Friday, October 29, 2010

Another Day another dollar

          Lately I’ve been constantly working and doing homework for school. In the little moments of free time I have, I’ve been going to the gym and exploring the city. On Tuesday, I went to the Expo again with fellow cohort members Sherry and Paulette, and one of her coworkers Caleb. Having already been twice ive seen most of the country pavilions but I still have some exploring to do.  With each time I find myself for the most part impressed with all the designs of the different pavilions. As the countdown of days to the end of the EXPO nears single digits, the attendance of visitors has significantly increased.   Last weekend there were over a million visitors for the day, which was 1/75th of the expected amount of people to visit over the course of the 6-month event.  I have come to accept that entering the pavilions is almost impossible unless you want hour upon hours. With that being said, ive gotten great satisfaction out of just looking at the pavilions. One of the coolest ones that I saw and went into was the Netherlands. Filled with bright lights and very odd works of art including a Vincent Van Gogh piece, there was a lot to look at and be amazed by even without the remedies that the Netherlands are known for. The biggest disappointment of the day and possibly the whole Expo was how terrible the US pavilion was.  While many pavilions are filled with timelines of their history and to set the environment of the country, the US was far from it. The main attractions were 3 movies about how the US is trying to be innovative and trying to work together as a team to make the world a better place, and sucking up to the theme of the World Expo, Better City, Better Life. They also featured a room covered with advertisement from American brands. To top off the Epic failure of the US, in the gift shop everything was significantly overpriced and were straight up garbage, and to make things worse, half the products had stickers on them that said, "Made in China". Never in my life have I felt so embarrassed to be an American. The shame and disappointment of being a world power and having the pavilion look like it was created in a day. I do understand there were budgeting issues and that the pavilion almost wasn’t built, but common people! I think the Expo has been very amusing and entertaining and has been a big success not only in China but also as a whole. One thing that I wonder is, what will happen to all the Expo advertisement when the event ends. I feel that every street corner is filled with something linked to the Expo and so far has been the decoration of the city, so when it is gone, what will the city actually look like since its been this way for a couple years.

         Today has been a bittersweet day. Yesterday I told that my morning classes was cancelled which I was excited about, only to find out that I have to teach another class, which was suppose to start early than my normal class.  With that big disappointment I arrived to school and found the place packed with parents, cameras, and camcorders. It turns out that today is observation day and the parents sit in on the classes as the teachers show them what the kids have learned so far.  I’m glad that the principle did not inform me of the this slightly HUGE detail yesterday, as well as tell me that I would be teaching my horrible preschooler class for not the normal 30 minute class but rather an hour. By chance, I am very grateful that I changed into a button down shirt at the last minute and didn't follow through on my casual Friday attire.  To make things worse, I let one of the teachers borrow my fake fruit to use in her class yesterday. The only problem is I needed it for the class I was about to teach, but just my luck she was using it to demonstrate in front of the parents.  After waiting about 10 minutes She said it would only take a few minute longer but of course it was much longer, making me late for my own class. Once in my class I had to teach with the eyes of the parents staring at me like a hawk watching my every move. Sweating profusely, I continued on with the lesson which was essentially the Chinese teacher yelling at me in broken English that I needed to do this and do that, some of which the students had never even learned. After essentially being a puppet, and successfully making a fool of myself to the parents the class ended.
         I went to the grand opening of this fancy “Members only” club called Prive (pre-Vay). One of my friend was able to get my and my roommate might on the guest list so we were able to go. There was a huge line outside the club that wrapped around the block with security everywhere. It was a “Dress to impress” red carpet theme. After waiting about 25 minutes in line, we finally got in through security. There was a red carpet walkway that led to the door of the club. There were photographers everywhere and as you walked down the red carpet, there were 2 beautiful girls dressed in big fancy white dresses that stopped you and took a picture with you as well as give you a sharpie to sign the wall. I never in my life have felt like celebrity as I did here. With hundreds of people lined up outside the gates peering in and security personnel and photographers everywhere, I kind of felt like a big deal.
         Once inside they had free flow (all you can drink) until midnight. They were popping bottles like crazy and every 20 or so minutes, they would bring out Champagne bottles that were lit with sparklers to certain people. There were photographers and a video crew that were walking through taking footage of the special event. The place was very fancy and classy and featured leather couches and 2 different stages 3 different rooms and a balcony. At one point in the night they had so many people in the club that they exceeded maximum capacity and stopped letting people in. The club can be seen here be a member of the club, just to get access, it costs 10,000RMB, which is about $1500; it goes all the way up to 50,000 RMB. This is the kind of place that im sure a lot of the business people take clients to wine and dine them. Overall I had a great time and it was a nice break from work.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The World Expo

Having problems previously loading pictures into my blog from the World Expo, here  are some of the pictures I took.

Coke Mural

The Entrance to the Expo

Happy Birthday Mom!

In Honor of my Mom's birthday I made her a video since I couldn't be there celebrate with here:  Take a look at it

Hong Kongin and Singapore Slingin it

The struggle to reunite all 5 of us on the trip continued.  Having lost service with our phones when we went to Hong Kong, we were out of contact with Kirsti. Having miscommunicated some details, we finally met her on Saturday, a day and a half later than expected. Known for its wonderful shopping, diverse culture and modern architecture, Hong Kong has a lot to see and do. Some of the highlights of our visit included going to the “peak”, a massive mountaintop that overlooks Hong Kong. While waiting in line to buy tickets for the tram to go up the peak, there was a huge collision as one of the double decker busses came crashing down the hill, bouncing off 3 taxi cabs and veering off   the street headed directly at the crowd waiting for tickets. With a blessing from above, the bus stopped within 20 feet from the massive crowd and was about 50 feet away from me. It was like a scene out of Batman (which was filmed partly in Hong Kong) except there was no super hero to save the day.  On top of the peak, it featured a huge shopping center area with a gorgeous 360 view of Hong Kong, as well as some fancy houses.
Where the Bus Crashed
Fountain outside the Tram
Hong Kong and Chinese Flag
The city from on top of the peak

We also went to the mid level elevators, which are supposably, the longest continuous stretch of escalators in the world. Located on a hill in this ritzy shopping area, escalators after escalators lined the streets, saving you from having to walk up the hill. What comes up must also come down but unfortunately for these escalators, they only go up.

The Covered area is the escalators

   To celebrate China’s birthday and showcase the modern architecture of Hong Kong and its skyscrapers, we went to the light show by the river. For this huge show, the streets and metro were marked off and the area was packed with thousands of people. We sat with our wine and watched as the night skies lit up with an array of colorful lights from the skyscrapers. The show was topped off with a firework finale.
    Our next stop on the trip was to the small island of Singapore. Just a hop and a skip away from both Indonesia and Malaysia, Singapore is roughly 4 times the size of Washington D.C. After a 3hour flight south from Hong Kong, we arrived in Singapore. We were picked up by a wonderful driver who gave us essential a tour of the city as he took us to where we were staying, “A Beary good hostel”. Ironically enough, spending our vacation away from China, we stayed in Chinatown.
Laterns outside our Hostel

 Singapore was a very clean city, which probably could be linked to that fact that you can get a fine for almost anything.  Forget to put the lid down on the toilet seat? No problem, you won’t forget next time because you will have spent $500 to remind you. Want to Jaywalk? That will only cost you $300. What about eat or drink on the subway?  Just a measly $1000. But wait there is more, if you can’t control that urge to smoke in the designated for a limited time only, at the cost of $2000, you can do it!
One of the many funny cartoon signs

     We went to the world’s first night safari, which was essentially going to the zoo at night and riding a tram around to see the animals. Unfortunately to protect the environment of the animals no pictures could be taken with flash, which defeats the purpose of taking pictures at night. The night was highlighted with the fire dance performance. As half naked muscular men danced around with fire and did tribal dances, it created quite the crowd obviously. Standing in the front right next to the barrier taking pictures to document the experience, one of the men was searching for a participant for the next act.  Walking towards our direction Kirsti began to freak out thinking that she would be picked. Oblivious to what was about to happen next I laughed at her as she acted like a little girl. Searching for someone who could get the crowd pumped up and be the main event of the show, the man stopped right in front of us. Who did he pick? None other than yours truly. If that wasn’t a shock in itself.  They made me take off my bag and shirt and join the half naked Asian club, which made the crowd hoot and holler. Once on stage I had to do a little jig and then follow the lead of one of the guys and blow out a lit torch. Unable to do so, as performers laughed and tried to make fun of me in a jokingly manor, as they say in the show business “The Show must go on” in a attempt to redeem myself and win back the crowd. I took my torch and did a show of my own. Like a ninja I jumped off a rock and swung the torch like it was my numb chucks. After about a 30 second performance I ended it with a few of roundhouse kicks and tossing the torch in the air. After I threw in my audible into the performance, which caught everyone by surprise, we carried on with the show.

         The layout of Singapore has been very will thought through. With the nice mixture of greenery and buildings the city flows very nicely together. The taxi driver even said that the streets by the airport were built specifically to be turned into an emergency landing strip if need be in a matter of 30 minutes, which is quite impressive. Even the trees were planted accordingly.

During our short trip in Singapore, we were able to cover quite a bit; we visited the Asian Civilians museum, went to little India and hiked through the Bukit Nature reserve, which was a rainforest, filled with monkeys and other wild animals. As well as walk around the city explored the city. One of the spots we tried to visit was the presidential palace but was unable to do so. Upon our arrival to Singapore, the wife of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Kwa Geok Choo passed away. A very knowledgeable woman, she was a Queen’s Scholar at Cambridge University and graduated first in her class, with her future husband, the Prime Minister being second. Like they say, if you can’t beat them, join them. With thousands of people paying honor to her, the palace was under tight security as the lines went around a few blocks.
Known for the wonderful food and of course the Singapore Sling, an adult beverage that became a worldwide sensation, Singapore offered delicious meals for a very low price. While the food was very cheap everything else was expensive. I tried for the first time ever Shark fin soup, while I hate to say it, it was pretty tasty. My heart was won over on our second to last night, when we went out for a fancy dinner and all had the traditional Chili crab. Quoted as a “small crab”, I would hate to see what a big one looked like. Although it cost an arm in a leg, it was very delicious and well worth it.
Chili Crab
Singapore Sling
Exclusive Mega Mac, Can't find these in the states

Only the Strong can Squat
Overall, I had a wonderful  trip. I was able to continue my travels and see the world, while  clearing  my mind of working and school.