The two men that approached me actually looked pretty typical. In fact, looking back at their approach, they were fairly nerdy looking guys. The only thing that gave away their affiliation and intentions was their clothing. They were dressed for the heat, in banana-colored shirts and khaki pants, but they were entirely too clean and together. In their approach they were clear in their identification and had actually addressed me by name, but I couldn’t quite hear them because right as they started talking a gigantic choir began singing songs of peace behind me. I had to stifle laughter as their mission was interrupted by angelic voices, particularly the voices of children.
They asked me two questions that told me a great deal about why they were following us, the first being a general query about where I was from in the United States. It was said with gentle curiosity, so I think they were genuine. The second was literally “Are you bringing more people with you?” and I was a little shocked and confused. Did they think I was literally flying more people in that same day? Were they referring to more Black people? More trade unionists? When they asked, one of them took out a notebook, so I think they wanted specifics. By that point, I was worried I was misunderstanding them so I asked one of our translators to come by and help me.
Once they arrived and saw who I was speaking to, it was clear to me that I was truly having a conversation with intelligence agents. My translator buddy was hostile toward them and a little unhappy that we were talking. She wasn’t upset with me necessarily, just unhappy with the situation as they apparently had also been talking to Jill Stein with similar questions. After some excuses, I was away from them and on to the next task.
We had a rally to speak at and, while there is photographic evidence it happened pretty quickly. All I remember is getting up there, nearly falling off the stage stairs because the heat was getting to me, and saying a few words. Afterwards, I basically sat in the Buddhist temple until it was time to leave. Though this meant skipping the march, I felt I made the right call. My body was exhausted and I needed to rest my extremities as they had seriously swollen.
From there we said goodbye to our hosts at the retreat center and made our way to the van. It would be a long drive to our next hotel and we were all very tired. We would stop along the way for dinner with some union members, beginning 24 hours of labor interactions.
Wol-San, in addition to being our amazing guide and translator, works for the largest union in the KCTU. That union, KPTU (check the Resource page for more information,) represents an interesting cross-section of public sector employees and transportation workers (think if AFSCME, IBT and SEIU merged.). Members of her union graciously agreed to eat with us. The conversation we were a part of shined more light on what life has been like for union members pre- and post-uprising. It was also good to be able to have real union members in front of my delegation comrades who don’t normally have this kind of interaction with my folks.
At one point, during a discussion of whether things were improving with the Moon administration, there was disagreement between two union steward equivalents. One, a man who worked in transportation, felt that Moon needed more time to fully realize his potential in office and thought once he had solidified enough political support he would be more progressive but still thought his election was the end of the uprising. The woman sitting across from him, a lead steward who worked in education, disagreed and issued her disappointment in the new administration. She felt the fight was far from over and that there was so much more to be done. I had to smile at the conversation, reminding myself of the arguments in breakrooms I witnessed during the Obama administration.
Same as it ever was.
Day 4 will be a three-parter and much heavier in detail than usual, so I let this one be a little shorter with more pictures.