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May 11, 2010

World Expo 2010 blog - Week 2: Opening Week

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The opening week of the 2010 Shanghai Expo is coming to a close. Although the U.S.A. Pavilion has had some setbacks here and there, things have been running remarkably smooth. One of the things that I have heard from many guests, the majority of which are Chinese, is how impressed and delighted they are at having the opportunity to interact with young, Mandarin-speaking Americans. Likewise, I know that the eighty student ambassadors are equally as appreciative to have the opportunity to communicate with the guests, learn something about Chinese culture, and do their part to positively represent the United States to the millions of visitors who will walk through the U.S. Pavilion’s turnstiles this summer.

On a more personal note, thus far, my work here at the U.S. Pavilion as a student ambassador has been rewarding but also exhausting. My shifts rotate from week-to-week on a rolling basis from 8am-5pm and 2pm-11pm. I am assigned predominantly to the V.I.P. area, which has been dubbed the “1776 Suite.” My duties include welcoming guests (government officials, dignitaries, and corporate delegations), facilitating corporate and government events, and offering general assistance in all areas of V.I.P. relations including event set-up, operations and logistics. As to the “corporate events” function of the V.I.P. center I feel that a few words of explanation are necessary. Unlike most of the other countries’ national pavilions, the U.S. Pavilion was funded entirely by corporate sponsors as opposed to coming out of the government coffers. As a result, contributing sponsors were given membership cards in amounts congruent with their contribution. There has actually been quite a bit of controversy surrounding how funds for the U.S.A.P. were allocated. For more on this, just do a Google search for “Adam Minter, U.S.A. Pavilion.”

My experiences in the VIP area have been exciting and have included meeting various mayors from cities such as Suzhou and Xiamen, and C.C.P. officials such as the minister of Foreign Affairs, Yang Jiechi. I was also present for a meet and greet with American music legend Quincy Jones. However, the most interesting experience that I had in the last week was meeting the president of China, Hu Jintao (see photo below, I am wearing the blue striped tie). He visited the U.S.A. Pavilion two days before the official opening with an entourage of about eighty people, including various members of the Politburo. In a brief ceremony, President Hu shook hands with the Student Ambassadors and was presented with a Texas belt-buckle by the U.S.A.P.’s Commissioner General Jose Villarreal. There was also state-media on hand for the visit, and the photo which I have included below was on the front page of various newspapers the following day. Regardless of one’s feelings about the C.C.P. or the Party’s censorship of the media, this was a great opportunity for myself and the other Student Ambassadors to get involved in some hands-on diplomacy, and have a chance to live up to our title of “Ambassadors."

In addition to being the face of the U.S.A. Pavilion while we are on the job, we will also have the opportunity to get involved in various community outreach projects over the next few months. These include programs like “Roots and Shoots,” which aims at educating local middle school students on the importance of environmental awareness and sustainable practices.

Well, that’s about all the time I have for this week. In the coming weeks I plan to offer some more in-depth coverage of various aspects of the U.S.A. Pavilion, the highlights of other pavilions at the Expo, as well as include some interview content with U.S.A.P. organizers and Expo visitors. If there is any specific aspect of the Expo that you would like to hear more about, please feel free to contact me at: calebjford@gmail.com. Also, here is an interesting article about the U.S.A.P. which highlights the role of the Student Ambassadors.

Posted by zzhu at May 11, 2010 09:39 PM