Thursday, May 13, 2010

2010 World Expo!!

Before Allen had left, we had purchased a few tickets to the of them being a 3-day pass for me. Kids under 1.2 m are both Ryan and Brandon could get in as well.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I took one day to visit the Expo with girlfriends, without kids, and one day WITH kids. That turned out to be a very good plan. The Expo site is gargantuan! There is a lot to see and even with a 3 day pass, you may not get to see everything. You can all probably imagine the immense amount of people visiting the Expo right now. It's insane!

The icon of the Expo is the big, red chinese pavillion. If you can get into that building, then you can see smaller representations of all the provinces throughout China. Would loved to have seen that, but it's near impossible to get into that building with all of the chinese people focusing their own attention on it as well. Of course, there are SO many more westerners in town right now. You can see them all over the place, and especially at the markets! But, there was also a TON of chinese people, visiting from other provinces as well. Let's just say, that countryside chinese people who are most likely coming from those provinces...don't have good manners, like the Shanghainese. *ahem*

Even when it was a few of us women who went to the Expo without our kids, they were staring at us. Our kids, as you can imagine, got LOTS of attention. Wooo-weee...we especially got lots of attention at the USA pavillion. Of course, they also thought my Swiss friend's kids were also American. We all look alike you know...

Prior to going to the Expo, the residents had been reading about the activity at the Expo site every day in the paper. We were all a little nervous because of the crowds. I was close to convincing myself not to go, on several occasions. However, I felt we OWED it to ourselves to go after putting up with all of the construction and dust and traffic the last two years! And now, I'm really glad that we did. It was a lot of fun!

The first day, without kids, the girls and I decided to be super casual about it. The theme of the Expo is "cities" and we all agreed that seemed to be a little boring. So, if we could get into any of the pavillions - great! If not, then we would just walk around and look at the pretty buildings. And that's what we did. It was great! We did end up getting into a couple of them in the morning, but as the park filled up throughout the day, we just ended up walking around looking at the outside of each pavillion. It turns out that the inside of any of these buildings would NEVER have been worth a two hour queue!! Some of the queues had shade, some didn't...which is miserable in the heat. Many of the chinese had their little umbrellas out for shade. One of the unfortunate things about the Expo, is that they don't have any cold bottled water available. Everything in the coolers are sugar drinks, which are even worse if you're trying to ward off sun stroke! The only water they had available was drinking fountains out in the sun, with tap water, or bottled water in cases they had near the windows of each store. Really...what are they thinking?! And it's not even summer here yet!

Each pavillion is represented by a different country and the variety of architecture and innovation in creating these unique buildings is absolutely fantastic!! Each one is truly unique and I'm so glad Brandon (especially) got to see what kinds of buildings people can build if they set their minds to it. The theme was "cities", so each building was obligated to center their presentations around that theme. Some had ideas for the future. Some had visions of past, present and future. Some talked about the environment or how people could impact the earth in a better way. Etc, etc, etc. Again, for us, there wasn't ANY building that would have been worth a long queue line, but each building had just that. Some were a 2-3 hour wait just to get inside! I guess for some, this is what they had come to Shanghai to do and they were going to see everything. And again, feeling SOOOOO good that we had a legitimate excuse to bypass these super long lines.

The the day out with the kids, we were sure to visit ALL of the buildings that were represented in our little group of kids. Each of our children had a lot of pride when it came to their own "home" building and each one wanted to show theirs off to their friends. And then we also got to see a few others as well. So, the kids had lots of fun.

Another fun activity for the kids was that you could by a "passport" that looked like a real passport, although it said Shanghai 2010 Expo on the front. Each page inside had the ink and security ribbon on it like in a real passport...and pictures of each pavillion. They were pretty cool. Each pavillion or country had their own stamp. So, the kids spent much of their day getting their passports stamped at each one we visited. I have to say though...the Chinese take everything to the extreme and usually find a way to abuse the system. On the first day, we saw SEVERAL chinese people with something like 40 books in their hand to be stamped! Apparently, one of my friends saw one fully stamped passport from the Expo, selling for over $100 USD on the internet!! Unbeleievable! When we wanted to buy one, they were all sold surprise there, considering that every other [chinese] person had WAY more than one of their own. Of course, when we asked if they would have more the next day, the "standard" answer was, "No. Not for a few days." Uh...what!? Me and my friends LUCKILY have learned to ignore "facts" like that and sure enough, we were able to buy a few the next day with the kids.

USA Pavillion:
Interestingly enough, we met a young woman at the USA building that was there working for the Expo until November. She sounded like she was from CA, so I asked her about it. She grew up in Irvine, Ca....went to University High School...and ended up going to college in Boston, not too far from where my close girlfriend who was with me, lives! Small world. The line for the USA pavillion was INSANELY busy and entirely too crowded! Gobs of people! So, of course, I was very curious to see if that kind of line was worth it for all those people, once they actually got into the building. Turns out, the USA representation was just so-so. They had a good message, but they could have done so much more. The fact that they didn't have a lot of money to put into their building and that they were kind of last minute about it...showed. At least, to me. According to my friends, many people want to say they visited the USA building. For them, it's a sign of status or something. So, there were lots of people there. Also, I thought the mascot of the USA building was kind of lame (although not as lame as the UK) was a buffalo. So, several of the items in the gift shop you are dumped into at the end of the presentation, has buffalo on it. Lame, considering they never once tied buffalo into their presentation! There were just these random buffalo on things. USA had a 4D presentation that talked about how to make certain areas of each city, greener. Not too bad, just not exceptional either. But, like I said, good message. I did like the beginning of the tour. They had large screens and for about 10 minutes, they had people of the streets of some city in the US, try to speak mandarin.
It was funny...and the chinese people got a real kick out of it. They were chuckling throughout the whole thing. But, of course, they got those people to say it right in the end and everyone cheered. Tied into the urban theme for USA, was the chinese American communities as well and how we can all work together to make things better.

Swiss Pavillion:

Ok, if I could have dual citizenship with any other country, I would definitely want to be Swiss. They just have really great and SUPER good quality stuff that comes out of that little country...AND it's pretty! Their building was simple, but the "coolest" at the Expo site. They had a chair lift that took you to the top of the building and flew you over an entire rooftop of rolling hills and green [artificial] grass. You had a great view of the Expo site and you had a chance to rest your feet. They were the only ride in town, so you can imagine how long their queue was all day long. They also had really cool, big screen clips of their country. Right now, the IMAX theaters are showing the "Alps" and I think they took clips of this also. It was really nice!

Singapore Pavillion:
This completed our little group's representation of their home countries. Singapore had a 7 minute movie clip, but I'm not sure what it was about since it was all in Mandarin. However, after the little movie, we got to go to the rooftop and stroll the beautiful garden paradise they had up there with many of Singapore's national flowers...the orchid. Also, the Singapore building had these really great massage chairs that massaged your calves located throughout their queue line - for free!

With the kids, we also saw Belgium...known for their diamonds, chocolates...and Smurfs. Did you know that?? I had no idea that the Smurfs were originally Belgian!
Outside their pavillion, you could buy Belgian fries, waffles and ice cream. Yum!

Another pavillion we got to see was the BIG African pavillion. Because many of the smaller African nations couldn't afford a big building to themselves, they were all in one big pavillion. Each country had a little scene that represented their country. I was walking though Kenya's area and stopped to wait for our friends. As I was waiting, I looked over at a wall close to me and took a second, closer look. There, on Kenya's wall, was a much younger looking Obama and his family! haha

The kids had fun in the African pavillion. Not only did they see a lot of really cool African decoration all in one place and listen to the beats of African drums but they also got to do a little of their own shopping. Each of us moms gave our children a small amount to spend and they had a lot of fun looking around at all the interesting arts and crafts made by the African people. It turns out that each of the kids only spent some of their money at the African pavillion, so they all had a little extra to purchase a Haibao (Expo's mascot) item as well. They were excited.

The UK pavillion was also very cool.The entire building was a cluster of "needles" that came out from the basic structure, making the building look "fuzzy" from afar. The idea behind their pavillion was to encapsulate seeds from around the planet, which were shown at the tips of these needles. The inside part of the building was called the Seed Cathedral. It was a walkway that took you around a small space, where you could see the seeds up close in each needle. Outside, you read that many of the different seeds were real and from different countries around the planet...and others were made up...and then asked you to identify which ones were which. You could see the kids' minds expand with this thought. It was cute.
The "walk" through the UK pavillion ended in a large open space where people could rest and in the kids' and jump and play. This one was a fun one for them.

We ended our day at the Expo taking some great photos in front of the Chinese Pavillion. It was a good day and the Expo was glad we did it! However, at the end of one day, much less two consecutive days of walking, we are certainly glad we are in China...home of the foot massage on every corner!

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