Posted by: naanofyourbusiness | July 22, 2010

The World Expo: It’s Like Disney World On Crack!!!

This year, the World Expo is in Shanghai and they, including eccentric expo mascot Haibo, won't let you forget it!

It’s like Disney World on Crack…except, it’s a Disney world where everyone speaks Chinese and you wait in three to ten hour lines just to get brain-washed by whatever country’s pavilion you just entered!  Take Venezuela for example.

Venezuelan Pride!!!

Its video features diverse populations, beautiful women, parades, and Chavez clips sandwiched between images of smiling, happy Venezuelan children.  But all is well, my brainwash came with a really tasty, cheesy arepa!

The Brazilian brainwash was similar, just replace Chavez with a ceiling of footballs (soccer balls for us non-conformist Americans)

Unfortunately, that’s not where my expo adventure began. It began several hours earlier in the pouring rain with miserable lines everywhere!!! I got there in the morning with my less than enthusiastic mom and three missions: 1) See the India Pavilion 2) Chinese pavilion 3) USA pavilion.  Outcome: fail, fail, succeeded, but the US of freaking A failed with their sorry excuse of a pavilion!

First, we walked more than a mile in the rain from one end of the pavilion to the other to make sure we got in line and saw India first. They wouldn’t even let us Indians into the Indian pavilion!!!! The only thing i could gather from the non-English speaking Chinese man working the line of the “Indian” pavilion was that they wouldn’t let us in…maybe they were at capacity or maybe they just didn’t like us…I’ll never know.

India Pavillion. i wonder what it's like inside...

By the way, there were almost no non-Chinese ppl. working in the pavilions of non-Chinese countries. The cute Canadian guy trying to sell fleece mittens in the 90 degree Shanghai afternoon as a replacement for oven mitts to a poor middle-age Chinese woman was a memorable exception.  Besides that, I loved seeing a Chinese woman surrounded by bags of Columbian coffee, wearing a sombrero and standing in front of a poster featuring Juan Valdez and his donkey!

I'm 97.89% sure that she's not Columbian.

Back to the mission. Next, we tried the China Pavilion.

That's crazy rain distorting this picture and the heinous line is on the other side...

The line was about half a mile long…i decided being in china was good enough.  I skipped the German pavilion for, if you know me, obvious reasons, and we finally made our way to the US pavilion.

U-S-A!

1) Apparently, you can show your U.S. passport to skip to the front of the line…I wish I had known that!! 2) the first impression embarrasses me on behalf of my fellow Americans, why you ask? They were blaring some awful music. I hate to think that a billion ppl. associate our country with Justin Beiber, Katy Perry, and the Jonas brothers (cringe)! 3) unlike the other pavilions which showcase different regions, culture, and valid reasons to visit, the US pavilion was nothing more than one Giant Ad:

The USA brought to you by big business!

Rumor has it (this article especially) that the US was planning a big to do with their pavilion, but, long story very short, the recession happened and they were planning on foregoing the expo all together.  However, that didn’t sit well with the Chinese because the USA pavilion would be a huge draw, so they loaned us the money.

So, I get it. Someone (insert sponsors here) had to pay the Chinese gov’t back for loaning money to our country just to show up!  But come on!!! There was no mention of indigenous wildlife, different cities or the south’s addiction to sweet tea and Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits (okay, maybe that last part is just me).  But guess what we are known for according to the pavilion gift shop?

According to the expo, the US is synonymous with Sheep, Buffalo, and Patriotism!!!

But don’t worry folks we showed the world some video featuring America’s own Barrack Obama and Kobe Bryant! Also, apparently American children are really into starting urban gardens…

After that disappointment, I decided to visit countries that actually care and that had lines short enough for me to wait in without wanting to hurt myself or the annoyingly aggressive Chinese line cutters. All in all, I only made it to 7 countries, and most of them were from South America in homage to my international friends!!!

Here are more Pictures:

My mother essentially described the Cuba Pavilion as a nice quickie! "You were in and out within minutes and it ended with a Cuban cigar!"

France went all out with their sensual name and actual Rodin sculpture.

Viva Columbia!

yes, Peru is home of the alpaca!

I was made in Canada!

I didn't go into Latvia, but it sure looked cool!

Finally, I have no idea what pavilion this is, but yay for bunnies!

Sorry other 190 something countries, but your lines were too long!

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Posted by: naanofyourbusiness | July 10, 2010

Stalker In A Strange Land

OMG! Is That A Brown Person in China? Can I get my picture with her!?

Ok y’all, It’s official. I have, or rather had, my first stalker in China.  He’s not the guy pictured above.  That guy asked to take his picture with me while I was at the World Expo, and he wasn’t the first.  I’ve discovered that being brown, or of Indian decent if you prefer, in China makes me stand out.  Since I’ve been here, Chinese people, young and old, have stopped me and asked to pose in photographs with me.  I think it’s extremely weird but flattering; however, I didn’t even realize this phenomena until I met my first stalker.

I say stalker because he was following me for 15 minutes taking photographs of me, ironically enough, while I was looking at photographs at the 2010 Shanghai International Photographic Art Exhibit Opening Ceremony.  At first, I thought he was just taking pictures of the photos because well, it seems everyone there was using their very professional looking cameras to take pictures of amazing pictures (see below)

I suppose he'll crop the photo, frame it, and then tell his friends what an amazing photographer he is.

ppl. taking pictures of pictures!

Ok, I took a picture of a picture too, but seriously, when will I ever convince a panda to pose for a picture while on homemade stilts?!

Anyway, back to the stalker, to check if he was truly following me, I zig-zagged and walked back to photos I had already seen.  He stuck to me like white on rice!  Finally, I walked over to my parents and pointed him out.  He was right behind me and proceeded to take pictures of me with my parents.  I went with it.  If he was going to take pictures of the three of us he might as well do it with my camera too.

Is it weird to ask the guy stalking you to pose for a picture with your mom?

As you can see, I also had him pose with my mother, but before he’d take pictures with my camera he took more with his…oh well.  At least he finally stopped stalking me.

Posted by: naanofyourbusiness | June 30, 2010

The International AND Generational Karaoke Gap

This movie created unachievable international, karaoke expectations, and no one gave me a pink wig to wear!

In Shanghai, Karaoke or KTV at karaoke bars is quite popular.  I wanted to experience this for myself…you know, like in the movie “Lost In Translation” when Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson end up singing karaoke with a bunch of random, drunk, japanese businessmen (yes, I know that Shanghai is not in Japan).  Well, my mother insisted on joining me and that “Lost In Translation” scenario was simply not the case.  Here’s why:

First of all, the people working at the KTV joint barely knew English, which made figuring things out slightly more difficult without a native speaker…or any chinese speaker for that matter.

Second, all the digital karaoke songbook/computer screens were in Chinese!  It took me more than 10 of our 60 minutes to even figure out how to get to the English song menu.  Until then, the only song I could find was “Roxanne” by the Police.  It’s a fine song, but I somehow had it playing on a loop.

Third, this particular KTV only had private karaoke rooms, so it was just me and my mother in a room for one hour trying to agree on anything…let alone what songs to play.  Oh, and we had microphones!

Fourth, what do you sing at karaoke when it’s just you and your Indian mom?!  I guess Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” and Ke$ha’s “Tick Tock” are out of the question.  Plus, all the songs she knows by heart are in Hindi or from the Light FM radio stations she listened to in the early 80s and 90s when she first moved to America. With that in mind, the plan was to take turns picking songs to sing with the intention of (at least) trying to pick songs that both of us knew/recognized, so I primarily drew from the early 90s and some karaoke classics from ABBA and the Beatles.  Alas, most of my choices weren’t “Light FM” enough…not even Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” which I proceeded to butcher…

Fifth, I NEVER WANT TO LISTEN TO ANOTHER AIR SUPPLY SONG EVER AGAIN!!!  At one point, while I was shamefully singing ‘NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye”—I mean the 1994 hit “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base (okay I sang both at some point, but my mom was actually singing along to “Bye Bye Bye”), my mother had figured out how to program the karaoke machine with nothing but her choices, and the only songs she picked were those by the 70s/80s soft rock duo known as Air Supply.  I was not only “All Out of Love,” but after the third Air Supply song, I was all out of patience!!!  Was this punishment for reliving my decade old, boy band fan girl days?!

Finally, I like my parents just fine, and I’m here to visit them.  However, I’ve decided that I really need to experience the Shanghai night life with people who are roughly in the same generation as me….Does anyone know how say “Let’s hang out, I swear I’m not a creeper!” in Chinese?

Posted by: naanofyourbusiness | June 28, 2010

Welcome To Shanghai Where My Mom Carries A Fork In Her Purse

First Impression of Shanghai: Crowded. Second: Holy Electricity Bill Shanghai!!! Is this the Vegas of China?

My trip to Shanghai was kicked off with a great start.  I was upgraded to first class to accommodate at least one of the more than 20 people waiting to fly standby, and I was greeted with a Mai Thai as soon as I took my seat.  Before I knew it, I was in Honolulu!!!  Next stop Tokyo.  No more first class, oh well. That aside, the flight started off with what I was hoping wouldn’t be a bad omen.

I love flying and don’t really have any qualms about it, but before take off, one of the standard no smoking/fasten your seat belt light fixtures fell from the ceiling and hit me!  The flight attendant apologized and tried to put the fixture back on the ceiling with no lasting luck.  She came back with painter’s tape (not even duct tape!!!) and taped the fixture in place! I just hope that’s not a sign of how more pressing maintenance issues are handled.  Soon we were airborne, but then the pilot made an abrupt announcement.  Apparently we had a “heavy load” weird weather, and needed to uncharacteristically fly with the landing gear down for a while.  It just sounded a little sketch…Luckily, the light didn’t fall on me again, the landing gear came back up, and other than the usual turbulence, I made it to Japan safely and a few complimentary Sapporo beers happier.

OK China, You Win, I Don’t Look 16 Anymore! Can You Please Let Me Into Your Country Anyway?!

My layover in Japan and final decent into Shanghai were a 2 hour blur of yen, miso soup, and a Japanese rice crackers.  When I eventually landed in Shanghai, I went to customs, made my way to the “Foreigners line” and made sure to have my passport, disembarkation card, and boarding pass ready to show the woman at the custom’s counter.  She stared at my passport then stared at me and then back at the passport.  This sequence happened several times before she called someone else over.  He grabbed my passport and proceeded to stare at me.  Then he asked me to smile…

Let’s get a few things straight.  In America you don’t have to renew your passport for 10 years.  The last time I had my passport photo taken, I was 16!!!!  My hair in the picture was straight, I was into sparkly, pale eye shadow, and despite a drug free high school experience, I probably look high in the picture too, but I’d never had any trouble before.

I weakly smiled and then was asked to show another ID (Driver’s License)…more pondering…hmm… here’s my terrible BU ID…no. They finally asked me to give them my signature.  Victory!!! Thank God my signature hasn’t changed in 10 years!  I was asked to look at some camera and take my picture.  The camera has a screen that shows you what your picture will look like.  I looked in the screen at myself and thought that after 24 hours of travel, I definitely looked like a HOT MESS!!!  My hair was surprisingly big and all over the place, there were crazy dark circles under my eyes, and I looked kind of like a zombie (not on purpose this time).  I’m just glad that the Chinese government let me in looking like that.

I then went to baggage claim, and thought is the entire billion plus population of China waiting at this baggage claim carousel? Needless to say, it was extremely crowded and there was a lot of pushing.  I soon got my bag and met my parents on the other side of baggage claim.  Awkward hugs ensued (my mom is a bit too into hugging) then we got in a cab and went to a little restaurant near my parent’s apartment.

My mother already knows not to expect a fork in most restaurants here.

There’s an English menu and a Chinese menu, but there are only pictures in the Chinese one.  Instead of silverware there is a set of chopsticks for each person and a baby-wipe napkin like a sturdy, big moist towelette.  Apparently, you pay per napkin here.  I wasn’t too hungry, but I ordered some very photogenic crispy pork noodles and a Tsingtao Chinese beer.  I let my parents figure out the rest.  The waiter came back with more beer than I anticipated (may a little less than 40 oz– sorry rest of the world, but metric will never come naturally to me) and our food.  My father and I began to carefully use our chopsticks to grab noodles and meat, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw a fork make its way into the food shoveling mix.

I turned to my mother and inquired about the fork–I really didn’t remember her asking for it.  She laughed and said it’s hers.  “Really, you just keep a fork in your purse?” In case you’re wondering the answer is an emphatic yes!  Forks are only standard in the restaurants that expect western visitors, and if you saw my mother desperately try to use her chopsticks the next day (she actually left her fork at this restaurant 😦 ) you’d understand why…

And that was the first 36 hours!  Hope this post wasn’t too long.

Posted by: naanofyourbusiness | June 23, 2010

I’m Clearly Into Terrible Puns. Oh, and I’ve Started A Blog!

Yes, these Chinese women have given this panda a cake. I can't wait to see China for myself!

So I’m going to China tomorrow and I wanted to start a blog to chronicle my trip among other things.  I’m still figuring this out, so bear with me.  More interesting posts to come!

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