Without electricity, our bedtime tends to be early. This necessitates an early rising for Dave. He gets up around 4:30 or 5:00, makes his coffee, and settles on a stool at the window. He opens the Word, sips his coffee, and watches life begin to stir in the neighborhood.
A group of adolescent boys hurry by carrying homemade brooms. They are going to do their community duty of sweeping a certain section of roadway or sidewalk. About thirty minutes later, they wander back, more relaxed, and often engaged in pretend warfare with each other. They army crawl through the grass and aim their broom guns at each other.
An older couple clatter past each morning with their rusty two-wheeled cart. Side by side, they push it down the middle of the road. Going to town their cart carries two empty 20 gallon barrels. Coming back twenty minutes later, the barrels slosh water at each bump in the road. They have their water supply for their daily needs.
A farmer in a cart pulled by oxen is a common site. Sometimes it will be a mule pulling the cart. There is a mountain a short distance away and often they will go there and gather sticks for firewood. Carts and animals are used to haul many everyday items...furniture, trash, sewage, lumber, produce.
Across the road is a field of cultivated trees. Every few weeks, a group of workers arrives to care for the trees. The men and women all wear hats to protect themselves from either the sun or the rain. They carry short digging tools and gunny sacks to weed and work the soil around each tree.
The railroad is just beyond the trees. The line goes from Pyongyang to Russia. The lonesome sound of the train whistles echo through the valley. Wooden passenger trains, coal cars, and freight trains keep the tracks busy both day and night.
Families come out each morning before work and school to trim the grass and pull weeds on the patch of lawn planted between the roadway and the sidewalk. A short ten inch wire fence protects the grass from the bicycles and pedestrians. Each section of fence must also be maintained with red ribbons tied each few inches.
The sidewalk on our side of the street is brick. A section needed to be redone and fifteen workers showed up with a truckload of new brick, tore up the old section, and installed the new...all in one morning. The sidewalk on the opposite side is dirt and a truck or cart comes by periodically with small loads of sand. Housewives with babies strapped to their backs will come spread the sand with small, flat shovels.
The village is up a small rise above the railroad tracks. The small homes are built of cement bricks, painted white with blue trim. Each door is blue. The roofing material is made of red concrete tiles and the chimneys are tall and trimmed with wood. Close to seven hundred people live there and we see them leaving for work each morning and returning each evening.
Motorized vehicles are only owned by businesses. The common person walks or rides a bike. Along our street, it is not unusual to see schoolchildren, businessmen, mothers, and laborers riding bicycles. The bikes all look the same with a basket on the front with a license tag wired to it. Mothers stuff their infants and toddlers in the basket, wedged in with blankets. Workers carry pipe, lumber, and other goods on their bikes. Each bike is equipped with a bicycle bell and must be ridden on the sidewalk, not the street. Pedestrians are expected to move over when they hear the bicycle bell.
Holidays bring extra sights to enjoy out our window. Sometimes the women wear their colorful hanboks and walk together into town for group dancing in the city square. Other holidays require more modern, formal dress and neighbors or company workers gather and march down the middle of the street chanting slogans. Schoolchildren usually go to school on holidays but they spend part of the day marching in the streets, waving red flags and singing political songs. We can hear them coming from blocks away and we run to the window to watch.
Our window on daily life here in Chosun gives us opportunity to pray for the people. We may not know their names and we can't speak their language, but we know Someone who does. And He cares for each and every one of these people we see from our window.