Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Around the World in an Afternoon
I started the day in China, then moved on to Germany before making a quick stop in America. By mid-afternoon, I’d seen Turkey and parts of Africa. I ended the day with a night tour of Spain.
This Phileas Fogg-inspired journey, while possible only in great works of fiction, can be achieved – if you happen to be in Shanghai, China, for the 2010 World Expo.
The Expo is a world celebration; an event where nations from around the globe gather to present their culture and innovations. Think Disney’s Epcot, without the rides and screaming kids but minus the general fun factor of being in an amusement park.
This year, China played host to the global gala, and much like the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing the nation spared no expense in creating a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Expo 2010's theme of Better City, Better Life was meant to introduce people to new technologies and ideas for living in an increasingly green and environmentally friendly global community.
Where amusement parks have rides, expos have pavilions built and operated by individual countries. In Shanghai, some 190 nations were represented. Visiting them all would have been great, but my three-day visit limited the time available to see the world.
The German Pavilion was impressive in content and design. The outside was metallic-looking and futuristic, and resembled a 3-D puzzle about to be put together. The inside featured numerous displays on how to create a city in balance between people, environment and all aspects of urban living. German innovations and methods of living a green lifestyle made it seem foolish to not live a more environmentally friendly life.
The USA Pavilion -- and not to sound unpatriotic -- failed to impress. Where Germany had physical objects to interact with, America “wowed” pavilion goers with three short video presentations featuring citizens, celebrities and politicians, including President Obama, who encouraged people to embrace and live greener, low-carbon lifestyles.
As the euphoria of being surrounded by 100 percent Americanism wore off, I felt gypped. I expected cool new green inventions, gizmos with lots of gadgets, anything that shouted: “Look what amazing things America has!” But unfortunately that would be reserved for the Japan Pavilion and its amazing, violin-playing robot, floorboards that generate electricity when walked on, and world’s largest interactive personal organizer called the Life Wall.
The Spain Pavilion, while somewhat straying from the Expo’s theme, provided a taste of Spanish culture. Cameras projected lively scenes of the running of the bulls onto the pavilions grand chamber walls as a woman performed a seductive Spanish flamenco dance on a raised platform. But a giant robot baby near the pavilion’s exit was something of a curve ball. How were 21-foot tall, animatronic infants pertinent to Spanish culture or the Expo’s green theme? Even so, it made for a fun picture.
The Shanghai Expo, while technically a theme park, by no means is a place to take a relaxing vacation. From waiting in long lines -- some with queue times of more than 4 hours-- to the mass influx of people -- almost 250,000 people daily -- a day at the Expo was more exhausting than a full week of work. But the chance to walk from nation to nation, checking out advanced in modern green technology and seeing masterfully designed pavilions was worth the minor inconveniences.
ICH BIN EIN BEIJINGER: The Germany Pavilion was one of the more impressive buildings at the expo, staying true to the theme of Better City, Better Life. The four main areas in the pavilion showed how to maintain a balance between city and environment in order to live a low-carbon lifestyle.
BOOKS THAT READ BACK: One of the displays in the Germany Pavilion was a stack of books that read to you, much like an audio book. But you have to ask: Is a book that eliminates the reading aspect really a book, or a way to further dumb down society?
MACHINE MAMMALS: Robot penguins. Enough said.
BIG RED: I wasn’t able to go inside the China Pavilion during my three-day visit to the Expo. To get in, I would have had to get up at 5 a.m. to wait in line for the Expo to open at 9 a.m., then rush to a special ticket office to get, essentially, a golden ticket to the pavilion.
BASKET DESIGN: The Spain Pavilion looks like a giant whicker basket.
BIG BABY: Baby Miguelín is a large electronically animated infant on display in the Spain Pavilion. What this has to do with Spain or the Expo, I’m not quite sure, but it was cool none-the-less.
DANCE, DANCE: A woman performs a seductive flamenco dance as a crowd of Chinese tourists looks on in awe.
TURNING JAPANESE: The Japan Pavilion was one of the more popular pavilions at the Expo, with wait times averaging four hours. Luckily, I only waited two and a half.
ROBOT GREETER: One of the robots in the Japan Pavilion waves and says goodbye to tourists.
ROBOT PRODIGY: The main attraction in the Japan Pavilion is a violin-playing robot. At the next expo, Japan will most likely unveil a whole orchestra of instrument wielding metal men.
U-S-A! U-S-A!: Although it failed to impress as much as other pavilions, it felt good to be “home” for my short visit to the USA Pavilion. A short film featuring words of wisdom from Barack Obama sent shivers down my spine.