Archive for December, 2011

Listening to Famine in North Korea

by on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Dr. Sandra Fahy

Dr. Sandra Fahy has been a close friend of mine since we first met, shortly after she arrived in Seoul. I couldn’t be more proud of her for reasons that are quite evident in this interview, which we did in September of this year. We plan to do two posts, one on the story behind her book and a second on the book itself, entitled The Biography of Loss: Collective Suffering and Social Fracture in North Korea.

Here’s a link to an interview Sandra did with Dr. Kang, the director of the Korean Studies Institute at USC for National Public Radio.

Sandra’s story

It began with my fascination with the holocaust as reflected in the arts, philosophy, psychology and the writings of genocide survivors. When I was majoring in literature in Canada, I read the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Viktor Frankl and Alexander Kimel, which were really insightful into the dynamics of suffering. I studied famine and social suffering for my master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, and I discovered that famine survivors had produced nothing like the work done by survivors of other crimes against humanity. There are two autobiographies, Grass Soup and My Bodhi Tree by Zhang Xianliang, a Chinese writer who survived the Great Leap Forward. A group in Canada collected oral testimonies from survivors of the Ukrainian genocide famine. Other than that, the writers are historians or journalists, so maybe 99.9% of the material was written by people who were never there. John Steinbeck wrote Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, excellent books that describe the experience beautifully, but he was not a survivor of it. The absence of work is astounding considering that famine is a human experience of Biblical proportions which is known to all people and all places.

I wondered why the silence. I knew what was going on in North Korea, and I saw the lack of research as a glaring omission. I’m a scholar at heart, inherently curious. So in 2000, when I finished my master’s degree, I got a job teaching English in Seoul. I learned Korean in the evenings. With this topic in mind, I went to the UK to work on a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of London. I learned how to do field research and how to approach, examine and digest my material and be respectful of it. In 2005 I returned to South Korea and started working with non-governmental organizations, and in 2006 I began my field research.

I wanted to get involved with the North Korean community in Seoul, so I volunteered as a translator for an NGO. This group was pretty radical. A lot of the members had survived North Korean political prison camps. When we went to dinner, there would be talk like “We’ve got to assassinate that mother-fucker, Kim Jong-il.” This was the group sending helium balloons into North Korea. Inside the balloons are plastic envelopes which contain flyers about who really started the Korean War and historical information about North Korea and its leadership. The flyers are obviously not safe reading material, so as an incentive to pick up the envelope they add a US dollar bill which you can be seen clearly through the plastic. Foreign currency is used a lot in North Korea on the black market.

I got to know people and started interviews. I told people exactly what I was doing and why I was working with the material. I had written consent forms, but often people just gave their consent directly into the tape recorder. I was a little hesitant at first to ask people about their experience. My focus was on the famine in the 1990s: what it was like, whether their political views changed and whether it led to a desire for rebellion. Given the lack of literature by famine survivors, I expected people to be a little embarrassed, a bit shy or reluctant to sit down and talk to me about it. But everyone who had direct experience of the famine said yes. I interviewed thirty people in total. Two seemed to be acting from a sense of duty, but everyone else said they really wanted to talk about it. They were extremely gracious.

I told them I was born in Ireland, which was also divided and colonized and where there had been famine as well. They knew about the history of Ireland. They were immediately sympathetic to my interest. When they asked why I learned Korean, I said, “So I could speak with North Koreans.” That always won them over. I never told South Koreans, but it embarrassed them if they found out.

It was weird to be in Seoul, a brilliant metropolitan hub, with people who were foreigners like myself, who were outsiders and social outcasts in a way. We knew that as we were talking the other reality north of the border was continuing. South Korea has given a lot to the world in terms of technology development and all kinds of things. I looked at the rich, well-dressed South Koreans and thought of the potential that was lost in North Korea. If the peninsula were one nation, capitalist or semi-socialist like Canada, it would be a powerhouse in a totally different way. I think reunification is impossible. The amount of work that would be required—economic, social, psychological, intellectual, infrastructural—is unprecedented on a global scale.

Of course I also worried about whether I could get the information I needed, but there was another kind of stress which made me reluctant to do the interviews. I became depressed. I had dreams of being in a landscape of deprivation. Eventually I became a bit numb, but even that was weird. I got very sick, but the doctors in Korea and the UK when I went back could never find out what was wrong with me. Maybe it was some kind of sympathetic, psychosomatic sympathy. I was eating just as usual and doing everything I normally do, but I became very thin, my hair started falling out and my skin got very bad. It was really bizarre.

Strangely, often the interviews would involve eating. If we were at someone’s house, for instance, they might arrange food, which was a bit awkward. A scholar working with holocaust survivors said that, while they were talking about hunger in the ghettos, they would have big buffets of food. Maybe it was a form of reassurance for the survivors, a tangible proof that the deprivation was over for them. I always took people out to eat after the interview as a way of thanking them.

I’d expected to hear anger toward the North Korean government. I thought there would be more disillusionment and criticism of the nation state as a failure, more camaraderie between individuals and more solidarity in overcoming their difficulties. I wondered whether this material would provide insights like the works of Frankl and Solzhenitsyn, but I didn’t expect that level of self-reflection or intellectualizing. What surprised me was how long and how much my interviewees trusted that the North Korean government would eventually provide for them. All thirty people had been happy, contented with life and the status quo. Since the division, the whole population in the North had adjusted to or become acclimated to rationing and under-nutrition. So when things started to go bad at the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s—and of course in the middle of the 90s with the flooding—the people were already used to a situation which was far from ideal. So their reaction was “okay we’re going to hustle, but we’ll do it.” Often they didn’t see that things had gone bad because the government was inconsistent: it would promise to deliver the food and do it, and it would promise and not do it.

They might first notice something was unusual when returning after an absence—for instance, a soldier who’d come back from military duty and seen that things had changed. One person said, “I noticed that my brother and sister were selling on the black market, and I wondered what the hell they were doing. We’d been educated not to do that.” Later he realized there was nothing for them to eat. His siblings had become more acclimated to the changes, possibly because in the military he’d been fed a little better.

People would notice that the children were falling asleep in school. Former school children would say, “I’d go to school, and the teachers would tell us we needed to bring certain items for the teachers to eat, and if we didn’t bring them we’d get punished.” People started locking their doors more. They saw more orphaned children wandering around, and they wanted to feed them, but they didn’t have enough. Someone in charge of the apartments in a building would notice that people didn’t have enough to eat, or they had only one set of clothes, and they would wash them, but then they had nothing to wear while the clothes were drying outside. It was really bizarre because they couldn’t even help each other out too much. We’re talking now about the most northern regions. Gradually the famine spread to Pyongyang.

At the time I was surprised at the willingness people demonstrated to stay and wait and trust as long as they did. In hindsight I’m not, because the North Koreans would talk about being much tougher than South Koreans and being able to put up with a lot more. They also have a lot of ingenuity, they’re creative and they know how to solve problems, and of course that’s something to be proud of. The context of South Korea shaped how people spoke about their lives in the North.

Anyway, we would meet in my apartment, their apartments or a third location. I had my cassette recorder, a map, consent forms, note paper and my electronic dictionary to use for translation. I would begin with, “Tell me about your home town. What was it like?” Individual personalities impacted a lot on the interviews, but no one was angry about the North Korean leadership or said they hated everything about North Korea. If they were angry it would be with the South Koreans—living very well, wasting food, worrying about their diet, wanting to be thin, dressing extravagantly, acting silly on television—while their so-called brothers are dying up in the North. I guess it was misdirected frustration.

The interviews got very emotional. The men my age—I was thirty at the time—didn’t want to tell me how hurt they were, but everyone else was really open and started getting very upset about it and crying. I’d be crying too. How can you not? The South Korean woman who transcribed the tapes said she cried when she was typing. Every South Korean I met who knew I did this work got emotional about it, although it was hard for them to approach North Koreans and show their feelings directly. But when they read the interview material or heard about it from me, they would allow themselves to feel their emotions.

So it was really sad. My interviewees would be upset because of a child or a neighbor who died of hunger, but also because everything they knew of their country had changed. They no longer had a part in the dream of what the country could be, even though they wanted to. They knew the decision to leave was final, even though it might not have been in their hearts. The state had decided. They might have gone into China to get medication or food or to sell lumber or whatever, they might even have been so sick they didn’t know they were being taken out, but then they were at a point of no return. There had been cases where people were successful at returning and talking their way out of punishment, but you couldn’t count on that. Some people were reluctant to move from China to South Korea.

Now, Koreans in Los Angeles may have a distilled understanding of Korean-ness going back as far as the 1960s when they emigrated, but that’s not how people in Seoul would define what it is to be Korean. The North Koreans lived in a time capsule, a sovereign nation with another version of Korea. In human history I don’t know that there’s another case that approximates this, not even the north and the south of Ireland. North and South Korea are so economically much farther apart from each other than East and West Germany were. The literacy rate in both North and South is very high except for the huge number of orphaned North Korean children. But the differences are vast, and they’re growing more each year. So the refugee is basically stepping from one world into another—having had the expectation that there would be more similarities. It’s heartbreaking for them. For example, they may think they speak the same language, they have the same blood line, they look the same and talk the same. And then they get to South Korea and they find they don’t have standard Seoul pronunciation. Even people from Cheju-do or Kwangju [in the southern part of South Korea] are discriminated against in Seoul.

The language of North Korea includes no borrowings from English. A huge percentage of the Korean vocabulary comes from borrowings from Chinese, but the North Koreans won’t know the Sino-Korean characters. [This limits what they can read]. Most North Koreans are shorter from being undernourished; their skin is darker and more worn. The South Korean standard of beauty is different. Then there’s the fact that both nations have been waging propaganda campaigns against the other. [In the recent past, South Korean school children had textbooks of North Koreans with as wolves or red devil faces and guns under their arms]. So the end result is that these underdogs are coming into a majority pool where they’re seen as people who failed. In some ways the society in North Korea may be superior to South Korea. There must be something because 23 million people live there—solidarity, community, who knows.

During the interviews, I really just went into their world, listening as carefully as possible and asking for clarification when I didn’t understand. One guy said, “I’m only going to talk for ten minutes.” Then he talked to me for about an hour. People found it strange that I was just interested in doing this without expecting anything from them. They didn’t see what we were doing as an exchange. Sometimes they wondered why we were talking about this, although they might have needed to talk about it for emotional reasons. Some people wanted payment or expected something in return.

Well, I went back to London and recovered from whatever illness I contracted. I finished my PhD in anthropology. For the dissertation I went over to the British library and selected sections of the interviews which seemed really pertinent, interesting, relevant, and I translated them. The dissertation had a different structure than the book I’m working on. There was a review of the literature. There was a chapter about what led up to the choice to defect. There was a chapter about control over the language North Koreans were allowed to use. That was the big thing that people talked about, how they were censored in North Korea. [People were not allowed to say they were hungry. They had to say they were in pain.] I looked for patterns in the testimonies, patterns of metaphor or how they referred to Kim Il-sung versus Kim Jong-il, how men coped with the famine, how women coped with it. How women talked about it, how men talked about it. The signs of trouble that told them they had to find another way to live. Going off into the mountains to look for food or planting their own private plots. Then there was a section about trauma and PTSD in a non-western context.

So I finished the PhD in 2009 and then I did a post-doc in Paris for one year, and got I did a post-doc fellowship here at USC for two years. I’m on my second year. My current employer at USC is incredibly supportive, but I think there’s a lack of understanding about how taxing research like this can be for the academic.

The book I’m now working on is a rewrite which follows the chronology of the famine. That’s the backdrop, but the greater topic and the theme that runs throughout the book is loss: loss of country, loss of loyalty, loss of trust, loss of family and friends. It continues into South Korea where survivors have a loss of identification. Their hopes are dashed in many ways. That’s the direction I’m moving in with the book now as I revise it. I’m still in touch with the North Korean community.

Reader comment:

This is about a woman I know who has been studying the effects of famine in North Korea for over ten years now.  It’s really changed her.  I didn’t understand what she was going through, how she was connecting on a heart-level with the people she was interviewing.  Now, I realize (a little better, anyway) how draining it was.  You can understand when she says that she got sick.  She was born in Ireland and grew up with the history of famine in her family background.  When I was there in August, 2000, I got a sense of the immediacy of that history in Irish lives.  They can see the poorhouses and the mass graves.  Many don’t know where their great-great-grandparents are buried.  The Irish culture is rooted in its soil and goes back thousands of years, very like the culture of Korea.
Transfer this to the Korean culture, where ancestors are honored at Chusok and Solnal, and you can get a glimpse of the damage that has been done to North Koreans’ hearts and minds.  I understand now why Sandra says that reunification may be impossible.  The southerners just don’t have the same experience; they haven’t lived/survived the same horrific “branding experience.” {I’m using that in the older sense of the term, like a calf or a slave being burned with a mark of ownership.}

Reader comment:

Thanks for the fascinating interview with Sandra, Carol. I was particularly struck by the North Koreans’ feelings of resentment not for abuses by the NK government but for the excesses of South Koreans. Interesting, too, that Sandra thinks reunification is impossible. A guest lecturer at Hanseo University a few years ago, a former Korean ambassador, opined that reunification would be possible only with the demise of Kim Jong-il. Time will tell what’s in store with the youngster Jong-un in power.

In the Mongolian Grasslands

by on Saturday, December 10th, 2011

In the mid-80s and earlier, most international tourists in China traveled with organized tours to places the authorities wanted them to see, while university students and faculty were more likely to be independent travelers who might well find themselves in areas that were “closed,” or off-limits to foreigners.

In 1986, I spoke with Valerie,  a fair-complected Australian studying Chinese at Xiamen University, or actually attached to the school but learning Chinese by traveling.  Her modest, unassuming manner gave her the ability to blend in almost anywhere without being noticed, except China.

Valerie’s story

I love the minority areas. The Chinese don’t always understand that. When you’re on these long train trips, and they say, “Where’ve you been?  Have you been to Beijing, have you been to Shanghai?”  Then they say, “Where do you like best?” and you say someplace like Kashgar or Mongolia or Yunnan, you can see they’re thinking, “God, the minorities—how do these people—they think that’s China—they go and see the minorities.”  They say to you, “But that’s not China!  China is in Beijing and Shanghai. These people out there are so luohou, so backward. You’re not allowed to go out there and think that’s China!”

It’s funny. I’ve met quite a few Han Chinese who really look down on the minorities. When I was in Xinjiang there were several incidents. Once when we were coming back from Kashgar on the bus—it’s about a three and a half day trip—there was a Uyghur lady sitting near me, and we got to be quite good friends. She was a very intelligent lady. When she spoke it wasn’t perfect Mandarin, she still had an accent, but you could understand her very easily. She was an interpreter for the Uyghur people. She had been to Beijing and had studied in the university, but you never would have guessed it. She was still a typical Uyghur lady in the scarf and thick stockings and purple dress.

When we stopped for the night, she and I were in the same room. She went in first and put her things on a bed, then I came in, and a Han man came in. Apparently we had registration numbers, but they’d gotten them all mixed up. Well, who cares. There was an empty bed, and she put her things on it. But this man’s wife had the bed, and this Uyghur lady should have taken another bed. He was talking to her as though she were a child. He turned to me, and when he found out I could speak Chinese he spoke to me at normal speed. But he spoke to her as though she were an imbecile, and he said, “These minority people don’t understand a thing.”

She was speaking to him in beautiful Mandarin, and it was just as though he wasn’t even hearing her. He had this idea that she couldn’t understand—even that the numeral four was different from the numeral five.

Quite a few times I’ve seen things like that. The Uyghurs, because they’re looked down on like this, hate the Hans. They’re friendly to us, and they say to us, “Well, we’re foreigners too. You’re like us.”

I have a very good friend who was sent to this place in [Inner] Mongolia to do experiments. She said it was a beautiful place, and I should go up there if I could. We knew it wasn’t open and there was no way they would give us permits.

We tried a few places, and they said, “Nah, you can’t go up there.”

We went as far up as we were allowed to go, and then I went to the railway station and said, “I want two tickets.”

“Why are you going there?”

“To see some relatives.”

The ticket seller turned around and said something to the people behind her. I could just make out “Russian.”

I thought, “Oh, good. They think I’m Russian.”

When we got there, as soon as we got off the train we made a dash for the bus station because we figured, “If we book in any hotel here, they’re going to tell the gonganju [police or public security] and they’ll be sending us back.”  So we just went to the bus station. We had no idea where we were going, and there were just crowds of people around us.  We thought, “God, any minute there’s going to be some officious-looking person coming.”

Then a large woman appeared over us who reminded me of an actress on an Australian television show, this huge woman who was half-Russian and thought I was a real Russian. She’d been sent out to talk to us and to ask us where the hell we thought we were going. When they found out we were students—because of course we couldn’t fool her, so we told her the truth—they thought that was fine.

“Well, great. Good to see you coming out here.”

We just said we’d take a ticket for “anywhere you think is nice” and hopped on a bus.

When we arrived it was nearing dusk. We had to book a hotel, and immediately we heard them go into the office and ring up the gonganju and tell them, “There’re two foreigners here. What should we do?”

So we thought, “We may as well go for a walk because they’ll be coming to find us soon. We’ll go and see what there is to see.”

It was a lovely place out in the grasslands. It was summer, but the roads were still in very bad shape because of all the rain they’d had in the spring. There was mud everywhere. We came up to a tractor pulling out a little truck. This huge Mongolian leapt off the back of the tractor and came over to us and said, “Hi. I’m from the foreign affairs department. I’m the newly assigned member to this area.”

“Hi. That’s nice.”

“Welcome, welcome here. How did you know that we’re about to open up this area?”

“Oh…oh…a friend told us. Yeah, we knew about it.”

“Oh, that’s great. And you’re students?  Good, good. I like to have students coming out to have a look at things. That’s what you should be doing.”

He was a lovely man. He took us to dinner, put out this big spread. He was hitting the baijiu [white grain alcohol] and getting very merry and had a few friends in, and we were getting on very well.

Then he said to us, “Where do you want to look?  I can arrange to take you anywhere. There’s a photographer from Hong Kong coming out here tomorrow. He specially asked permission to come out here because he wants to photograph the grasslands. Why don’t you go along with him?  Good opportunity–you’ve got a car and so on…”


“We’ll pick you up tomorrow morning.”

Then this woman came in. She was quite young, and I decided immediately that this might be her first job because she was pretty unsure of herself. She was from the gonganju , and he was from the waiban [foreign affairs], which was separate.

As I was easing out the door she said, “I’ve been told you were out here. Where’s your permit?”

“But we’re students!  Ask this man. Here he’s looking after us. He says we don’t need permits.”

He was backing us up. He was so jolly by this stage he said, “Yes, they’re fine. I’ll look after them. I’m in the foreign affairs department.”  He hadn’t even met this woman.

So she went on her way. We got back to the hotel, and about one or two in the morning there was a knock on the door. She had come back with reinforcements.

“OK, where’s your permit?”

We kept saying, “Oh, you’ve heard the man. We don’t need one. This place is open. Or it’s nearly open.”  We just talked on and on, and she gave up in the end.

“We’re leaving tomorrow morning. We’re not going to bother you, don’t worry. We’ll leave.”

So she went off.

We had a good time with this man. He sent out a car, and we went way out into the grasslands. The photographer had permission to go to an area so close to the Soviet border that even the Chinese who live there need a special permit to get in. They were a bit apprehensive that we wouldn’t be allowed in, but the photographer had his papers all written up properly, so we just sat quietly in the back of the car. When the officials had a look in and said, “What about these two?”

We just said, “We’re with him…we’re with him.”  They let us through.

It was beautiful. It was a bit put on. The photographer only had a certain amount of time, and he’d arranged for the local minority people to come in traditional costumes. It was hot. I was dressed in a skirt and a shirt with short sleeves. Some of the minority people came dressed as the Chinese usually do—in a shirt and slacks—and then changed into the traditional clothes, but most of the women and men wear these warm costumes year round. They had brought a big herd eight hundred or a thousand horses and they were galloping them back and forth in front of the photographer so he could take pictures. Instead of catching them like our cowboys do with a lasso or a rope, they have this big long stick with a loop on it. They’ ride up right beside the horse and then just put the loop around his neck. It was fun to watch.

The photographer was treated like royalty up there, and we were included in everything. It was wonderful.

After three or four days we said, “Well, we think we’ll have to get going now. How do we get back to the road so we can try to catch a bus?”

“Oh no, we’ve got a car here, and we’ll take you back in.”

“No, no. That’s too much trouble.”

“You don’t think I’ve been sitting around here waiting all this time because I think it’s hao war [great fun] or anything, do you?  They all know you’re out here.”

He drove us back to town. We said, “OK, just let us off at the station, we’ll be getting on our way now.”

“No, no, no. I’ve been told to take you to see the Big Chief.”

So we had to go and see him. He gave us a little talking to about what we thought we were doing there. It was strange. He was very interested in why we picked that particular place. I don’t know if he really had ideas I had some Russian contacts, but he wanted to know why we had chosen that area specifically. When we just came out and said that it was pure chance. We told him the whole story and said, “This happened like this and this, nothing behind it…”

“Ah, ah!”  He was very relieved.

We were all forgiven and had to promise that if we came again we would tell him first. We were sent, sort of escorted, to the station. The man waited until we got on the train and waved to us and saw to it we didn’t come back again.

Actually, I’ve had very few run-ins with public security even though I’ve just gone where I wanted to. Now there are so many more places that are open. You don’t have to go running around behind someone’s back.

There was another incident the second time I went to Hailandao. I went there to see a friend I’d met the first time I was there. She had a new job teaching Vietnamese children in a school quite a ways out of the city. I never did find out much about it because her parents were ill or something and she’d had to leave suddenly. I just missed her. I’d written and told her I was coming and just assumed she’d be there, and normally she would have. Luckily a friend of hers overheard me saying where I was going and who I was going to meet, and she knew my friend had left that morning, so she said, “Well, come and stay with me.”

Word spreads so quickly, and we’re very obvious, of course. That night we were visited by public security, who came and wanted to know what I thought I was doing there.

“Oh, I’m going in the morning.”

I had come on the last bus that evening. That was okay. I didn’t know whether they were putting me on or not, but they were so concerned about my safety. “We want your things, we want them put here, and we don’t want anybody coming in because there’d be a big mess if any of your things get taken, so we want you to stay here and we want your things to stay here.”

The Chinese authorities want us to see all the concrete and the modernization. “There are no facilities there for you, and you wouldn’t be happy there. It’s best you leave.”  They just don’t like us to see areas that they we think are lovely because they’re so simple and left alone.

I think the railways are quite marvelous. I mean, there are so many people they’re moving from one place to another, and they still manage to stay pretty much on time. The trains are kept clean. They’re crowded to the roof, and yet they manage to keep order, and there’s little theft. The people are very friendly to each other, not just with me. Watching the Chinese, you see they’re very happy to strike up a conversation with the people beside them. Even though they know they’re going to be together just for a few hours, they’re concerned about each other and look after each other. It seems well organized in a way, though it can be chaotic. But just think what they’re so many people. I’ve heard many travelers complaining about the inefficiency, but I think the trains are just great.

There are so many little things people do. That’s why you want to be in China. It’s the people. When I was in Hailandao the first time, I was walking along the beach and met this guy, a fisherman or a worker who would have been sixteen or seventeen or so. We were just walking along and talking and picking up shells. We didn’t have long because I had to catch a bus in about ten minutes. He knew I was studying here, and I think he knew my name was Valerie. A few weeks later I got a beautiful letter from him. He had wanted to send me some shells, but he couldn’t find any he thought were nice enough, so he sent me some coconuts instead. There was this big bag with three or four, I think. It was a lovely thought. I couldn’t thank him because I didn’t even know his name.

The first year I was here, a couple of days before Chinese New Year, I was going down to Nanning to see some friends. On the train a little girl came and sat down beside me. She had a comic book or something, and we were talking about it when her mom and dad came over and asked, “Is she bothering you?  She’s always like this with people.”

I said, “No, no.”

We started chatting. They asked me to come and stay with them at her mother’s place. They were halfway to Nanning. They insisted I get off with them, and many, many times I said I couldn’t do that. I refused endless times. They would not listen to me. I put up any number of arguments why I couldn’t and so on. But they said, “It’s two days before New Year, so you’ve still got time to get to your friend’s place. Stay with us for a day.”  So I did.

Again it was a place I wasn’t supposed to be. We just got off at the railway station. Because they lived just down the line, we didn’t go through the main gate, we just walked along the tracks and over a fence or something. We came in the house, and here was this poor mother. She hadn’t seen her daughter for a couple of years, and then her daughter and son-in-law walked in dragging this foreigner. You can imagine how she felt. But immediately everything was under control and I was to stay with them. I ended up staying a couple of days, and I didn’t get to my friend’s for New Year, but that didn’t matter. It was so lovely. There are so many, many little experiences that don’t seem like much when you talk about them, but you know you’ll never forget.