhere. I'd like to go skiing in Argentina one day. But that will always be there. I'm not sure that the trips into the DPRK always will be (and will always be like they are now). There's something appealing of going to the last battle line of the cold war in the modern world. I can't imagine how I'll feel at the communist monuments. The Brandenburg Gate was emotionally evocative. An entire country dedicated to the cause will (hopefully) be perspective shifting.

And then there's just the cool factor. Seeing the largest show on earth? Yes please. Huge beautiful volcano crater lake? Sounds magical. An additional appreciation for my country and the living conditions it provides while helping to pave the way for future tourists and improved living conditions in that foreign land? I'll take that, too.

Oh, and then there's the travel trump card when talking to anyone but soldiers and foreign journalists. "Most interesting place I've traveled to? Well, there was that one time I spent two weeks in the DPRK..."


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