Category Archives: world expo 2010

Breaking records

A typical day sees 300,000-400,000 visitors to the Expo site, and an attendance of over 500,000 is considered a really busy day. Yesterday, a Saturday (always the busiest day of the week), over one million people visited the Expo.

That’s about the population of San Jose. Only ten cities in the US have a population of over one million.

And these people were contained in a space of a mere 5.28 km2 (though granted not all of them were inside the site at any given time).

Yesterday broke not only the single-day AND total attendance record in all of Expo/World’s Fair history but also, surely, a slew of safety regulations. The government doesn’t give a damn about the latter, of course, because it’s got a magic number to make—70 million—by the end of the month. We had 774,900 today, and as of tonight, we have only 4.6 million more to go.

I worked the PM shift yesterday, a long shift by the end of which I had the groggy, delirious morning-after-an-all-nighter feeling, even though we closed just 45 minutes later than usual. The lines were noticeably longer than usual. Working the outdoor positions, where we do crowd control, was physically and psychologically draining. I spent over two hours not just controlling the flow of people into the pavilion, but also watching for the abundance of line jumpers, which ranged from little children egged on by amoral parents to young guys vaulting over our row of garbage bins to the less nimble elderly claiming they just wanted to look for “their family” inside.

From my perch at the top of the zigzagging line, I had a good view (while it was still light out) of our queuing area. We had security patrolling like a watchdog. When one person tried to sneak into the line, I would walkie-talkie the guard (or run down to catch them myself), but then a couple other people would climb in through another unmanned spot. It was intense. I was on my toes; my heart was racing the whole time. Caught offenders would either grin sheepishly while letting themselves be escorted out, or obnoxiously put up a fight, yelling “Do you have proof that I jumped the line? Show me some proof!!” only to be thrown out minutes later, at my insistence, by a nearby guard.

I felt like I was defending a castle or the citadel in Lord of the Rings, or, as one of my coworkers put it, the Great Wall against the Huns. The awesome thing was that we had Chinese Communist soldiers decked in green military garb helping us guard our Canadian fortress against… their fellow Chinese comrades. Heh heh.

Some photos from the last two days (click on image to scroll through):

[showtime]

Although things might slow down during the work week, we are predicting next weekend’s numbers to be just as—maybe even more—mind-blowing. All the procrastinators have begun to acknowledge the fact that there are only two weeks left of Expo, and that this is really their last chance to be a part of history.

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Day 154 of 184: Beginning of the End

Wow, it’s been quite a while, eh. I’d attempted to start writing a post twice in the past few months, but never got around to finishing either. Here I am again now, figuring better late than never to show those who haven’t gotten to visit me—and are curious—what I’ve been up to this past half year. Also, I’ve been prompted to post after seeing the revolting number of spam comments I’ve received during my downtime from the likes of “Portable Gas Grill” and “Chauncey Roscoe”.

Today is China’s National Day. These next three days are official holidays, and happen to be exactly when my three-day weekend falls (we are on a work 6, rest 3 schedule). This is unfortunate because working on a holiday in this country entitles you to triple pay. Even though my team gets to avoid dealing with the indubitably massive crowds over the holiday, we are pretty bitter about that.

Anyway. I’ve been avoiding the blog because by the time I had time to start a post, it was already quite late in the game and I didn’t know where to start. The last five months have flown by and soon, when it’s over and everyone has gone home and the pavilion is dismantled, it will feel like a strange and intricate dream. For now, because words are not coming easily to me, I will tell the story in pictures.

To start, here’s the Canada Pavilion. This is where I’ve been working the last five months:

Massive, isn’t it. It is lovingly covered all over with 4000m2 of Canadian red cedar boards, which gives off the most delightful scent in the rain.

As a “host”, I rotate on any given day through 6 areas inside and outside the pavilion. Here’s a breakdown, moving along the route a typical visitor would take through our pavilion.

This is where the people line up outside:

P10 and P4 greet these people and manage the “green access” line, which offers Canadians, other pavilion staff, extremely pregnant women, and people aged 75+, in wheelchairs, or with valid disability cards fast access (i.e. skip most of the line). We are also required to let in “friends” of the policemen who patrol in our vicinity, even though much of that involves money exchanging hands (their hands, not ours).

The green access is where we get either the most trouble or amusement. This is where those not quite 75 demonstrate their physical strength and relentlessness by pushing and yelling. Where plump 40-somethings claim they are pregnant by thrusting their gut in our faces. Where fights break out and our Chinese security guards are called traitors by fellow countrymen. This is where a lot of Americans and French people come up and claim they are Canadian who had “left their passports at the hotel”, only to be exposed via test questions such as “what is the capital of Nunavut?”. (The worst are the French: “mais je parle francais!” So?) On a good day, this is the most interesting place to be.

More to come soon! Off to get a much needed massage.

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Hello, Expo

Goodbye sleep, feet, and sanity. (And 15 pounds, with any luck!)

It’s finally here.

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The many faces (and bodies) of Haibao

Haibao, the Shanghai Expo mascot, is everywhere in (and outside of) this city. Designed to represent the Chinese character for person (人), he’s been likened to Gumby and toothpaste, among other erm, less PG things. He even has a music video, the music from which can be heard on his website (I think the video is also there, unfortunately).

With the Expo’s official opening fast approaching, Haibao is out in full force. Sometimes, when it looks like they got a little carried away with it, one really has to wonder who’s behind all this.

Expectedly, Haibao has been a victim of piracy around the country, so much so that Shanghai had to organize a World Exposition intellectual property rights protection exhibition showcasing real and fake Haibao stuffies, and Haibao himself has had to star in a commercial against fake goods. Despite this, the situation has become such that it’s increasingly hard to tell which Haibao images are “real”/government-approved and which aren’t, especially when even the official Haibao has taken on so many personae (see his website, linked above).

Anyway, I’d like to share some of Haibao’s more interesting and/or grotesque incarnations that I’ve come across:

Musical Haibao

Cross-dressing Haibao/Haibao after sex-change

Two-in-one Christmas/Chinese New Year Haibao

The official Haibao is blue to represent the ocean, Shanghai, and his name 海宝 (treasure of the seas). So why all this green? Has he also become treasure of the woods now?

Other weird Haibaos:

Haibao made from reusable bags at our supermarket (owned by Walmart, btw)

Haibao in front of the Licensed Products store inside the Expo site. To be completely honest, he looks better naked.

And last but not least, this is Haibao after the Expo, when everyone’s long forgotten about him and he becomes sedentary, fat, and bald:

Yo, pass me another beer.

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Glimpses

You can easily find better pictures elsewhere, but here are some of the photos I’ve taken inside the Expo site so far (on a wonderfully crowdless day):

One of the ticket-selling areas. It will never be this spacious again.

Military guards at an entrance/exit gate.

The USA Multiplex...erm, Pavilion

Brasil!

A row of toilets. Have yet to try them out.

Holla.

Looking up at the Russia Pavilion.

Workers on the Russia Pavilion

Welcome in the Netherlands

Romania Pavilion

So-called Hong Kong Maxim's Bakery. 8rmb pineapple bun was so gross I couldn't even finish it :'(

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Expo time: initial thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve written here last and I apologize to my lovely 2- to 3-member readership who have been waiting for and pushing me to write more often. I would spend some time offering convoluted excuses explanations for my absence (including a trip to Fujian earlier this month!), but that’s not what this post is for. Having begun “training” this week and with all but 8 days to go until the [insert drumroll followed by lethally cheesy music] official start of Expo 2010, there are somewhat more pertinent things I’d like to share with you guys.

Let’s start with some good news: I won’t have to wear spandex. (Sorry if I got your hopes up 2 entries ago!) While we have yet to meet our uniforms in person, we’ve been provided with a picture of one of our outfits.

Bad news is that the suits are… not exactly the pinnacle of fashion. But what uniforms are?, you might be thinking. Answer: the Italians’ (surprise surprise). They are wearing Prada. (As a young security guard at the Canada Pavilion told me excitedly, the Italy Pavilion also has a Ferrari or two on display. Other pavilions need not dream of winning the popularity game this Expo.)

Anyway. Tuesday was my first day of training, which was also the first day the (unfinished) Expo site was opened to 200,000 (!) specially invited people living in Shanghai. It was the first time I’d set foot on the Expo site—and it was sort of like stepping into a giant theme park. Having been bombarded with pictures of and videos scrolling through the pavilions’ CG counterparts, it was still pretty stunning to actually walk among them. I was taken aback by how enormous the pavilions are in real life. I saw only a fraction of the country pavilions, though, and have yet to catch sight of the China or US ones (the two that, with good reason, Chinese visitors most want to visit).

Wednesday was the first “soft opening” at the Canada Pavilion (CP from now on). For four hours I stood at the exit, directing people out, saying zaijian, giving directions (mainly to the US Pavilion), and stopping people from trying to enter through the exit (you won’t believe how many attempted). The last job was mainly performed by the security guard, a recent graduate from Henan with whom I had a nice chat. Out of the ten positions around the CP assigned to hosting staff, the exit was probably the most interesting, if perhaps slightly demoralizing, because I got to see and hear the honest reactions of each person coming out of the pavilion. Demoralizing because unfortunately, the majority of those reactions were not terribly positive. Lots of not-so-under-the-breath comments to the effect of “this is it?” “we waited 1.5 hours for just another movie?” and words like 无聊 and 失望. It hurt! Many asked hopefully if this was only a part of it and that there would be more come the official May 1 opening, and it was hard to tell them yes, this is basically “it”. (The restaurant and gift shop and shows are yet to open.)

It wasn’t all negative though. There were some visitors who genuinely enjoyed it. Some asked me to be in a photo with them, or take photos for them. I chatted with a couple people, including hosts from other countries, and exchanged e-mails with two visitors. Those were nice breaks from smiling apologetically.

I haven’t been inside any of the other pavilions, but I do like the Canada one. It’s dark, soothing, wondrous, and affecting, not to mention smells wonderfully of cedar. That said (and I hesitate to generalize like this), I do think it was more designed with Canadians rather than Chinese in mind. By that I mean not only that the images shown probably resonate most strongly with people who are already familiar with Canada, but also that the sort of competitive, commercial, fast-paced nature of much of China today is thoroughly absent from the presentation (which I personally appreciate), making it—and this is only an initial hypothesis—perhaps harder for visitors to feel a solid connection with it. Much of this country has been infused with a materialistic, 拜金 (money-worshipping) culture, making things like Ferrari and Prada decidedly more exciting to the masses than a tranquil moving collage set to emotionally arousing music. In a country whose population is increasingly living in the fast lane, an unequivocal wow factor is more likely to leave an impression.

Perhaps more than the pavilion itself, the Canadian wow factor is actually a person: our Commissioner General Mark Rowswell, better known in China as Dashan. Being allegedly “the most famous foreigner in China”, he apparently eliminated the need for a Canadian mascot (probably for the better considering how silly-looking most of the Expo mascots are). I met him on Wednesday. Most of the Chinese visitors who happened to see him stopped and stared and took photographs and tried to get through the barricades. It was kind of awesome.

That’s it for now—more to come soon (including disturbing images of Haibao). I got a call at 12:20am last night (which I didn’t answer) and then a text five minutes later telling me I have to go in this afternoon… so should go get ready.

If you’re interested in more information or interesting insights about the Expo, particularly in regard to the US Pavilion, check out this blog. The writer also has a great recent post on the North Korea Pavilion, which, by the way, happens to be located in a remote corner right next to the Iran Pavilion…

Finally, let me leave you with a typo that’s had me omg-ing all morning:

Really, Shanghai? It’s one of the five English words on the entire map and you had to get it wrong?

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Expo surprises

Big news on the job front: I found out this past Saturday that I was accepted for a job at the Expo 2010 Shanghai! It starts in a month and goes for 6.5 months into November, and as far as I know (which isn’t very far) involves being some sort of “hosting” staff at the Canada Pavilion. Representing Canada.

So I’ve been suddenly inundated with all sorts of paperwork, part of which apparently goes towards “top secret” security clearance checks. During the information-gathering process I realized that in the last ten years I’ve resided at 16 different addresses—13 of which fall into the last five years. I know I’ve moved around a lot, but those numbers still put my recent life into some perspective.

Anyway, another part of this paperwork involves gathering body measurements for my staff “uniform”. By uniform I’d expected, you know, some nice polo-shirt top sporting a Canadian flag and maybe even—but hopefully not—pants. Standard bust-waist-hip-height-weight measurements, perhaps. But no. What I got in my inbox last night was this:

If you’re not bothered to click on the image for details, this form essentially includes things like:
– apex from point to point
– apex drop from HSP
– neck circ at the base
– neck circ 11/2″ from base
– total crotch (front and back)
– knee (231/2″ from waist)
– bicep at biggest point
– bra size

OK, not even counting the fact that I don’t know what “apex” and “HSP” are and that I’m probably gonna mess up at least one of these measurements, one disturbing question remains: WHY DO THEY NEED ALL THIS INFORMATION?!?! Considering that the Canada Pavilion will be hosted by Cirque du Soleil, my only (supremely terrifying) conclusion is that they will be putting me in a body suit. Cat suit. Whatever. Something skin-tight (who would otherwise care about bicep at biggest point?) involving a built-in bra.

Something like any of these:

http://z.about.com/d/montreal/1/0/v/A/-/-/cirque_du_soleil_OVO_acrosport2.jpg

http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/_/6581717/Cirque+du+Soleil+img_howto.jpg

Oh, dearest God, please don’t let it be.

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They’re here. It has begun.

One of the first things that struck me (thankfully not literally) when I first got to Shanghai was the insane amount of construction going on all around the city. One couldn’t walk a block, it seemed, without encountering a construction site, its bamboo scaffolding as ubiquitous as Haibao plush toys on the streets of Shanghai. Then I found out that was exactly it: the city’s buildings and infrastructure are getting a major facelift in preparation for the World Expo due to begin May 1, 2010. That was why, back in September, my Mom and I found the Bund–arguably Shanghai’s most famous tourist site–out of bounds, and why, back in September, practically every apartment we looked at overlooked–or was part of–a noisy, dusty construction site. (If they’re doing ‘improvement work’ but not building anything, is it still called a construction site? Pardon my lack of knowledge of the field.)

So imagine my glee when we landed a nice, cheap apartment in a quiet, relatively old low-rise compound on the grounds of the university where I was enrolled for the semester. I would spend a long day out, passing by buildings consumed by those almost parasitic bamboo rods, scurrying under scaffolding and praying that it wouldn’t suddenly decide to collapse on me, and gaze with wide-eyed wonder at construction sites that were still active in 10pm darkness. But then I’d return to the comfort of my compound and be thankful for the tranquility it offered.

I thought we would escape the insanity. I thought we were safe, hidden and protected by the mother’s arms of a respected university. When I started witnessing clean-up campaigns in my community, I thought “oh, how nice!”, never suspecting that the government had a hand in it.

How foolish! How naive! What wishful thinking! (I should’ve known that everything that happens around here is marked with the government’s handprint.)

A few weeks ago the lengths of bamboo started appearing. In rolled the trucks, the noise, the hard hats. On my way to and from class, I began to see more and more workers, and more and more long-time residents standing outside, watching their home of 20-odd years being quickly and efficiently consumed from bottom up by dry bamboo flames. I took some pictures.

I watched as the building north of ours fell prey to the same process, and then as the building south of ours encountered the same fate. Large red banners were draped over the scaffolding, apologizing in yellow writing for any inconvenience caused and asking for our patience and support (or something to that effect). Notices started appearing on the front door of my building. It would only be a matter of time before our turn.

Sure enough, we felt the first tickle of movement on Saturday. A long-lasting and immobilizing hangover allowed me only brief observation from my bedroom and kitchen windows, but it was quite clear to me what was happening. I snapped a photo or two the next day:
IMG_9517

And waited. All the other buildings were covered head to toe in bamboo, but ours had barely reach the sixth (topmost, my) floor. I needn’t have worried, though, for today was the big day! The envelopment was complete. We locked our windows. I took some more pictures from the kitchen:

IMG_9522

IMG_9524

My downstairs neighbor informed me that this was to last through December into the new year. Unfortunately, due to my subpar Chinese skills, I was not able to find out—either through her or the notices—what exactly they’re planning to do here. I did gather from those notices, though, that this all is being done to welcome in next year’s Expo, and if we’ll kindly excuse the small inconvenience for the greater good of our city/nation.

As if anyone important—or just anyone, for that matter—coming to see the Expo is going to pay a visit to our compound, or would have found its prior condition unacceptable. The Expo has long become Shanghai’s excuse to do anything and everything, for better or for worse.

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