Macias recalls rumors in 1989 of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement and subsequent massacre in Beijing reaching the hallways of North Korean colleges.
“I felt university students in Pyongyang at the time were thinking about change too,” she said. “Although they [North Korean media] didn’t report it, a lot of people knew about it.”
Under the North Korean education system, anti-Americanism became a constant factor in her understanding of the world as a child, something that made meeting her first American a big shock on a rare trip to see relatives in Beijing.
“At that time no one there spoke English and I was lost. I saw a white guy passing and I asked him if he spoke English, but when he started talking he had an American accent,” Macias said. “I was so scared. I thought ‘Oh my god, it’s an American.’ My palms were sweating and I just started to run. He was shouting: ‘Hey, stop! I’m not going to eat you.’”