Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Another Expo Day- Shanghai (20th of September)

A more relaxed time was had on our second day at the Expo. Opting for a day of fewer crowds we entered via the water entrance and spent most of the day in the Urban Cases and Best Practices part of the exhibition. On our walk to the boat Jenny became very excited at the prospect of being able to push the button for the green man to come on at the traffic lights (since in most places we've been you just have to take a mad dash across the road). Only problem is that the light for the traffic went red, but the drivers of the vehicles had absolutely no comprehension of the fact that this meant they should stop. Result being that we very almost found ourselves being run over. The security checks were more stringent for entry via the boat. First our bags were opened up and checked, then we had to go through a barrier, our bags had to go through a scanning machine, we had to have a scanner passed up and down us- back and front and then our bags had to be opened up a second time and peered into. We got the feeling these people really had nothing to do since so few people catch the free boat and that they would have got insanely bored had they not done all these checks. Seeing where the Expo was in relation to the city and the cityscape itself was an enjoyable start to the day. And only one person pushed me as we got off the boat. This certainly was a civilised way of entry.

The first few cases we looked at weren’t all that exciting and I wondered if I’d got a bit too excited about visiting this area of the Expo. We learnt that Dusseldorf’s motorway has been put underground and the riverside reclaimed by the people. Rotterdam has done something with its storm water drainage, but we don’t understand Chinese. Somewhere in Brazil they’re making clothes out of plastic bottles and Cairo doesn’t have a lot to show for its efforts. The Sao Paulo case informed us of their billboard ban. I’d read about this in the ‘ecologist’ magazine (sadly no longer a magazine…), but almost forgotten about it. Their case was great. The walls were covered in photographs of streets before the ban and after it. The city looks so much nicer now that there aren’t all the adverts shouting out at you. If only more cities would follow their example.

One of the cases, about Chinese modernisation dwells on my mind. They bulldozed all the 'dispersed and inefficient used homesteads' to convert the land to intensive agriculture and moved all 40,000 villagers from these dispersed villages to the model town of Huaming. This kind of development is 'in full swing' all over the area of Tianjin. It seemed like this was something to be very proud of with pictures of the new houses and smiling people. It would have been interesting to know what the locals really thought and whether they were actually 'burning with boundless anticipation toward a better life'. Some might have appreciated it, but what about the older people who had lived in these places all their lives. This is another case of the old China and its traditions being lost in the name of 'progress'.

In one of the German models of environmentally friendly buildings we found a 'water saving bottom' on the toilet. In the Passiv Haus from Hannover we found a model of a Hanjin container ship (the kind we'll be travelling to America on!). This was the first passive house in China and they were all very proud of it. The German lady who was looking round it with us though was unimpressed by the concrete and bland furnishing. She was worried about what impression this would give the Chinese. Apparently they may well be knocking the building down after Expo, which seems very environmentally sound.

London had a ZED (Zero Energy Development) house with mouldy ceilings which I spent a lot of time in. There was appalling spelling on the signs, such as 'Penguins are huanted by hunger' and 'edible cutleries are served with every main cours', And contrary to what you might have seen previously 'London is one big vegetable patch'. There were some interesting pavilions from Scandinavia about recycling, environmentally friendly building and cities. There were also some good ones from Germany too, giving me inspiration on places that I might have to go and visit. We had hoped that the ‘Liverpool’ case might tell us something informative about a sustainable Liverpool, but this was very much an exhibition to please the Chinese with a video in Chinese about Liverpool football, pictures of football all over the walls and headphones through which you could listen to ‘Lily the Pink’ and the Beatles.

In the evening we happened upon a musical story about the Stadtmusikanten of Bremen, with some Chinese prancing around in animal costumes. Not a lot was to be seen in the Mongolian pavilion, but it just being Mongolian was enough. Feeling hungry we located the vegetarian restaurant and asked 'Do you sell sweet and sour vegetarian pork?”. In reply: “Can you say that in English?”. “That was English. We’re from England.”

So instead of feasting upon vegetarian pork we sat down with our trangia and pasta in the hostel courtyard and found a bit more time to curse the moon (the hostel in Qingdao wouldn't be able to book the ferry ticket for us). As we packed up our possessions before bed, a Chinese youth said from his bed 'Sorry. I can’t help listening. Sorry. Dr. Who. Laughter. Sorry, Dr. Who'. Who? What? We weren’t really sure what to gather from this encounter.

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