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North Korea or Bust: Me, my Shenyang hotel and www.technorati.com

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(To see photos of my hotel room, its view and the entrance to a Manchu tomb, go to my blog.)


If you want to get a press pass to either the Republican or Democratic convention this fall, you have to apply for it through the congressional press office before April 15. This means that I won't be getting vetted for media credentials by the parties themselves. This is a good thing. I don't think either party likes me all that much.

The Republicans don't like me because I think they are wimps. They let the Bush-Cheney neo-cons use slime, name-calling, dirty tricks and lies to steam-roller over their principles, patriotism and "family values" and allow these fast-talking con-men to steal their party's very soul. Wimps.

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And the Democrats don't like me because I think that they are wimps too -- afraid to think outside the box, call themselves liberals and get on with representing the working class and saving the world.

Anyway, in order to get a press pass to the two conventions, one apparently needs to have "authority" from Technorati. Nobody else has ever given me any authority. Why should Technorati start now?

And what exactly IS Technorati? I googled it and found out. And guess what? It turns out that I actually do have authority with Techorati. And my "authority" is the number 305,278. Sounds authoritative to me.

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And now I'm over in northeastern China, but not getting any authority over here either. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is still refusing to give me a visa.

I was supposed to leave for North Korea yesterday with a tour group that arrived in Shenyang two days ago, spent a day sightseeing around at the tombs and palaces and a museum devoted to the Revolution and then happily toddled off to the airport without me, with their DPRK visas in hand. And here's me, stranded at my hotel without a visa, sadly waving goodbye.

I've been here in Shenyang for five days and I've spent most of those five days bugging various officials regarding my visa request. Now whenever anyone who has anything to do with granting visas sees me coming, you can just see them thinking to themselves, "Oh, no. Here comes Jane again. Where can I hide!"

The guards at the North Korea embassy know me by sight. The clerks at the North Korea travel agency are helpful but firm. "We can't do anything for you, Jane." The personnel at the North Korea airline office are really friendly and nice but the bottom line is that they are not allowed to put me on a plane without a visa. I've learned a lot about North Koreans just by trying to get a visa. They are truly polite and friendly. But definitely know how to stand their ground.

As I was standing in front of the DPRK embassy today, I met some Christian Koreans from Australia who were going there to deliver food for the children, and they offered to talk with the consulate on my behalf. I totally appreciated that they would do that for me but doubted they would get a response.

I somehow got the embassy's inside phone number and gave them a call. Their answering machine said, "Leave a message," in Korean. Or maybe it just said, "Don't call us, we'll call you."

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Apparently North Korea's visa-granting committee only meets once a week in Pyongyang and they aren't scheduled to meet until next week. But next week will be too late for me. My flight back to California leaves on April 17.

This whole thing is SO frustrating. I've come all this way for nothing. North Korea is just over the freaking border from me but it might as well be on the moon. How frustrating. And this is the exact same way I felt in February at the Kuwait City airport when I was SO close to Iraq but the US military wouldn't let me in there either. What is WRONG with me? What is wrong with them? "Jane, you just don't have the authority." Crap.

I'm really sorry for bugging you with all this whining, guys, but nobody in Shenyang seems to speak English or I'd whine to them instead. Never mind. I'll whine to them anyway, English-speaking or not.

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Stillwater is a freelance writer who hates injustice and corruption in any form but especially injustice and corruption paid for by American taxpayers. She has recently published a book entitled, "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips For Touring (more...)

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