In Pyongyang, Laura says she was under guard but not kept in a prison. "I was in a regular room," she says.  

Still, she says conditions were less than ideal. "There were no showers. The power outages happened multiple times a day and water outages," she says. "I developed a system to wash where they would allow me to heat a kettle of water, and I would mix it with some cold water. Then I would scrub down and just splash it on me."

Laura's communication with the outside world was extremely limited, but she managed to place a few calls and send limited letters to her sister, husband and parents. She was also able to receive mail. "I tried to use my energy, every ounce of energy, to try to strategize on how I could get out of there, what I could communicate to Lisa in phone calls that they allowed us to have," she says. "But I also spent a lot of time in meditation, doing yoga."

Laura says knowing she wasn't the only person who had been wrongly sentenced to the labor camps also helped her keep going. "I tried to think that there are so many innocent people that are enduring this right now," she says. "That gave me strength. If these people are undergoing this, then I can try to muster up the strength to get through it as well."


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