Trump Tower, New York, Christmas Eve 2014
Hi! Is Donald Trump home tonight?
No. It’s Christmas Eve. He’s in his other place.
Can you please give him this letter? You see I’ve come all the way from Sweden to offer him a role in reality musical that will have its Broadway premiere in 200 years. And in the musical, he gives me 1 million dollars.
1 million dollars, yes. And in return I will make him a Broadway hero in 200 years. I’m selling him the future. Who doesn’t want the future?
I don’t think I understand.
We are going to invest in Africa! Make the world a better place. And people will not expect it from him, that’s why it will be a Christmas miracle. That’s why I waited until today. I’ve already composed all the music.
Ok… Well, I will give the letter to him.
I put my things down by the enormous Christmas tree and asked if I could sit down with the security guys a few meters away. They were from Romania. We started talking and it turned out we had common friends working for Ceausescu.
I met Ceausescu’s chef in Bucharest 10 years ago. She was the landlady of the journalist I was staying with. One day I asked if I could ask her some questions about Ceausescu and she said “What do you wanna know? I worked in his inner circle for 15 years”.
She told me that she was followed by the KGB 2 years before she got the job. And that Ceausescu and his wife never ate lunch together. He ate first then she ate one hour later. When he came into the restaurant he used to wave to the staff, but he never looked anyone in the eyes.
Ceausescu becomes a dictator
In 1968 Ceausescu held the speech in Bucharest front of hundreds of thousands where he condemned Russia’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. It was Ceausescu’s opposition to Moscow that launched him onto the world stage.
With Ceausescu came a new era when nationalism boomed and people felt like they were no longer the slaves of Moscow. World leaders flocked to Bucharest and Ceausescu organized huge crowds to great them. Flower, cheering crowds, fancy cars. The whole thing.
But early on, not only communists supported Ceausescu. National intellectuals endorsed him. They put their pen to paper and shortly after the Ceausescu personality cult was born.
“When you speak, rocks turn to mountains”
“Your very existence is a miracle for man”
“Circling the planet as a messenger of our values”
The wife becomes a great scientist
Ceausescu’s wife Elena, had left school by the age of 14 with a good mark in needlework, but the Romanian media were required to show her in a more intelligent light. So they turned her into a scientist. Songs were being written about her accomplishment within science, videos were being made showing her getting all sorts of academic titles.
Ceausescu modernized and industrialized the country. Farmers could move into new apartments and even if the country was far from getting rich, it became less poor. At least that’s how it all started.
One day Ceausescu visited a farm. The people at the farm had been rehearsing the visit for 3 days, and since the sun was so hot the food went bad, so they had to make sausages of trees and fruits of plastic, then painting them.
Luckily Ceausescu didn’t take a bite of any fruit when he finally arrivled in his helicopter 6 hours late. Surely it all looked good on TV, but people felt strange displaying al these fake exotic fruits and meat since everyone knew there was no food to be found.
Planes traded for a ship of oranges
1978 the British government invited Ceausescu to Britain. Britain was hoping for Romania to buy airplanes from them. It was a time when Romania’s reported economic success was tested in the real world.
Ceausescu’s delegation offered a special sort of deal where you could pay, not with cash, but with things. Like for example a ship full of oranges.
The truth was that Romania by this time was experiencing an economic catastrophe. The national debt was 10 billion dollars.
But in the traditional style of a dictator, Ceausescu started to build a palace while his population was starving. Actually, not just a palace, but the biggest and heaviest palace in the world.
He also started to but re-build the whole city center of Bucharest, Project Bucharest it was called, tearing down historical buildings and moving churches, all in order to try to turn Bucharest’s city centre to a replica of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.
The North Korean love story
Ceausescu visited Kim Ill Sung and North Korea in 1971. A state visit that went way better than the ones with the Brits. Ceausescu was immensely inspired by the North Korean capital Pyongyang and the Juche ideology, the state ideology of North Korea.
The Juche ideology is still today the state ideology of North Korea. Juche is Marxism-Leninism + self-reliance as a state. It replaced Marxism-Leninism after Kim Ill Sung realized he needed an ideology of his own.
North Korea was from its birth in 1953 one of the Soviet Union’s satellite states supported also by China, but eventually, Kim Ill Sung got tired of being the little brother.
Juche is a little bit like Flat Earth ideology (a philosophy claiming the world is flat) since it’s the opposite of the truth. North Korea has never been self-sufficient.
Actually, North Korea was richer than South Korea during the cold war. While North Korea was booming in the 60’s South Korea went through dictatorship, military coups and got financial aid from all sorts of countries. In 1957 South Korea shared a similar GDP as Ghana.
And when the Soviet Union fell in 1991 the economic situation in the country changed drastically. A great famine hit North Korea and the government had to hire people to collect dead bodies from the streets. Around one million people died during the famine in the 1990s.
So from the support of the Soviet Union, North Korea started to depend on international aid. Ironically with South Korea as one of the biggest donors.
My time in North Korea
I celebrated New Year’s Eve in North Korea last year. I was there to film and I went there on a group tour organized by the state.
People always asking me what it was like, and I always struggle trying to summarize the experience. It’s by far the strangest experience of my life.
While the people I met there were just as warm, kind and fun as people from other countries, most of them have never heard about the existents of the ATM. My North Korean fried couldn’t believe me when I told her about money coming out of a wall.
I speak Korean. I used to live in South Korea and study Korean at University in Seoul. I’ve also been engaged in human rights in North Korea for 15 years, smuggled people out of the country and read most of the famous books written by defectors.
This my favourite: Dear Leader, My Escape from North Korea
My best friend in North Korea
I became very close with the 23-year old female guide. She dreamt about becoming a diplomat and work for peace. She was extremely smart, funny and we had spent a lot of time together, me and her.
We always sat next to each other in the back of the tour bus and we had a lot of conversations in private about all sorts of things in life.
About boys, about being a girl in Sweden compared with North Korea. About our ambitions, relationships and getting married.
I told her that Swedish women can have sex with lots of men without getting married to any of them. She said Korean women have to stay virgins until they marry.
I remember us laughing about it and how much she liked my stories about the many “boyfriends” I’ve had in my life.
I never felt that she was judging me.
The only thing I felt was her curiosity, intelligence and love.
Lack of information about the world
Most people in North Korea have very little information about most things in our world. They are fed fake news from the moment they are born and they are taughed to believe things that are not real, that are not true, that hasn’t happened in our history.
Most believe that US invaded North Korea and stared the war, when it was actually North Korea that invited South Korea in 1951.
Being sexually harrased in North Korea
Then one day I remember that she told me that suicide didn’t exist in North Korea. Not a mental illness or sexual harassment either. Actually it was the guys in the group that brought up the metoo movement and we tried to explain what it was all about for her.
I think she struggled with understanding why or how people could organize for a cause in general (not knowing about how the internet works). But one thing she was sure about, sexual harassment didn’t exist in North Korea.
A few days later we were drinking at the hotel. It was the last night. One of the men working with the tour group I was grabbing my ass when we were walking in the corridor a group of people.
Usually, when a man touches me, I get scared and I freeze not knowing what to do, which is one of the most common reactions to sexual harassment and abuse. But since I felt so comfortable with my friend and maybe because I had such a strong desire to show her the world – I told her directly. Within 5 seconds.
That man touched my ass, I said.
But she just laughed. She didn’t understand. She had no idea that what I just told her about was sexual harassment.
North Korean men asking about Sweden
We went into another bar in the hotel where a lot of the other tourists were already hanging out. I saw a group of Korean men sitting outside and deiced to sit down with them, but I didn’t know how to approach them.
Eventually one of them came to the bar to order. I started speaking with him in Korean and then he invited me to come and drink with them.
Obviously, I didn’t go all the way to North Korea to sit and drink beer with some tourists from Germany or Spain.
They were 3 Korean men and one Chinese man who was the boss. I looked around and saw the camera filming us while we were sitting there outside the bar.
We spoke a lot about Korea. About my time in South Korea and about the trip I’ve made during the week in North Korea. Eventually, I asked them what they thought about Sweden.
“What is the climate like?” the first one asked and I answered. “What is nature like?” the second one asked and I answered. “What is the weather like?” the third one answered and then I just said “Stop asking only about the weather or the climate!” even if I knew they couldn’t ask about other things. We were watched the whole time.
Then all of a sudden, this Chinese man just leans closer to me and grabs my breast with one hand. I was so shocked and for once really ready for it (since the earlier incident) that I slapped him. Hard. And I told him off.
Then I looked at the other men around the table and it felt like time was standing still. No one of the Korean men said a word.
But in their faces I saw their empathy in the situation. But I also knew that they could never stand up to their Chinese boss since that could easily risk getting fired and lose the wage that your whole extended family is depending on. So I just changed the topic. It was still so interesting and I ignored the Chinese man who was just way too drunk to talk anyway.
Kissing to a Korean man
The Korean man sitting next to me whispered at one point in my ear that he knew about democracy. He was very smart and he had traveled outside the country. I whispered that in Sweden we can believe in whatever we want to and he said he knew.
We kept on whispering and sharing secrets about the world. And we drank and he smiled at me while he was pouring me more and more beer.
He was younger than me, I think 28. But he could speak pretty good English which is not common in North Korea.
Living in Pyongyang
He was not just one of the few privileged being allowed to live in the capital. Only people with connections to the party lives in Pyongyang. If you, for example, have a grandparent who fled to the South during the war you could never live in Pyongyang. Your record has to be clean and you have to be special.
And you can not enter or leave Pyongyang or any other city or town or village in North Korea without a travel permit. Even the Swedish ambassador needs a travel permit to leave the city.
There are many prisons within the prison of North Korea. 200.000 people in the prison camps being tortured and executed for nothing, but also people are trapped in their own villages, towns and cities without being able to travel freely.
Imagine yourself if your country had to stay in this Corona lockdown for 70 years from now and the internet was cut off. That’s North Korea.
But this Korea man next to me was not just privileged and well educated. Since he could travel and hang out at hotels where foreigners stayed, he was apart of the elite in the country.
But what I liked most about him was smile, his curiosity and bravery in talking to me about forbidden things. It’s not like we planned to take down the regime, but in North Korea people are terrified of talking about the outside world, because they grow up believing the walls have ears – which they actually have in the hotel we were staying at.
I followed him to the elevator around 2 AM and we stopped there, holding each others hands, watching each other as the surveillance cameras were watching us.
A few seconds passed and then we kissed. And it was not one of these long movie kisses or a sexy intense kisses.
It was a kiss that said, “I got so much more I want to tell you”. It was a kiss that said “I loved meeting you, but we will never meet again” It was a kiss that said “Remember me.”
Back to New York
After smoking the Cuban cigar I said goodbye to my friends at Trump’s place and spent the night with homeless people on the streets of New York just as I had written in the musical.
Because everything that I had written in the musical months before I acted out in real life. With 100% confidence and conviction. I even got street casted at Starbucks. Someone asking me if I could audition for a musical.
Sorry, but I’m already in a musical and I’m playing the lead.
I was living in another world. In my own musical. In 2214. And everything was bright, light and white. Eventually, depression came and the world turned black and dark and I lost all my belief in myself.
Living with bipolar disorder
Other people suffered/suffering from bipolar disorder: Winston Churchill, Mel Gibson, Mariah Carey, Kurt Cobain, Bebe Rexha, Jimi Hendrix, Ernest Hemingway, Sting, Demi Levato, Amy Winehouse, etc.
Today I’m on medicine and I’m balanced. I eat 200 mg of Quetiapine per day, a standard medicine for bipolar disorder.
And I’m in a good place today. I’m stuck in Kosovo all by myself. I’m worried about my future, my career and what will really become of me. But still, my health is good, I’m living my dream and fighting for what I believe in.
And I’m never gonna regret quitting my job, going to New York to live in my own musical and knock on Donald Trump’s door on Christmas Eve 2014 asking for a million dollars.
Because it truly taught me to never be afraid to ask for things I want. And I want a lot of things in this life.
Here you can see some snapshots from my songs, the musical and from New York:
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