Sushu's Travel Journal

July 23, 2010

World Expo Day 3

Filed under: Asia — Tags: , — admin @ 11:41 pm

Got there earlier today — noon. After a short digression at Slovakia (we’re suckers for pavilions with no lines, but they generally turn out to be unmemorable), we went over and lined up for the America pavilion. We really wanted to see how America would choose to present itself. Yesterday we were trying to figure out what “American food” would be, and had been excited about the possibility of mac-n-cheese, chili, and deep-dish pizza. The American Pavilion was … disappointing. First, the “American Diner” was just hot dog, pizza, hamburger, and a pulled-pork sandwich. The pavilion itself was composed of 4 sections. The first section was a 5-8 minute movie on 1 screen where a lot of Americans try and fail to say “Welcome to the American Pavilion” in Chinese. The second section was a 10-minute movie on 3 interacting screens about “the American Spirit”, which seemed to involve little multicultural kids drawing pictures of “cloud cars” and other “new energy” ideas, followed by a Chevron spokesperson and two random professors.

Obama shows up at the end to do a classic Obama speech about human ingenuity and curiosity, and inviting “you and your family to the United States of America”.

Then we were herded into a third room, where there were 5 screens in different shapes. Yup, it’s a third movie, this time 12 minutes long. It’s something about a little girl wanting to start an urban garden, and bringing the whole neighborhood together. In the middle, it rains, and they spritz water on us, thus making it a “4-D” movie. Har.

Finally, we were herded into the “corporate sponsor” room, where there were little plaques from each of the corporate sponsors talking about how awesome they are.

Um… where’s the display about the diversity and beauty of our land? The tourist highlights of our major cities? Or what about some sort of narrative about our history of immigration and adaptation? Or even information about our major industries and our technological contributions? Instead, the common theme seemed to be “American children are cute, thanks to our sponsors”.

In comparison, the Mexico pavilion had an interesting exploration of city and cultural memory, showcasing artwork interpretations of the concept of the “city”, starting with Mayan temples and Spanish cathedrals, and ending with this cool set of masks that you can look through to see a video of everyday life.

There were also cool interactive technology things that gave you more information about Mexico’s environmental challenges, and allowed you to explore the layers of history buried under the modern city, or even showed you how peoples’ lives were interconnected.
The screen you see in the background there is actually an interactive history of the land of Mexico city, showing the layers of civilization and construction.

Angola was also pretty good: there was a man hiding behind the door who randomly spritzed the people coming in. There were plaques talking about its slavery and colonial legacy, and a series of interesting plaques and accompanying short videos about different aspects of Angolan life and different sectors of its economy. There was a separate line for a 4D film, so we didn’t go to that, but overall it was very cohesive: all of the videos were made specifically for the World Expo, and presented a coherent message and interesting insight into Angola. I would dare say that Angola was cooler than America.

Speaking of things made specifically for the Expo, Slovenia gave each of us a cute pamphlet and a little book written by one of their philosophers specifically for the World Expo. We tried reading it — it was neo-Marxist and loved the word “Proletarianisation”. So we stopped. But still — it was made specifically for distribution at the pavilion!

We also went to a bunch of small African exhibits, which were cute if slightly camel-obsessed. Then we went to Venezuela, which had … a courtyard of hammocks.

And then a secret room with live music.

And then some plaques with photos and direct interview quotes from the streets of Caracas.

And then other plaques with Hugo Chavez extolling the virtues of socialism.

And then a statue of Simon Bolivar. A bit hodge-podge not unlike Pakistan.

We then hiked back to see if we can line up for Japan, but it was a 4 hour line and it was already 6:30pm, so instead we had dinner, hiked all the way back to the Americas Square for some live Tango music and dancing, and then took a boat tour ferry back. En route to the ferry dock, we ran into a parade with various floats showing sketchy Chinese interpretations of different cultures. The last float was “America”.
At the head of the float were some “Native Americans”. The float itself were some trumpets and a large top hat.

At the end of the float was Uncle Sam. I didn’t notice, but Jono says that they were all wearing white make-up, including the Native Americans.

It was somewhat bizarre that we started and ended our Expo day today with odd representations of America.

Jono says that the only 2 he still wants to see is Japan and Britain, both of which have very long lines, so on our way back from the Expo today we bought these cute foldable stools. Tomorrow will be a Waiting In Line day, for both of those have 4+ hour lines. I also want to visit one of the Scandinavian countries, so if we have time at the end of the day, we’ll hop in whichever has the shortest line.

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