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Susan Wang - USA Pavilion Student Ambassador

USA Pavilion Student Ambassador from the University of Colorado-Boulder, now serving at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo
October 2, 2010

Spirit of Texas Week                                                 October 2, 2010

If it weren't for Hillary Clinton helping us getting some corporate funding then none of us would be able to come here to participate at the Expo. This time I have to actually thank the State of Texas for being one of our sponsors. So in the spirit of giving thanks, we had a dedicated week to all things Texan. From dressing up in NASA astronaut jumpsuits to enjoying the delightful homey melody of a swing fiddle, we are entertaining everyone who comes to the USA Pavilion.

Give it up for the Ford Marshall Swing Band from Austin Texas!!!!

After weeks of working the routine: working day and day out, showering, peeling off my sweaty USAP uniform off my skin, sleeping, refusing to wake up after the fourth snooze button I HAVE FINALLY found the energy to leave the gates of Expo Village and enjoy a night of relaxation out on the town.
 Not only finding the energy to escape but I have crawled out of the lazy hole/rut I have been in lately. No matter what shift I am in AM/PM I lost the stamina to even think about leaving the comfort of my bed, but ENOUGH with the excuses! The weather is no longer morbid, or torturous to the senses, I can enjoy Shanghai again!!! (without sweating!)

I'm trying to be more proactive/social with my activities; community service, hanging out with my friends, a little spontaneity rather than be on repeat with the work routine. I've had enough!

Tonight I was invited to dinner by Lavinia where we met her very excited and hospitable Auntie figure at the Shanghai Heavenly Restaurant in Xujiahui. It always felt like a journey to get into the city, but it's an illusion that heat brainwashed me into. Afterwards I boarded the subway to the Wooden Box cafe (dear subway: our relationship was broken off for weeks. i"m so sorry Shanghai metro.) The cool breeze rushes past me as the subway speeds towards the next destination and I love the feeling every time.

It feels so mellow to have a glass of red wine and let my ears sail away to the sooth melody of the country swing band playing. The fiddle slowly rocks me into a peaceful state. 
This high was the best remedy to cure all the crazy work hours, dealing with tempers and attitude, elitism and prejudice. 

Thank you Ford Marshall Swing band for great great music
. Thank you dear sweet America for all the great music you have produced!

Beloved DPRK                                                             September 6, 2010

Every single day at Expo, national pavilions will have their "National Day" and today was an exceptional day because on September 6th, 2010 North Korea (DPRK) decided to have its national day.

If no one realized this, but this girl has weird interests, and particularly I have some odd fascination with the nation that is North Korea. My odd obsession with North Korea peaked this spring 2010 when I was studying in Beijing. By the spring semester, my good friend from Fall term Jane sent me a care package filled with many goodies, such as crackers, granola, a charming letter and two good reads all on North Korea. The first was "Escaping North Korea" by Mike Kim and "Nothing to Envy" and I munched on this new knowledge like there was no tomorrow. Selina, my new spring roommate got a little worried about my sanity, and teased me about my obsession with North Korea.

She also made this erie connection. Whenever I read Mao or my NK books, I got these stomachaches, were the books trying to kill me? Why did I always get a bit nauseous? It was very odd.

I went to the NK pavilion today to see if any special activities took place. The only difference was the pavilion opened at 1 in the afternoon (They had festivities CLOSED OFF TO THE PUBLIC ) and the female employees dressed in the traditional "hanbok" outfit, though they wore a very cheap quality barbie doll like pink with dazzling sparkles. I thought it was slightly tacky.

So to add another book to my collection, I got myself some bed time reading, "The Benevolent Sun" which is about the beloved leader of DPRK; Kim Il Sung. I also purchased some lovely stamps and some (I'm pretty sure) authentic North Korean pins that also stabbed me in the thumb because they have no pin backs, it's just a pin needle glued to the back and you can just stab into your laniard or into your skin as you clip into your shirt. When I was making my purchases, I bumped into Ben Cohen and Dave from USAP who also came to see the excitement at the DPRK National Expo day.

"Nice, you actually got it (the book)? I'll expect a book report" Dave said.
Ben said he'll borrow it when i'm done, and we all found out "the benevolent sun" is a trilogy since I saw vol 2 on the top shelf and I got vol 1. The nice North Korean lady said 2 and 3 were coming soon.

I declined the offer of a plastic bag for my book saying that I could put it in my bag (cuz I always do that, trying to be more eco friendly/i'm from boulder, we live in trees) , but the lady assured me that it was better to put the book in a plastic bag. I was getting the feeling it was respect for Kim Il Sung's face who is on the cover.

"Are you Chinese?" she asked in English. 
I thought about my response and to avoid any awkwardness I quickly said "yes I am," knowing that if I said "American" my chances of friendly conversation with this particuarly nice lady would cease. Sometimes my Asian appearance helps disguise my actual identity.
 "Oh!" in surprise. "but your English is really good! "
How flattering, what to do? I pulled the modesty card and said , "oh you are so nice!! Thank you!"

Training Day                                                                           July 30, 2010

Everyone was schedule for training either Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday. As for me, I am in the W/F group. Luckily training day part 1 on Wednesday wasn't so intense thanks to the US consulate BBQ. We got to end our training at 2pm! rather than 8 pm or worse 10pm, but we are fortunate enough to breeze through training with confidence and comfort.

When I got into Shanghai, the weather was comfortable, wasn't extreme or too much to handle, but somehow mother nature decided to turn ugly and give us some brutal heat and horrendous humidity. All of us have been sweating like a sizzling jalapeno. It's not even funny anymore, my legs and thighs have been drenching in sweat. Sorry that is a little too much information, but i see everyone's sweat marks on their backs, waist lines....and the shower of sweat that is seen on everyone's heads.

Around lunch time I was able to attend a volunteering event that we (USAP) were hosting. USAP is trying to do more community outreach in Shanghai and today Dan Whitaker (community outreach director) hosted a lunch/tour for these migrant school children from the Minhang migrant school. I got to have lunch with them at our "QSR" or quick serve restaurant which serves KFC, fast food what not.

The little kids I got to sit with were very rambunctious and silly and yet very sweet. All the little boys shouted for water, drinks, straws and we got them replenished as soon as we could.
"It's so hot, can we please have water????" 
"Yes yes yes, it'll be over here soon"

Everyone got little boxes of pizza, pepperoni and classic supreme. We got handed forks, understandable since the pizzas were very hot, but I made sure everyone got to eat them correctly, with hands of course. If I'm not mistaken by memory I think several of the kids said that this was their first time eating pizza or eating real US pizza. Nonetheless many of them liked it, one boy Peter preferred a sweeter fair. I joked saying he should have a pie instead if he wanted something sweeter.

"Let Wang laoshi (teacher) have the first slice" Shelly mentioned to the group. I was touched by this little girl's manners and genuineness. Other tables had a very different group dynamic. All girls, all from ages 11-13 (but they look 8!!!) and all looking very well dressed, with their pretty hair bands, scrunchies, and colorful hairclips were very excited to meet one of our SA's working VIP, David Ge Ge 哥哥 or David brother (since he is older, one addresses them by their age group, I fall under big sister or worse Auntie since for some reason I look older, perfect).

The little girls were so charmed by David's presence as he sat down and chatted with the girls. They requested him to sing songs, ask him his age, what he likes to do.
"Act like ladies everyone, you are all here to learn and everyone must be lady like!!" their teacher said, "thank David 哥哥 for coming, do you like David? do you find him to be 帅 (shuai=handsome)"

"YESSSS!!!!!!!!!" They all shrieked.

Our dance team "Dance America" (LA-based dance troupe) had their afternoon performance that the kids all got to see front row center, and roped off from everyone else. Yes it is exclusive but it's an opportunity for these kids who are the underdogs in life to see something exciting and fun. For a lot of kids, it's their first time interacting with Americans other than their American English teachers.

**Story of the Day**

I wish I got a picture of this little girl, but I'm sure there are plenty of pictures our communications bureau snapped up everyone. After lunch and the show, we escorted our little VIPs up to color and to play some interaction games with other student ambassadors. We played "hot potato", "Simon Says" (if there is a Chinese equivalent name which I KNOW there is, I need to know!) and "Heads up Seven up!". We handed out stickers, M&M's as prizes, which the kids went crazy for. One The little girl that I came to adore was this little, short, and plumpy girl who had very dark skin from being out in the sun. She was very excited when we mentioned we were going to the Belgian pavilion afterwards.

"We're going to the Belgian pavilion after this everyone. Does everyone know Belgium?"

"OOOO Really??!! YAY YAY *claps, I hope I can eat some Belgian chocolate!!!" 

Her teacher interjected with the weirdest explanation: 
"Eating chocolate makes you darker and you're dark enough!"
I then added, "well there's nothing wrong with being a little tan."
The little girl smiled and said, "darker skin is healthy"
 then the girl next to her said, "you're fat as it is, you don't need anymore chocolate, you need to lose weight."

And this is coming from a 12 year old. Man that was harsh! Rob and I were in shock. Harsh, I would've cried. But this girl had tough skin and didn't care what she said because she loved herself. Good for you!! I"m glad the social pressures have not crushed your spirit little one.

First Days in Shanghai                                                               July 21, 2010

The long grueling 14 hours on a plane to Shanghai finally ended. The screaming baby continued into the terminal. I hope she saw a doctor.

We were greeted by USAP staff and our director Peter Winter, and Rebecca Reser.

The weather in Shanghai was fairly humid as we entered the heat wave. Bless the full blast A/C in the bus and every building we set foot into.

We got our ID's aka our credentials that WE HAVE TO HAVE ON US AT ALL TIMES. Otherwise it's going to be a pain to get back into our apts. All of us have to scan in at security checkpoints around the village, which are at every entrance. The place is guarded like a ciatadel, with electric fences, security guards, and cameras.
They are there to make sure we are safe, but sometimes the theater the security guards play is beyond ridiculous. Sometimes they are very relaxed, other times it's very stringent, and sometimes they are texting while they monitor check in. It's odd I tell you.

Right when we arrived to check in at the "Donghu Apartment Hotels", USAP handed us our ID's, these nice Chinese brand mobile phones, a goodie bag, and keys to our apartment.

For now, I am living on the 14th floor with Kelly, Jamie and Jane (all of us American Chinese). Jamie also has a blog too.

This is temporary because they are moving us in a couple weeks to an even nicer apartment in the village. We have a fantastic view of the river, and our living arrangements are beyond what I expected. Even though I saw pictures of our apartments, I am still in shock of how nice it is.

Furnished kitchen, living, dining, bathroom and Hans Von Meister kindly ordered a goodie box and fridge for us temporary residents. The goodie box was filled with kitchen/bathroom needs, mosquito coils, trash bags, paper towels. It's really generous of how well they are taking care of us. Our new apartment will come with a washer and drying rack (drip dry in China). I'm so excited

This isn't a job, this is more of a vacation! Way better than school.

Later on the first night, we were given a pizza party. Free pizza? Fine I'll take it. Free beer? That is also nice too. We over ordered, but hey I wouldn't mind taking pineapple pizza back into our dorms. Cold pizza for breakfast is fairly tasty.

The following morning, most of us shot up right out of bed at 5 am. What seemed like 10 am is actually 5:30 Am. I'm soaking up a Shanghai sunrise and it is beautiful. Here I am, in Shanghai as a Student Ambassador participating at a World Expo, which the world seems to brush past. There's not a lot of coverage in the states, and if there is, it tends to be negative or critical. my roommates Jamie and I did a little exploring around expo village, found the gym, paid for internet and got some tasty noodles in a Lanzhou style noodle house outside the gate. Lanzhou style noodles are a hit everywhere these days. I've been exposed to Lanzhou style food since I was a kid since well...Mama and Papa Wang grew up in Lanzhou and fed me noodles since I was 4. None the less still quite delicious.

Around 2pm, Student Ambassadors all boarded a bus to get to the Fabric Market to get tailored and fitted for our new uniforms. Not to complain, but if the Italian pavilion could get Prada to sponsor their uniforms, why couldn't we get American Eagle or even Ralph Lauren? Just a suggestion. Shanghai's Fabric Market is the equivalent to Beijing's Silk Market. Filled with all kinds of things you don't need but oh you do want 30 scarves and every color! I look forward to getting a tailored suit, and if my exercise pulls off..I will get a Chinese qipao.

Many of us quickly ran away from Fabric market when our time was done. I quickly met Peter, Brian (I met on the plane too), and Rob from Mississippi. All of us chatted away as we got on the subway to go to the Bund 外滩。It was a beautiful afternoon. I look forward to the coming days and training in the humid days of Shanghai. It's gonna be a hot mess!