Shanghai World Expo, 2010

上海世界博覽會–Shanghai World Expo–was the biggest event in China for all of 2010. Over 250 countries participated in the giant exhibition, with a record 73 million attendees over the duration of the expo. Most of them were Chinese, which explained very much why all the national pavilions’ representatives spoke in Chinese and why all the signs and brochures were in Chinese. The average wait per pavilion was a jaw-dropping 5 hours, so most could only make it through one or two pavilions per day. Walking around the enormous 5.3 square-kilometer complex meant stumbling through undulating seas of people, litter, and tiny stools brought by visitors smart enough to think of bringing them so they wouldn’t have to spend the entire 5 hour standing.

Fortunately for me, my mom was friends with one of the coordinators for the World Expo, so we had VIP passes for 8 pavilions of our choice. Yay!

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The China pavilion was interesting, to say the least. Beautiful, complex, multi-facted. Yet I struggled to find a theme that tied everything going on together. The “It’s A Small World”-eque ride through the pavilion was enjoyable though. Australia was very aboriginal–woven columns, wood carvings, cave figurines of hunters. My favorite pavilion was the Taiwan pavilion, since we got to make our own sky lanterns–more interactive than the other pavilions were. We didn’t go into the Thailand pavilion, but the outside was an impressive replica of the royal palace in Bangkok.

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Coolest exhibition was Spain’s, whose pavilion was modeled after a woven basket. You walked through a long passageway where flamenco dancing was reflected off the walls. The aesthetics of each pavilion were very impressive–except maybe the USA’s. It was a little like softened brutalism for me. But hey, we had cool sunglasses. What I feel like the entire expo lacked was the culture of each nation; everything was geared towards a Chinese audience, and it would have been more engaging for me if the music, language, smells, and sights of each nation were emphasized more.

A small lunch tided us over for the long day of waiting in lines (even with VIP passes) and walking through a complex miles across.

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Sweet and sour eggplant, lightly-fried and tossed in some soy sauce. And a bean curd skin roll stuffed with pickled vegetables. Omnom.

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