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Shanghai World Expo 2010

05.26 – 05.27.10

This summer, we hosted a group of engineer students from America. During their stay, they expressed an interest in riding the Maglev train in Shanghai. Not only were they engineers, but they were engineers of the civil variety. That necessitated a visit to the World Expo, which was displaying some of the world’s foremost architectural achievements.

And with that, we found ourselves off to Shanghai for a very quick, but fun 48 hours.

For us the journey started at 4:30am. We had to leave Jiujiang early to connect in Nanchang to the speed train to Shanghai.

Sianna thought about reading, but then she decided jumping around on us was more fun. She’s at that crawling stage where she wants to discover her environment no matter where she is. Containing her on a train for 5 hours is a challenge. Toys, stickers, and books don’t hold her interest for very long.

Two teeth!

Our family ended up with two seats in a three seat row, so we opened the stroller and had Schäfer sit there. Schäfer isn’t tall enough to buy a ticket so we didn’t purchase one for him. We underestimated the number of people who would be going to the World Expo in the middle of the week in May.

Today, Schäfer insisted on wearing his train overalls and train socks since we was going for a train ride. He is at a fun age for travel! He loves to watch Thomas or Little People on the iPod. He can color or look at a book.

We arrived in Shanghai about 1:30pm. The kids and I headed to a friend’s apartment. It was incredibly difficult to find multiple hotel rooms for two consecutive nights.  We were able to find hotel rooms for the engineers, but we had a ask a friend if we could crash at their place. World Expo, who knew?

I spent the afternoon trying to keep two kids from crawling the walls. The kids had each been up since 4:30am. They had a small nap on the train – just enough to get them by, but not the necessary 2 hours of sleep for Schäfer or 3 hours of sleep for Sianna.

Since it was late in the afternoon, I had to make the call: let the kids stay up or put them down for another nap. I let them stay up and hoped for an early bedtime. They were sleep-deprived maniac monkeys. I’m sure our friend’s will never offer their guest room again. ha!

Meanwhile Hubs escorted the engineers to the Maglev train. That evening, we all went to bed early.


The next morning, we rode the subway out to the World Expo. Since it was on a weekday in May, when all the kids and university students were still in school, purchasing tickets was no problem.

What is the World Expo?

In simple terms, it’s a bunch of architecturally modified warehouses aka “pavilions”. Each country rents? buys? a warehouse and decorates it or shows a video with a message from their country.

It’s a LARGE trade show. (I kept having flashbacks to when I worked in the food & beverage industry.)

In addition to the country pavilions, there are also corporate pavilions and theme pavilions put on by the country which hosts the Expo. China’s theme is “Better City. Better Life.”

Let’s look at some pavilions. OK!

The Canadian Pavilion. “Cedar” comes to mind.

The Nigeria Pavilion.

And on. And on. And on.

We weren’t allowed to bring in any beverages, but clean water fountains were everywhere. Schäfer loved drinking from the fountain! Such an exotic thing to do!

While most countries have pavilions, some of those are more popular than others. Upon entering to the expo, there was an announcement that the German, Swiss, USA, and China pavilion already had 4 hour lines.

This is the line for Finland. Who knew? Even though the lines were shaded, there was no way I could stand with two kids for four hours. So, we set off to see some of the less popular pavilions.

Several countries from Africa shared a large pavilion. Schäfer loved standing under the big giraffe.

We bought him an Expo Passport, the most popular souvenir being sold at the Expo. It looks and feels like a real passport. You could get your passport stamped at each of the pavilions. But this wasn’t just a kids souvenir. Many Chinese were buying one as well as the World Expo would probably be the only time in their life they’ll have a “passport” and get to “travel around the world.”

There were a variety of cultural foods at the Expo, but we decided to start with American. It had been awhile since we had a good hamburger and since Triple-Os wasn’t available (come on Canada!), we settled for a Whopper.

We also brought our own Gatorade which turned out to be a fantastic decision!

One of the longest lines at the Expo was for the Russian Pavilion. However, beside the line we noticed an almost empty queue. What could it be for? We noticed a sign in Chinese that read: “This line was for the elderly, handicapped and families with two or more young children.” Guest what? We have two! Straight to the front of the four-hour-long line we went…

…and entered a world imagined by Russian children. The future apparently lies in massive moon berries and monstrous flowers. It really was a most creative pavilion. Schäfer loved the space shuttles and satellites on the ceiling.

Of course, the pavilions weren’t the only attraction at the expo.

The Seed Cathedral, Britain’s contribution to the expo, was an incredible ode to potential of life. This was our favorite pavilion. Once again, we got in immediately because of our two kids!

You entered into the side of the fiberglass studded structure.

Inside each of the spines of glass had a different variety seed embedded into it.

On the end of that spine was the type of vegetation or plant that seed produced.

There were many seeds.

Many, many seeds. It was pretty incredible! The Seed Cathedral.

About this time, Schäfer took a little nap. We were all doing our best not to get a sunburn. We kept applying sunscreen and stayed under umbrellas as much as possible. Thankfully, nobody got a burn!

Pavilion after creative pavilion lined the streets. The Expo was really large. We attended the international pavilions which is only half of the Expo. This section stretched a good many blocks along the river and was several large blocks wide. Across the river was an equally large area for the corporate pavilions.

We stopped by the Greece Pavilion to see their interpretation of “Better City, Better Life”. The beginning was a beautiful video on Greek History displayed on large panel screens. Schäfer didn’t like the darkness or loud music. So we hurried through that part.

Hubs purchased a rice pudding, which was startlingly not good. He thinks they were selling the rice puddings and small cookies to help the country’s debt problems.

Schäfer took a nap beside the Greek wharfs.

There was a wonderful restaurant inside the Greek pavilion, but we decided to press our luck and try for Turkish food. After all, when is the next time we’ll be in Turkey?

Turkey had an interesting ancient display inside, but we rushed through in order to get…

some Turkish ice cream. Schäfer enjoyed this Turkish man’s antics with frozen cream.

From there, we noticed that they also have a restaurant inside. (From the guide map, it was difficult to tell which food vendor was an authentic restaurant hosted by a country and which was a general Chinese style fast food vendor.)

We found the Turkish hostess and asked where the line was so that we could go grab a spot. He looked at Sianna and said, “Is that your child?” I replied, “Yes, this is my daughter.” He said we could be seated immediately. Wow.

Then, we went upstairs for some Turkish food. Every large pavilion had a restaurant featuring its country’s dishes. We HAD to get some Turkish! It turned out to be a fantastic meal. It was just one set meal of Iskender, rice, kebabs and “baklava” (Sorry, I forget the Turkish word for this dessert). We shared one meal and it was plenty. Delicious!

Outside the Swedish Pavilion was set up a “Pipi Longstocking House” kids play area – the only play area we found in the Expo. Schäfer and a number of kids enjoyed this immensely. The Swedes think of everything!

Hubs and Schäfer played while I got in line for the Spanish pavilion. Yes, even the short line (Four hours saved) had a 30 minute line there!  I wonder why?

This was the scene at the end of the Spanish pavilion. Yes, a forty foot animatronic foreign baby. We thought this Yang Wa Wa was brilliant! Chinese love foreign babies and this clever ploy on the part of the Spaniards drew in nearly the largest crowd of all.

Now that we knew about the short-line, we went back to the Canada pavilion (two hours saved), where Schäfer took a turn on the moving bicycle ride movie, where you peddled a man through a creative and artistic movie. Meanwhile, Sianna is completely crashed.

Then to the USA Pavilion (4 hours saved) thanks to our two children!

Schäfer had his Expo passport ready to be stamped.

Hubs occasionally consulted his Expo app to read about the construction of the pavilions.

While waiting to go in the USA pavilion, Schäfer asked for a PB&J sandwich. Seemed appropriate!

Once inside, the USA pavilion consisted of three rooms with large movie screens in each room. There were three different films presented. The first film was “Welcome to America” which had a bunch of Americans trying to speak Chinese. It was hilarious! Only America would want to poke so much fun at itself! Honestly, I cried. Hubs said I was hormonal.

Then, we went in the second room and watched the second film which was about energy conservation and the environment. It had a lot of famous people in it including Kobe Bryant who spoke during the opening scene. The Chinese love Kobe! The film also had business leaders and Hillary Clinton who introduced President Obama. The message was non-offensive, but very American. Hubs said he got teary eyed. I know!

Finally, the third movie was about a little girl who saw an old patch of grass in her urban apartment complex. During the movie, she mobilizes the entire neighborhood to make that patch of grass a small green space. This spoke volumes to the Chinese in the room who all live in such urban areas.

Next we went to the Australian pavilion and once again, got in the fast line. Each fast line rue was different. For Australia we qualified because we had two children and one was under the age of 12 months. The Australia pavilion had a large museum like scene which explained the history of Australia. It was well put together, but no one was taking time to read each panel. Then, there was a final video presentation in Chinese about kids and the environment.

We were not able to see inside the pavilions for Germany or Switzerland. Each country was able to set up their own policy for who was able to go through the fast line. Germany and Switerland had a handicapped only policy. They simply did not care that we had two young children. (No wonder Europe’s population is shrinking.)

Upon inquiry, the Germans wanted to know if we were from Germany. Well, six generations ago… The Swiss lady suggested my husband stand in line for four hours while the kids and I sit on a bench. Oh well. It didn’t hurt to ask. We rolled on. There were plenty of other countries to see. Auf wiedersehen!

After Australia, while we were walking around, we stumbled across a vending machine that had milk. Since we were not able to bring in our own beverages, we had to buy milk inside.

This was Sianna’s first time to use a straw! Bless her heart. It was around 5pm and she hadn’t had any milk since breakfast. She did eat snacks and lunch. She drank plenty of water. But this baby loves her milk!

A family photo.

It was late by the time we made it to the China pavilion. We were in desperate search of supper so we didn’t try to go inside.

Shorel, Sandra, Schäfer and Sianna at the Shanghai World Expo!

We wandered over to the East side in search of supper. We were hoping for a wonderful kebab, but there were no restaurants to be found except Chinese style fast food.

We ended up having a great supper in Sri Lanka. Who knew? Sianna couldn’t eat enough potatoes and carrots with curry!

While we ate, Schäfer ran all over Sri Lanka.

When he was done running around, he took time to make some new friends from Sri Lanka. Have we mentioned that he’s extroverted?

Our last stop of the night was Nepal. It was the most beautifully decorated wooden pavilion. Hubs went for a tour inside while the kids and I waited outside.


That was our day at the Expo. To our surprise, we got to see many of the pavilions. “They say” you need three days to see most of the Expo.

For our family with wee ones, one day was enough. We left about 9:30pm when the Expo night life was just starting to crank up.

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