Saturday, July 28, 2012

Yeosu Expo 2012, Korea: Part 2 - Lines and Leaders

Marcus Aurelius, the former Roman Emperor, once said, "Here or there makes no difference, if wherever you live you take the world as your city." I read that line when I was reading his philosophical dialogue with himself known only as Meditations. I wrote it down in my notebook a while ago, and it randomly came to me as I sat down to write the second part to the first post that I wrote on the Yeosu World Expo. It occurred to me that the Expo is the perfect place to "take the world as your city," and appreciate how incredibly dynamic and diverse the world truly is. It's also a place to make future travel plans internally with the imagined money from your surprisingly large, and of course pretend, lottery winnings. Evidently, the first post on the Expo went over quite handsomely, as "The Korea Blog", of which I'm a World Korea Blogger, picked it up a few days later and featured it on their site. So, it's with fervent enthusiasm that I'll proceed to write about my second day at the incredibly intriguing Expo.

We woke up rather startled at how late the preceding night's events had carried on, but we were determined to get there nice and early. A scrumptious breakfast at the Belgium Pavilion accompanied by a potent espresso was enough to get us on our feet and visiting pavilions around 10 in the morning. Bri and I had a train scheduled back to Suwon for around seven in the evening, and our Canadian pals Graham and Stacy were shooting to leave a little later than that. Oh the beauties of beginning work at 1 in the afternoon. Sunday isn't nearly as daunting, as travel plans take rightful precedence over occupational concerns.

The Kazakhstan Pavilion was located right next to Belgium's Pavilion, so we decided to pop in for a peek. Well, the officials there certainly had other ideas, and we were more or less locked into a 20 minute affair. It actually significantly exceeded my expectations, but I'm not entirely sure what my expectations were to begin with. We were led into a rather large auditorium where a high quality video outlining the general magic of Kazakhstan began to play. It focused on a little boy with what appeared to be a rat-tail, and seemed to be covering incredible distances of the country in the swoop of an eye. After the video concluded (but not actually), Kazakhstani dancers gave us a show of their own. It was still early and the auditorium only had about eight people in it, which made me feel uncomfortable, but also somewhat elitist as well, as if the show was put on only for us.


 Surprisingly, the lights dimmed down again and the little rat-tailed fellow was back to his big screen adventures. Even more surprisingly, after that was finished there was another performance, but this time it was a singer. I slowly clapped with a raised eyebrow after the show because she was so clearly lip-syncing, but it still maintained some entertaining value. Then came my absolute favourite part. The lights dimmed down once again and the prime minister, Mr. Karim Massimov, gave us some parting words. He politely asked us to come visit Kazakhstan, and I really think I'd like to one day. Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, looked like an interesting city, and the whole pavilion was actually quite charming. Mark my words - I'm going to Kazakhstan in my life. The prime minister invited me, after all.

I hope to see you soon Mr. Massimov!

After that, we were bound for the Indonesia Pavilion. Bri and I were eager to see what they had in store, as we'll be visiting that fine country in a little over two months' time. They had a unique auditorium on which the projections stretched themselves onto the floor. It was a little difficult to capture with a photo, but I took a few mental pictures for my future travels. There appeared to be an enormous wealth of nature to explore among over 17,000 islands. I'm truly expecting Indonesia to be one of the highlights of our forthcoming trip through Southeast Asia.

Despite the lines, it was off the USA Pavilion, which, like Kazakhstan, also featured an appearance from their proud leaders. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton both graced us with a short, inspiring speech at the beginning. I happen to be a supporter of Barack, or as some would say - I like to Barock'n'Roll. However, at one point I'm fairly sure he said "the diversity of our oceans is only surpassed by the diversity of our people." After briefly throwing up in my mouth, I could only think that should have been something that would have been said at the non-existent Canadian pavilion. There were three separate components to the USA Pavilion that were fairly well done. I wasn't overly impressed, but they deserve a lot of credit for sticking close to the themes of the Yeosu Expo (aquatic life, water sustainability, etc...). Our next plan of attack was to head over to the Hanwha Aqua Pavilion, which was a major attraction at the Expo. First, we stopped at the Oman Pavilion to check out their 4D experience theatre. It was entirely random, and I'm fairly sure that Bri and Stacy were mildly electrocuted during the process, but it was unquestionably memorable. We walked across the grounds of the Expo until we reached the Aquarium, and that's when I saw it - The longest line I've ever seen in my life.


Almost an hour and half later we made it to the beautiful entrance of the Hanwha Marine Life Pavilion-Aquarium. From what I understand, it will continue to be an attraction even after the Expo and will be known as the Hanwha "Aqua Planet."


The exterior speaks volumes about the money that was also splurged on the interior. However, it was mighty crowded (as the line outside would suggest), so I think that overall I enjoyed the famed Busan Aquarium a little more. The aquarium was centered around the premise of underwater tunnels. There were vantage points leading up to a main interior chamber on pillars, and then you proceeded to follow that path yourself. I imagine that may be a little difficult to envision, so here's a picture of the interior structure from a quality angle. I believe you can see the enormous glass capsule through the large aquarium viewpoint. It reminds me of something straight out of Star Wars.


We followed the hoards of people towards the capsule, and I can now decisively say it's not a place for the claustrophobic. 



Overall, I thought the concept of the aquarium was innovative, but the line-up is enough to massacre your optimism. Luckily, I'm an overly optimistic individual who had plenty of optimism left over for the day. Next up was the Robotics Pavilion. This place has single-handedly convinced me that South Korea will inevitably and inexorably take over the world.


 The answer to your question is definitively yes, those do happen to be robots acting out the role of a Korean boy band to a popular K-POP song. "Yes" would also presumably be the answer to the question, "Was is as fantastic as it looks?" My enjoyment from events like these makes me worry that I've been in Korea for a little too long. Only moments before this display, we were spectators at an all robot soccer arena. The pink team and black team squared off with all their robot might. The robots even wound up for a little kick once they reached the ball. Korean technology is simply beyond me. Although, that's not saying much considering I majored in English in university.


The robot soccer match was also outstanding. The clear bonus being the fact that we were pink team spectators, and they finished off the match with a 1-0 victory.  The fun wasn't over yet either, not even close. I spent my entire time at the robot pavilion in perpetual fascination and bewilderment of the utmost variety. We were brought into a large modern auditorium where a depiction of what "robotic oil extraction" from the future could look like. It was obviously quite doctored for entertainment, but the whole show set-up would have cost them a small fortune. Again, money just didn't seem to be an object at the Expo, and that's likely because money flooding in from Korean corporate sponsorship.


As if this wasn't already impressive enough, they had one final exhibit as we were exiting the pavilion. Of course, they were laser guided robotic fish. You know, just your run of the mill exhibit. Realistically, these fish swam with such grace you could swear they were not robots at all. Their tails swept them through the water almost with an effortless smoothness.



I feel as if the entire Robotics Pavilion was one hour of South Korea showing off just how far it has come as a nation. No jokes aside, North Korea must see what an incredible world spectacle the South has put on and realize that they mean serious business. Without question, South Korea is one of the foremost emerging nations, and if you haven't learned that yet from my blog, then you've only been visiting for the pictures. Actually, you may even be able to deduce that from the pictures. Time was winding down on our splendid Sunday, but there was still more to be seen. The four us decided to have a last supper of sorts at the Russian restaurant.


I can assure you this was accompanied by a splendid, deep red Borsch soup, but we also enjoyed a Russian beer and Graham and I couldn't resist the imported Russian vodka. Was it necessary? Absolutely not. Do I regret it?Absolutely not. We walked next door and entered the Russia Pavilion, which I felt probably had some of the best visual effects at the Expo. A frozen tunnel led us into a room with the hull of a model Arctic ship on our right hand side. In front of us were stunning visuals that utilized the floor, ceiling and both walls. It made the room feel enormous, and my mind felt as if it wasn't in a room at all. You'll notice the pillar in the middle of the room, but other than that it was practically seamless.


Russia's pavilion was well put together, but I didn't get the same feeling from the Spain Pavilion. It wasn't particularly bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't great either. More or less, it consisted of a dark room with clear tubes with blue lights scattered around the room. However, the Denmark Pavilion displayed an immense amount of effort and ingenuity. Nothing showed this better than the giant wave they made out of LEGO, which is of course a Danish invention. It immediately put a smile on my face to see what a marvelous feat this wave was. It was constructed with over 685,000 lego pieces and took the construction team over 1,300 hours to build. In my opinion, the effort put forth speaks volumes about the way in which Denmark wants to be seen around the world, and it's also an attestation to their determination and creativity. I know we're not talking about the Eiffel Tower here, but I used to love LEGO as a child. Correction, I still love LEGO as a man.


The Turkey Pavilion was enormous as far as the standard size of pavilions go, and the interior was modern and impressive. However, it failed to have anything that captured me, such as a giant LEGO wave, but maybe that's too much to expect from every pavilion. The exterior was enticing, but I wasn't particularly sold upon entry. The Egypt Pavilion and India Pavilion served as stepping stones back to the central European pavilions. If truth be told, we were running out of time, and there were several pavilions we knew we had to see from our moment of arrival. A large portion of these remaining pavilions were well known European nations, so we followed our eyes to the bright orange pavilion. Any guesses on the owners? Of course, the Netherlands Pavilion.


We entered a room that was filled with replicas of antique paintings that I can only assume were painted by Dutchmen. The rim was dim with an emphasis on history, travel, culture, and navigation. Most importantly, it was a unique concept, and towards the end of your time in the Expo that tends to count for a lot. You end up watching a lot of videos throughout your time which, realistically, can't be too different. The following room was a sort of digital pathway with projections on either side of you, and it also happened to be quite original. As I was leaving, I heard the employees being instructed on the precise way in which they would greet the Dutch royalty when they arrived, and I was quite happy to be privy to that confidential information.

France has a tendency towards showmanship in my opinion, and their reputation certainly didn't fail them with their France Pavilion. Even the exterior boasted these peculiar hour glasses that would turn over in unison, and always had a small crowd. France, like the Quebecois in Canada, are always looking for a little attention. Well, they managed to capture mine fairly easily upon entering. A large shiny room has had the capacity to steal my attention since I was born, which I'm sure my parents can attest to. It featured a large aquarium with small robotic fish that swam through famous French tourist sites such as the Arc de Triomphe.


A bizarre neon sculpture, then a dark room filled with disco balls were next on the menu. They had seemingly completely abandoned the aquatic themes of Yeosu at this point. As the crowning depature from the established themes, they had robots programmed to play music together in a band in the final room. It was extraordinarily random, and equally as mesmerizing. Let's remember that the term avant-garde does happen to originate from France. Unfortunately, the Italy Pavilion was a little too information based (the history of their famous explorers), so we didn't have time to give it a proper visit. We did, however, elect to make our last pavilion the much talked about Germany Pavilion.


The first room was a small personal presentation done by a German woman with almost perfect Korean (from what I can tell with my limited Korean talent). We sat upon log stumps of all different sizes, and once the presentation was finished the walls behind us opened up in majestic fashion. We walked through the former wall into what looked like the set of a movie should it have taken place on a German beach. At each particular "station" there was information about coasts, and you also had the opportunity to sit inside of these stations. German innovation, right?


The following room had sea life imprints on the walls in both green and red, but their visibility was dependent upon an interchanging black light. Basically, a collection of one or the other imprints would be showing, but both suited the room quite well. The final room was a miniature "IMAX" theatre that took us on an undersea animation adventure in the view of a submarine. It was clear to me that Germany was looking to impress the world with this pavilion, and I believe that's exactly what they accomplished. The imported draught German beer located right outside the pavilion didn't hurt either, I can assure you.

Each and every country deserves some congratulations for the show that they put on. However, South Korea deserves some special attention for building such an impressive complex, and putting on a remarkable show. The whole experience was entertaining, informative, and had an air of prestige and effort that made the whole experience feel like something special. You can spend all day wandering around and never manage to be bored in the slightest. Attending this Expo sparked a passionate interest in me for future expositions. However, it's difficult for me to imagine that the future expos will nearly as technologically savvy or generally impressive. I'll have to see where I am when Milan's Expo begins in 2015, but for now I'll savour the images that still resonate in my mind from Yeosu 2012.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Korean Fashion Classics

Korea is an interesting country largely because of the hilarious peculiar consistencies and trends. As you may have noticed, I've thoroughly enjoyed playing the role of an observer here. I also take solace in the notion that no matter how much time I've spent staring and observing, Koreans have spent far more time staring at me. Generally, it helps me to feel less creepy. Honestly, I haven't spent much time consciously observing Korea. However, when people visit, I seem to point out little "Koreanisms" all over the place, such as a brief explanation of the hammered businessmen walking arm and arm. "It's normal," I say, or at least some semblance of normal here in Korea. Fashion also tends to be one of those topics in Korea where I can think of at least a few trends that exist specifically in this country. My blog, after all, is about exposing people to what they may not have known or been able to experience, so certainly this gives me reason to write about fashion. Firstly, let me mention that I'm going to omit the couples outfits, as well as colourful hiking attire, as I've already mentioned these in a previous post entitled "Quirks and Queries." Before I begin though, I would like to mention the fact that I am in no way trying to ridicule or belittle Korea. On the contrary, part of what makes Korea so appealing to me is the unique trends and cultural differences that I can experience, and ultimately write about. Well, I've literally had about a thousand blog ideas pop into my head over the last few days, but I've got to write them one at a time. This one, my dear friends, will be my post on the classics of Korean fashion:

 1) Feats of Feet

It makes sense to start from the bottom, then work on up to the top. There is an incredible amount of rambling that I would like to do about footwear in Korea, and have wanted to do since about pretty much day one. Firstly, let's talk about the fact that almost all women are wearing high heels at all times. Let me be frank, how in the hell can that be comfortable? What that Korean trend spells out to me in plain English is that fashion and appearance are more important than being comfortable. I, for one, have always believed that comfort is paramount, and my interest in fashion generally ends once we leave the novelty travel t-shirt topic. Literally though, I have two pairs of cargo shorts that I wear pretty much all the time. Bri and I have kindly coined them "my big dumpies." Now that is comfort. 

Alas, back to Korea. The flip-flops here are eccentric, wild, and ubiquitous. Firstly, I have to mention the fact that socks and sandals here is actually in style. Men and women of all ages wear what looks like a basic Adidas sandle with a pair of socks on. Their feet are usually leaning over these bad boys, as they are usually purchased a little too small for the individual, or else they just decide to push their toes over the edge. They are basically slippers to be worn inside, but everyone wears them outside; to school, and quite possibly to work. They are everywhere, all the time. 




Now, the flip-flop saga in Korea doesn't end there. Actually, it barely even begins there. I have seen some of the most outlandish and obscene flip-flops on some of my students during my tenure here. Take, for example, K-fashion's newest invention - "The Bubble Flip-Flop." This will probably give you a better idea of what exactly I'm referring to.

(Source)

Yes, these are real, and yes I've seen numerous students wearing them in class. One of my students actually wore them to class only yesterday, and I'm fairly sure that none of the other students even noticed. I noticed though, and as you recognize now, I notice a lot of what goes on around me. It makes me feel like Jerry Seinfeld, and trying to feel like Jerry Seinfeld has always been a sub-plot in my life. Of course they also have themed sandals. Would it surprise you if I told you that there were sandals based on K-POP stars? If you've been following my blog, then probably not. 


It would be blasphemous if I didn't at least mention the fact that "Crocs" have made their way to Korea with a passion. Actually, the appearance of Crocs here far surpasses anything I've witnessed elsewhere. Students wear them to school, young men wear them to dinner, then for a night on the town.

(Source)

I'm a huge fan of the hilarious flip-flop and footwear culture here. It makes my life infinitely more entertaining, and isn't that what life's about? As Russel Crowe says in one of my favourite movies, Gladiator, "Are you not entertained?" - Yes Russel, I am. Very. 

2) Rise and Shine 

When I get out of bed in the morning I often make myself a cup of coffee, eat a little breakfast, grab a shower, and get dressed. As you will realize from the previous paragraphs, I don't take much time, or really put much thought into getting dressed, especially in the summer. Well, for Korean business men it's probably a similar routine, except it finishes with really getting dressed. As my title suggests, they put a whole new spin on "rise and shine." I've seen some suits shiny enough to stop me in my tracks and get my sunglasses out. It should also be noted that these suits are quite slim-fitted if not skin-tight. These men think they are silky, smooth, and cool, but I always imagine them as some sort of hired help at a bachelorette party gone wrong. Or gone right, depending on your disposition. Not all men are down with the shiny suits, but I've seen enough of them to classify it as a trend. I've seen enough of them to wonder what direction the human race is heading. Enough of them to wonder if this is the single tell-tale sign that an apocalypse is on the way. 

You are not cool, my friend. I'm sorry. (source)
At least he's not as bad as this performer on Britain's hit-show "X-Factor."

(Source)

But that's neither here, nor there. 

3) I Can See Your...

Very short skirts. Bri garners daunting looks for showing a little bit of shoulder or upper chest, but Korean women flaunt their legs like it's the last day on earth, and you get extra points with the big man upstairs if you show some skin. In fact, due to this, some male foreigners may already argue that they've arrived in heaven. As usual, I've exaggerated a smidgen, but there is some truth to my former statements. It should also be noted that I can't possibly, and don't intend to, generalize all the women from an entire nation. It's just particularly interesting for me to view from a cultural perspective as Korea claims to be a conservative society, and yet the popular female K-POP groups flaunt their sexuality quite overtly. Short skirts and short shorts are virtually ubiquitous. These videos might drive this point home better than I can. I'm certainly not implying that every one Korean woman is like this, but I know that most of them would give anything to be a K-POP star like these gals. The first video actually plays in circulation on the bus, and the second video has over 30 million views. In short, they are immensely popular in Korea.  Here are two rather racy examples of some K-POP, complete with those aforementioned short skirts and shorts. The first is G.NA's "2HOT," and the second video is HYUNA's "Bubble Pop!"



I'm fairly sure you get the picture. I understand that it's quite hot in Korea, but it's almost baffling how short some of these skirts are. I'm not saying they're going for attention, or shock value...actually, I am. As I've mentioned a million times before, Korea is all about appearances, and that's not lost on the women in the slightest.


4) Glasses Galore 

I've never been to a country where such a high portion of the population needs glasses. However, I should note that it's entirely possible that North Americans are just more inclined to wearing contacts or other, subtler corrective vision techniques. Although, I should also note that a much higher percentage of my students seem to need glasses. I would say that most of my students wear glasses, and probably upwards of 85-90 percent. It's unusual for a student not to have glasses in class, even if their seventh birthday was sometime last week. Additionally, they all not only know their own eye quality down to the exact ".25", but they openly discuss and compare them with other students, and even the teachers sometimes (Bri's experienced this on some days when she switches from contacts to glasses). The bottom line is that because everyone, more or less, needs glasses, there are particular trends and styles that have developed. 

First up: The over-sized "I'm hipper than a hippo" with a touch of nerd, trendy glasses. 

(Source)

(Source)

Of course, you've got your themed glasses. Here we feature a selection of "Hello Kitty" glasses.

(Source)


You can't possibly forget the eccentric print collection that's make more of an appearance as the weather heats up.

(Source)


My last example will be the more angular, smaller, yet just as trendy glasses. These are mighty popular. As the picture notes, they are a "trandy" item.


There is also the look that is quite popular among the female population here - massive glasses with no lenses in them. I actually had several young female students today giving this look a try.

(Source)

So here are some examples of eye-wear across this peninsula. There are more examples, but I've chosen a few to highlight what you may see if you land at Incheon International Airport. These trends are also fueled by the fact that there is literally a glasses/eye-wear shop every 100 steps you take. I can think of 7 within five minutes of my office. On the bright side, these glasses are cheap! I got fully outfitted in a brand new pair for about 50 dollars Canadian, lenses and all. So, if you come to Korea, keep your eyes open for the glasses that surround you, and grab yourself a pair for next to nothing. I can assure you, there are some pretty fantastic, exciting, and bizarre glasses just waiting to be tried on.

5) "Wait...What?" 

Korea is notorious for their t-shirts with extraordinarily poor English. Personally, I think it's absolutely fantastic because it makes for some excellent, authentic souvenirs. I've spotted innumerable stores selling these fashion items, and wouldn't hesitate to imply that it's a phenomenon. I've wondered ever since I went to China in 2009 whether they get Google translate in Asia. Certainly it wouldn't hurt to take a moment to double-check your English before mass-producing it, or putting it on your sign or t-shirt. I understand that Google translate isn't always accurate either, but pretend you're on the show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" and call a(n) (English) friend. I've found myself a few pretty quality t-shirts along the way, and so has Bri. I honestly crave wearing t-shirts like that in Canada and getting people reading, then double reading, then abandoning reading your shirt as you walk by. I won't be posting any of our own t-shirts here, but here are a few gems that have found their way into the hands of interested foreigners. 

(Source)
Just to prove that these aren't anomalies, I will in fact post one of the shirts we've found so far. This shirt speaks, in completely nonsensical English, about a pleasant bike ride. Bri plays the role of fashion model for this one. I could find you a shirt with similar broken English 5 minutes after you touched down in Korea. They are everywhere, and it is absolutely wonderful.



Final Words on Fashion 

Now, I mentioned before that I'm not an authority on fashion. However, I'm an authority on the obscure, bizarre, and downright hilarious, and that's what I've covered today. You see, there is an entirely respectable (and very high-fashion) realm of Korean fashion, but it's simply no fun to cover that from a blogging perspective. So, what you've got here is everything about Korean fashion that puts a smile on my face, and continues to make my year here utterly worth it. Believe it or not, I've got less than 50 days left here in this country, and I'm starting to feel the nostalgia pouring on. You may think I'm poking fun at Korea with this blog, but in fact, these are some of the things I will miss the most. When I'm skyping from home with a friend who's still here in Korea, and they mention the new flip-flop trend, or the shiny suit that blinded them on their way to work, then I may shed a tear. These are the memories that I'll never forget about Korea, no matter how hard I try.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yeosu World Expo 2012, Korea: Part I - Perusing Pavilions

You know, I was thinking about the Olympics earlier today. A soft, proud smile creeps across my face whenever I reminisce on the way Canada performed in Vancouver in 2010. Of course, I wasn't in Canada at the time, but rather cheering in a way that can only be described as embarrassing from my apartment in Oslo. I suppose the real irony of the situation is that I was actually living in the old Olympic village, which was established in 1952 when Oslo hosted the winter games. I suppose deep down I could just feel the spirit of the building, and that's surely why I obnoxiously mumbled Canada's gold count to foreign students passing me by. It's peculiar in a way to observe the fact that I will be abroad for my second straight Olympics, as of course I'll be spending the London games here in Korea. In fact, I haven't actually been home for the last two World Cups either. In 2006, I was in Dublin, Ireland doing a wee bit of studying at Trinity College and University College Cork. Moreover, during the World Cup of 2010, I was travelling across a number of countries in Europe. The highlight was probably watching Germany destroy Australia in a Munich beer hall. Although, I remember watching the World Cup final at Exit Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia and that certainly wasn't bad either.

Apparently, whenever a major international sporting event occurs, I pack my bags and leave my homeland. Perhaps unconsciously I'm looking to make Canada's presence felt internationally during such events. More likely, I've done quite a bit of travelling in the last few years with a general disregard for the occurrence of sporting events. Alas, what I'm getting at is that these sorts of events present the opportunity for nations to showcase their talents, and reaffirm their sense of identity and pride. It seems to me that's exactly what happens at World Expos. It seems to me I just made a perfect transition into my trip to the 2012 World Expo in Yeosu, South Korea. Put on some popcorn, feed the baby, get your reading glasses, and let's get this show on the road.

Firstly, I'm not going to taunt all of you by going into a deep, insightful, historical analysis. The World Expo or World's Fair is, of course, an opportunity for respective nations to showcase themselves based on a specific theme often proposed by the host city. It all began in London in the mid 19th century, and I'm sure anyone who attended that specific Expo would be in awe and possibly suffer cardiac arrest if they came to an Expo today. I say this because of the technology present, which is best exemplified by the "Expo Digital Gallery." It's the largest interactive screen I've ever seen in my life, and I can easily picture someone from that 1851 Expo fainting or possibly calling it the work of Satan if they were teleported beneath it.


 Now before I begin recreating my experiences at the international pavilions for you, let me express my profound disappointment in the fact that Canada did not participate in the 2012 Expo. Stephen Harper - you should be ashamed of yourself. I would use far stronger language, but I don't fancy ending up on your "radicals" list, which is apparently growing rather quickly. I mean, Turkmenistan had a pavilion. No disrespect to the fine people of Turkmenistan, but surely Canada could have mustered up something. The theme was based on aquatic life, water, and sustainable practices. I really don't think I could have picked a better theme for us to participate in. I would have even been satisfied if we had a beaver playing in a kiddie pool. That still beats putting nothing together, and it sure would have put a smile on my face. It was wonderful to visit the diverse array of pavilions from around the world, but it was also a tad painful for this very fact.

I've decided that I'm going to declare this blog a two part post. (two part post...has a nice ring to it don't you think?) I say that because I'm looking at my trusty notebook and realizing that on day one, Bri and I visited 17 different pavilions as well as several shows. On day two, we managed to keep up the pace and tally another 16 different pavilions. Thus, I'll separate the blogs, rather obviously, into two parts for the two respective days. We walked out of the Yeosu train station, and our journey at the Expo began with unexpected immediacy. Of course I should have known that Korea would build the new train station practically connected to the World Expo. If it's logical and efficient, then the Koreans have thought of it. While that was unexpected, my choice to visit the Norway pavilion first could have been entirely anticipated. If Canada didn't have a pavilion, then I was sure as hell going straight to my home away from home - Norway.


In sum, I'm a Canadian holding a Norwegian flag, wearing a shirt from Amsterdam, while living in Korea. It's alright if you're confused - I am too. The Norway Pavilion itself wasn't remarkably impressive in retrospect, but I had nothing to compare it to at the time. Mainly, it was a video presentation set in a "futuristic" aquatic room and highlighted Norway's commitment to sustainability and general love of excitement and nature. The excitement installation came on behalf of Norway's incredible "squirrel men" who wear suits based on the aerodynamics of flying squirrels and tear through the sky at astronomical speeds. For me, it was wonderfully nostalgic to see Norway's beautiful coastline again, which is a puny 28,000 km. I left the pavilion in good spirits to say the least. I should really submit my blog to the Norwegian government to see if I can recuperate some money for the free marketing I've given them over the years.

Next, we ventured to explore the Peru Pavilion. Essentially, we wandered around trying to spot which pavilions didn't have horrendous lines and Peru happened to be quite accessible. We walked in and helped ourselves to some delectable Peruvian cuisine. I wasn't sure I understood exactly what Peru was going for, but then I instantly did. They were going for the shock factor - big time. A sign is located on the stairwell that says "giant squid 2F." What you don't realize is that it's merely the vantage point that's on the second floor for something you didn't quite notice on the first floor. In the midst of the kitchen there is a giant squid positioned inside the table. It's one of those moment where your eyes open wide and the words "holy shit..." unwillingly fall out of your mouth.



The Sweden Pavilion was next, and to be honest, I really expected more from them. It was more or less a large open room with seemingly random facts about Sweden on the wall. It reminded me of a 3D version of Sweden's Wikipedia page. It was geared to people who were hearing about Sweden for the first time, but that was likely a good idea for the Korean population who visited. On a bright note, there was an attractive looking Swedish woman on the outside of the pavilion whose image was blown up about twenty feet tall.


I found the Switzerland Pavilion to be arguably the most impressive pavilion that I visited while at the Expo. Firstly, in true Swiss fashion, all of the attendants at the pavilion were of Swiss descent, but also spoke fluent Korean. I personally couldn't get over how typically Swiss that is that they would all speak impeccable Korean. The Koreans themselves also appeared surprised. I'm not sure I really got a photo that captured what the Pavilion was all about. The first section was unique in that it was completely dark, but at certain instances along the tunnel you could put your hand under a light and could see a moving image on your palm that corresponded to a fact on the wall in front of you. Then you walked into a giant, freezing room with mirrors all around it and a giant projector displaying some of Switzerland's magnificent snow-peaked mountains. Then, you walked into a capsule that had glacial ice which actually predates Korea as a country. As a proverbial cherry on top, you exited from a room with astonishing visuals, then drank a glass of Swiss purified water.


Shortly after this, we stumbled across the Romania Pavilion, and subsequently decided to take a peek inside. A peek would be an accurate description of the time we spent inside. I'm going to go ahead and crown Romania's pavilion as the most underwhelming one that I visited. However, it still beats Canada's pavilion, which as I mentioned earlier, didn't exist in any way shape or form. On the bright side, there was a fairly popular Romanian restaurant connected to it. We went from a little below average to closer to average with the Uruguay Pavilion. It was really pleasant enough, but so is watching Everybody Love's Raymond. And we all know how tiring that show can get after only one episode, or perhaps even half an episode. The redeeming factor lay in the fact that it was located directly beside the German Pavilion, which promptly served us beer straight from the Hofbrauhaus and a home-style German feast upon our exit. We actually visited the pavilion the second day, but our taste-buds experienced it a little sooner.



Next on the agenda was the Thailand Pavilion, which was of special interest to Bri and I seeing as we're leaving on an extended trip through Southeast Asia in about a month and a half. This pavilion appeared to always have an extended line-up, but we decided to tough it out. It really wasn't that unpleasant considering the interesting talking robot that was out front. It looked very much like what I thought a mythical Thai dragon robot might. Inside the pavilion were two more video performances that were quite interactive, which I generally appreciated. Mainly, it appeared as if Thailand really put forth an effort to provide information and simultaneously entertain. Personally, I thought that the exterior of the pavilion was probably the most intriguing. That's certainly worth something at a World Expo.


Short stops into miniscule Monaco and also Qatar led us to the Singapore Pavilion. I breezed through the two aforementioned countries because, on the whole, there's not really a ton of noteworthy information. Singapore, on the other hand, produced potentially my favourite pavilion overall. I say this particularly because of how unique and creative it was. I tried to post a video on here from their incredible visual display, but it is over the MB limit for videos. Thus, I'm currently attempting to upload it to YouTube, then transfer it over here. Hopefully, there'll be a video up here soon enough. Anyway, Singapore actually turned garbage it had found in the oceans into a peculiar, yet intensely interesting, exhibit. There was a definite artistic touch to the whole pavilion, and I thought it was sensationally abstract.


Cambodia, Vietnam, and Brunei were also of interest to Bri and myself, as we're planning on visiting the three of these countries in the near future. They were intriguing to me, but I'm afraid you wouldn't have found them terribly interesting. Realistically, these countries just don't have the budget that other countries possess (ie. Switzerland and Singapore) to make such a splash at the Expo. However, the Australia Pavilion was nearby for a visit that we were both expecting to be top-notch. True to Australian form, the exhibit was relatively relaxed, fun loving, but also creative. A sign appears at the entry that asks, "Australia: The World's Biggest Island, or Smallest Continent?" Now there's some food for thought. However, I was thinking about food, so I was relieved to see some heavy Australian meat pies awaiting me at the exit. Along the way, I appreciated the wooden art, as well as the abnormal digital display, which portrayed Australian landscape, as well as more conceptual images.


I promise you that I'm almost finished recounting this extensive investigation of pavilions. And I always keep my promises. Well, at least Bri would say that I always try to keep my promises. I'm a well intentioned being at least who was off next to the Philippines Pavilion. There are few countries I'm more excited to visit on our upcoming Southeast Asia trip than the Philippines. I'm not entirely sure why, but I have the sense that I'll fall in love with it. I also sort of fell in love with their pavilion. It was a pocket-sized pavilion, but it had a lot of character. They had catchy music playing in the background, and bizarre cylindrical probes that played video in several places across the floor. To be honest, it reminded me of something out of The Matrix, and I was grateful for that.


Malaysia came next as the darkness came upon us, and then there was a brief stop in at the Lithuania Pavilion. The attendant seemed quite ecstatic when I mentioned that I'd actually been to Lithaunia's capital city, Vilnius. On second thought, it was probably more a look of shock and surprise. Lithuania's pavilion didn't seem to have a whole lot to do with water, but it was interesting. It featured amber from about 50 million years ago, which actually has creatures in it that had been frozen in time. I was quite blown away by all of this. Without further adieu, here's a lizard from 50 million years ago.



The night sky began beckoning for an outstanding visual performance, so in stepped Yeosu's "Big O." The "Big O" is centrally located on the grounds of the Expo site, and is an astonishing dream maker. For me, it is the single biggest attestation that South Korea means business when they host an Expo. The "Big O" ensures that no one goes home disappointed at the end of the night, as if that were even a possibility.


If a day like this doesn't impress you, then you're either a) a grumpy pessimist or b) blind. I never could seem to stop moving with so much information and oppurtunity to be had. The following day would be much the same, except a little bit slower due to the lineups. We also moved a little slower because we ran into our Canadian pals Graham and Stacy and decided to go for drinks. A few hours later, they were sleeping like babies on our hotel room floor. It was a magical night to say the least. Nonetheless, we woke up nice and early to eat some breakfast at the Belgium pavilion around 9:30 in the morning. They seemed equally disappointed about the lack of Canadian presence at the Expo. But we had to hand it to the underdogs from Turkmenistan who I never expected to see there. Well, as we say in Canada "goodbye," or as they say in Turkmenistan "sag bol." Sag bol, my friends, sag bol.