I quickly learned that the Expo 2010 was not about what you see, neither about what you learn. It was all about how many stamps you have in your Expo passport!
One of the main events that happened last year was the Expo 2010. That was not my first time in China and I always loved that country for tourism. They are so well prepared and organized that you can relax there for 2 weeks even without anyone understanding a word you’re saying and vice-versa.
I can’t forget my first time, back in 2001, arriving on the Trans-Siberian train from heavy and gray Russia. I got out of the train, starving, and set my foot on Chinese ground for the first time. A couple of minutes were enough to understand very important things about China. Immediately a soldier went to our direction. ‘Oh no’, we thought, ‘We are going to meet the communist dictatorship!’. We were already searching for our passports. “Where are you from?” asked the soldier. “Portugal”, we replied. Then the man (young boy, I mean) opened the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and said: “Welcome to China!”. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with that country and people.
The second important moment, a few minutes later in the bar, was when I understood that food is the most important thing in China. Wise people! I never worry about food in China, even being a vegetarian. You are never more than 5 minutes far from food, there must be a law for that.
But what I want to talk about is the Expo 2010. My father and I decided to go because we know that when China does this kind of things, they aim for perfection. And so it was!
You see, I’m from Portugal, check in the map, it is small. Once I pointed it in the map to a Chinese guy, he laughed ‘til he cried! If it wasn’t for Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, nobody would know where we came from. I have no scale for Chinese avenues, cities, buildings and events. “Oh, it is in the next corner” has a different meaning there. The Expo 2010 was 10 times the size of the Expo 1998 here in Lisbon. They even had a subway inside the Expo!
So, you can imagine how much we walked (even with all the transportation), there were parts of my feet that I didn’t even know existed but started hurting! You know Chinese people, they popularized the Long March, so this is nothing for them!
The Expo was divided by the Huangpu River, like the rest of Shanghai. You can switch sides by subway or ferry boat. We were there for 7 days and two important dates marked our visit. Our first day in the Expo was 10.10.10! So many brides were there! :)
We were also there in the record day: 16/10/10 where they had over 1.03 million visitors (Portugal’s total population is 10 million)! And you know what’s the most impressive? I never had to wait in line for the ladies bathroom! You girls know what I’m talking about! ;)
Shanghai is not my favorite city in China, I prefer Beijing, but the mood of the city this time was incredible. “Better City, Better Life” was the theme and you can feel it. Hundreds of English-speaking volunteers were spread out through the city and the Expo, the nicest and most caring people! Tons of love to the Expo volunteers, you were fantastic!! :*
I must confess I didn’t went to the most popular pavilions, I’m not the kind of person that can wait in line for 4 hours, specially when everybody is eating chicken wings and cucumbers (I hate it). Man, Chinese people are ALWAYS eating! But one of the things I really liked about this week in the Expo was that most of the people were Chinese and not foreigners. And, although we don’t understand Chinese, we can figure out that most of the people that came from the countryside and were in the big city for the first time – and in the subway, and maybe in a bus.
We started, for several reasons, most of them emotional, with the African pavilion. In Mozambique, a guy was stamping people’s passports without even looking, like a robot (you can buy a passport and have it stamped in each pavilion, like what happened in former Expos). But when I said “Obrigada”, he raised his head with a beautiful smile. :)
Then, South America (Cuban pavilion everyday ‘cause we need real coffee!). In Bolivia I felt really disappointed that there was no stamp. Of course (you don’t know me but that’s the way I am), I had to ask! And then we started to understand what the passports were all about, my Bolivian stamp was made under the table in a very secret way like we were buying drugs, while the desperate Bolivian guy looked at me with the most tired eyes and said “Estes chinitos! (these little Chinese guys!). You see, imagine the life of a man from Bolivia’s Altiplano (high lands), people are calm and relaxed, and now put him in the middle of a main event filled with those small, energetic and toooo many Chinese people! Each one had 10 or more passports in hand and would run over to anyone and anything to get the passports stamped! You can just imagine! We think they are going to sell it later. In some pavilions there was a passport per person limit sign! I remembered that Bolivian guy everyday of the trip! :D Many of the stamps in my passport are clandestine and made this way, once I understood what was going on I would always ask for it and give my Expo passport secretly to the person in charge. ;)
You know, when they talk about the cultural differences, it’s true, although I feel very good in China. It is no use to scream when somebody isn’t respecting the line, they will not even look at you, they will not understand your indignation. And if you don’t respect the line (as I had to do after one day of the Expo), no one will scream at you, like we Latin people (love to) do.
By now you should be thinking, will she ever stop talking/writing? Where are the picture galleries? Well, that’s the sad part…
I left Portugal with 3 cameras, and the third was a last minute decision. I took the Supersampler ‘cause I love to use it with architecture so it would be great in the Expo, although I know that bright sunlight and clear skies in Shanghai are rare (the day I came back home it was one of these days :/). I grabbed my LC-A at the last minute, maybe in a premonition. The star of the trip was the heavy Horizon, that I carried everyday for hours and used up 7 rolls of films. I took pictures of everything, thinking about this article and after two days, my shoulder was already in pain. Guess what? The camera DIDN’T SHOOT A SINGLE PICTURE! I spent 1 month back home without talking about the trip, grabbing a camera or visiting lomography.com. I thought my photography story was over. I thought I would never shoot a picture in my life again. I cried. And then one day I got my LC-A/Redscale XR pictures. :)
Oh, almighty God of Lomography!, bless the Lomography 400 negative film! It worked with the Supersampler in the foggy/polluted Shanghai! Check it out, Haibao, the Expo nice blue mascot – Haibao is coming! – wants to say hello to you!
Well, I may not have panoramic pictures of the pavilions, people, Haibao, the color changing lights in the evening, the incredible water show and all the cool things I wanted to show you and there is no way I’m going to have a second opportunity (Haibao is gone!) but I bet no one has a stamp like this from the Expo Passport! ;)
P.S. Sorry if the text is too long, there is no way to make a small thing in/about China.