Thursday, March 25, 2010

Getting Ready For The Expo

For the last two years, our family has put up with a TON of construction around town. All over Shanghai, the government was getting ready for Shanghai's biggest event - the Shanghai Expo 2010. It starts May 1st and the city has transformed itself. I will certainly be glad to have the chance to see the big event before we leave. In some ways, I feel like we owe it to ourselves to go.

Ryan's "Shanghai cough" has been MUCH worse this winter because of all the EXTRA construction dust (on top of the established levels of pollution) that has been feverishly thrown into the air to get all those building projects finished in time. Poor Ryan has definitely earned the right to enjoy the results of his, er, ILL labor! As does the rest of our family. So, the boys and I plan to visit the Expo before we leave.

Outside of the mess and frustration of dealing with tons of construction traffic and delays for the past two years, watching all the extra infrastructure go up in a very short amount of time was, I have to say, pretty amazing. Entire freeway systems went up in only a matter of months. Where else could you see something like that? Where else has the labor force to support projects like that?

So, now we are getting closer to opening day in May. UNLIKE the past two years, I see stickers now in the taxis, that are in English, encouraging passengers to call a free number to help with translation and directions with the taxi drivers. Ha! Where was THAT kind of help when I needed it two years ago!? We have a favorite DVD store in an expat area of town that we frequent quite often. We walked in there recently and the store was a fraction of its original size. Imagine our surprise! However, when we started to ask them what happened, they led us to a secret panel in the newly built wall that opened up to the rest of their store. Are you kidding me? Apparently, China customs is seriously cracking down on all kinds of products...mainly their "copies", DVD's included. But, you all have to realize that this new secret wall and others like it around town, is just for show - for YOU. Ahhh, the games the chinese play! So, this is how it works, Folks.

First, the government is all about "show". They don't want visitors to have bad impressions of the way they normally do things over here. I mean, c'mon, this kind of DVD store is the ONLY gig around town. In these stores, you pay approximately $3.00 per movie...PRICEY! In the streets, you pay approximately $.75 per movie. So, take this store, for example. A visitor walks in and sees that they only have a few copied DVD's and CD's, which might not look so bad, right? However, if a visitor DOES complain about the rip off rights of the movie makers and the fact that this store is contributing towards it, then the police can come in and "confiscate" their product, making the complainer feel the police actually did something about it. However, the POLICE are well aware that this store most likely has a secret door and more product inside it. Why would they know this? Because the government is "warning" all of the vendors NOW about hiding their stuff better during the Expo! You see, it's a win-win. The visitor is happy the police did something. The police are happy they look like they are doing their job. And the vendor is happy because the police confiscated only the "limited" version of his/her products in their store. See? Win-win!! ;-)

So, the downside to this kind of game playing, is that all of the veteran expats and residents have to "put up" with it for six months. The vendors will be cracking down on prices because they might be showing less stock...not to mention the visitors in town will be paying MUCH higher prices for things in the markets and thus, driving the prices higher for the rest of us. So, first, it was the delays and construction traffic, the extra chemical and construction dust in the air, etc. And's a wide variety of hassle in the markets as well. Not to mention, extra red tape driving around town, extra time in the toll booths as they search your car, more traffic, etc.

I they did to get ready for the Olympics in Beijing...they have been fining people more often for peeing on the side of the street, etc. It's all about image for the chinese. It would be nice if their realities matched their image at times. I'm glad I'll be here to visit the Expo for a little while, but I'm glad I don't have to put up with all the "rest" for the next several months.

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