Friday, March 4, 2011

Hey! That's out of line!

Last summer, my travels in China started in Shanghai. And unless you lived under a rock last year, you would know that the World Expo was held in Shanghai at the time. Things like the World Expo were like a once-in-a-lifetime experience to me, because when will I ever have an opportunity to ever browse the World Expo again? Take a few days and just browse, with no work-related stresses, or kids to take care of. Needless to say, I was extremely excited. On top of that, I really missed home and the closest I could get to being back in the United States was to go to its pavilion. Pathetic, I know.
Figure 1: The closest I came to being back home in China

I had put off going because of the weather. Summers in Shanghai are absolutely brutal. The humidity feels like you're breathing underwater and combined with the heat, it really is a deadly combination. My phone literally broke because it got "wet" when I left it out for too long. It is just that humid.

In addition, the issue that scared me the most was the amount of people that were going to be there. Although I understand that it was inevitable that I would have to wait more than 2 hours in line for each pavilion, the thought that all these native Chinese people, mixed with foreigners and ambiguous Chinese-Americans terrified me. I have already seen what the subways in China were like, I could not imagine what it would be like to wait in line with people who absolutely have no sense of "lining up". This came from personal experience, as people would shamelessly cut me in line while while I waited to replenish my subway card.

When I could no longer put off going, I trekked to the World Expo with my cousin.

The first time I went, it was at night and the World Expo was just about closing. We managed, however, to get into the Hong Kong pavilion, which was not that long of a wait.
Figure 2: Cousin and I playing around in the Hong Kong Pavilion

Things did not look so bad and I was quickly regaining confidence. Maybe the World Expo was not as bad as I thought.

The next day, we arrived at the World Expo bright and early. The morning commute was relatively easy. Everything seemed nice and dandy until I saw the line to the Saudi Arabia Pavilion. Words were taken out of my mouth. I was absolutely dumbfounded. Speechless. I have never seen THIS MANY PEOPLE IN ONE PLACE before. It was, excuse my language, a clusterfuck of people, ALL pushing their way forward, squeezing into every tiny little space. No sense of personal space was present, although I understand how personal space was not peoples' main concern in the present situation. Organized being relative, of course, as there were barricades, but that was about it.
Figure 3: Clusterfuck of people. The lady in the funny hat has her serious face on and her fist ready to punch her way to the front of the line.

Deciding not to go see the Saudi Arabia Pavilion, cousin and I decided to press forward and visit the Japan Pavilion. the Japan Pavilion was supposed to be a 4 hour wait. So cousin and I prepared for the long haul.

Figure 4: "It requires around 6 hours to wait in line"

Waiting in line, something I've been familiar with all my life, was an entirely different and new experience when I was in China. The more experienced line-waiters had fold up stools, stockpile of food, sun umbrellas, and fans. All I had was my purse and a water bottle. And thus begins our story.

I am sure you all have experienced the role of spot-holder, where one stands in line to hold a spot for your friends. Like on Black Friday, I usually switch with my mom as spot-holder, I wait in the long line while she goes to try on clothes, and vice versa. The spot-holders in the Japan Pavilion were on steroids. One person would hold the spot of an entire group of people, it was ridiculous. It was a wonder the wait was 4 hours, based on the sheer amount of people who would "cut in line", meeting their spot-holders.

And the fact that mortified me the most? The waiting foreigners, arms folded, glaring at these Chinese people cutting in line, shaking their heads.

It was incredibly embarrassing for me--I wanted to so bad go up to those people and just tell them to not judge all Chinese people because we are not all like that. And to not group me with them because I would never do something that rude. I grew up in the US, after all.

And all this really just begs the question: what kinds of examples are Chinese setting towards the view of Chinese people by foreigners? And how do I fit myself within this classification?

6 hours later... tired, hungry, hot, sweaty, and extremely annoyed, we finally saw the Japan Pavilion. And it wasn't that great.

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