Pyongyang. The showpiece of North Korea. Shrouded in winter, clean as a whistle.
A scattering of cars, buses and warmly clad people move around empty wide avenues. The city towers with the most impressive monuments I have ever seen. Some in the traditional style, many others in the socialist realist vein you would imagine, imposing and breath-taking.
In and among the retro grandeur are the DPRK traffic women in their turquoise royal blue military-cum-air hostess outfits. Incredibly stylish. Fur lined collars and cuffs. High heeled black boots. Tight trousers. A glamor in startling yet harmonious contrast to the stark architectural surroundings. At night, they wear LED reflectors that flicker in the dark, rows of moving lights illuminating their semi robotic movements as they direct the traffic, seemingly oblivious to the cold. They are like beings from the past and from the future, all at once.
Stern faced, one of the traffic wardens swivels in her neatly drawn circle, robotic, automatic. As we drive by I smile broadly at her and suddenly the mask cracks into the widest, most genuine smile – in total contrast to a second before. A flash of humanity in the cogs of the machine.