Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Expat Expo

Made it!

By taxi and 17 yuan (no tip necessary) from Xu Jia Hui in South Shanghai to the Shanghai Exhibition Centre (yes, zhan lan zhong xing), there on Yan' An Rd. for the Expat Show playing (or boothing) all weekend.
The Shanghai Exhibition Centre was originally the grounds of the Jewish millionaire Silas Hardoon.  He was once a respected real estater, part of both the French and International Councils until he caused scandal by marrying a Eurasian woman and doing a 'Josephine Baker' by adopting a gaggle of multi-cultural children.  
When Hardoon died in 1931, he was the wealthiest man in Shanghai.  His estate and school were burned down years later during the Sino-Japanese war and eventually became the Friendship Palace for Sino-Soviety relations, thus the 'bold Bolshevek strokes' of architecture.

Here is the entrance to the Expat Show.  I wasn't sure what I was expecting...to meet the foreign cool folk of Shanghai?  But alas, it is an Expo, once again introducing all the western amenities China can provide, booth after booth of luxury living, or tour packages to other parts of China and Asia, home decorating, medical services, legal advice, real estate, golf lessons, Chinese lessons, lots of food shops able to get faxed and deliver or cater for office parties, also fresh fruit delivered to your door, even Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.  There were also rooms with lots of games and activities for kids, and so it was families and business colonials.

Most booths had young spirited Chinese folks ready with their practiced English spiel.  It was cute for them to deliver it to me with a smile in their eyes, cuz they are still getting used to speaking English to a Chinese face.  Some would just automatically speak Chinese to me, but I kept my 'expat stat' and would speak English.  One gal was explaining the concept of a rental car to me in Chinese and offered me coupons to rent a car in the U.S. for 48 dollars if I filled out a form today.  I explained I didn't need it.  How about leaving a business card.  She had the pen in my hand and was getting me ready to sign up for the deal.  I told her to save the form for someone else and thanked her for her time.

There were a couple of standout booths.  The Swiss offered an enticing clean-air booth, a filter system that would definitely improve life in Shanghai, indoors of course.  There were Dutch cheese samples, their standard mild and sharp, but also one wedge spiced with kumin, and another with wasabe (the kick came after the third chew).  Both tasted really unique.

I checked out the California Fitness booth, and it seems gym membership push is universal, though they were definitely looking for a business clientele, cuz even the 'one day look' pass cost 480 yuan.  480 for a day?  I kept asking.  Yes, it's nice, come in, we'll show you.  For one day?  Yes, we have classes, sauna, yoga, come in.  (Thats like 60 bucks).  It's nice, come in, we'll show you.  Even in New York City I could get a two week trial at NY Sports Club for 20 bucks.  

The French dentistry booth was empty with a very low key Frenchman there.  I asked him what the standout of French dentistry was.  'We are French' he said with a smile and a super thick accent. I looked at their brochure:  it said 'Talent and Work, S. Dali."  I asked, Salvadore Dali?. Yes.  Alas, only the French would quote Dali on their dentistry brochure.  Merci. 

My 'networking skills' are very specialized and the expo catered to the monied or at least those wishing to maintain a certain lifestyle while in Shanghai.  This is the business center of China, after all, and everyone was exuberant to make connections and feel that rush of familiarity.  I would have to meet the foreign cool folk of Shanghai elsewhere, probably in a bar or a museum or a den or something.  I went to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf booth and grabbed a quick shot of my preferred joe and watched a huge downpour from the terrace.
The architecture started to attract my eye after so many booths of product and service.
Just sitting on the terrace was a relief.   One could sit and watch the details on the column, the spire within the arch.  I figured I'd go to the French Concession for a meal, and started looking for the route I could travel, preferably by foot, preferably after the rain stopped.  It was getting crowded on the terrace with the food court folk...plates of carribean food, crepes and also the favorite--pizza!  I went back into the Expo to find a spot to plan my next move.  Here's what hovered over the booths:
And I land on the other side of the entrance arch.
With map in hand, I sat and took in the room.  A look up...
And then down to the deco of the ground...
When architecture like this takes a back seat to booths and hocking, it certainly feels like history submits to the present.  The ancestors silently watching as the youngsters percolate in the foreground.  Alas the coexistence of old and new.  
All this seemed to be a show for a very pat life.
I found my route to the French Concession and exited through the entrance.

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Blogger Clifford said...

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September 25, 2008 at 1:08 PM  

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