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By Thomas F. O'Neill

My Experience at the Shanghai World Expo

During the month of July I lived and worked as a teacher at a summer camp in Shanghai, China and while I was there I visited the World Expo. I went to the Expo with a fellow teacher, she is from England, and we quickly noticed the frenzy among the Chinese visitors. Chinese people were carrying passports and they were having them stamped at each pavilion they visited. My friend Stephanie explained to me that the Passports were not real they were just Expo souvenirs.

The frustrating thing about the Expo was the majority of the Chinese caring these fake passports could care less what was in the various pavilions. They waited in ridiculously long lines for hours to have their passport stamped by the pavilion staff. Some of the Chinese would bring other passports with them to have them stamped for friends and relatives. This intrigued me because of the value that was being placed on these fake passports and the pavilions stamps rather than the marvelous exhibits inside the various pavilions.

The fake passports cost about 30-Yuan (U.S. $4.40) and they have taken the Shanghai Expo by storm. My friend Stephanie and I were a bit disappointed by the ridiculously long lines. People were waiting 4 to 5 hours just for the stamp at the various Pavilions we were hoping to visit.

Over 80,000 booklets (fake passports) are sold each day at the World Expo by the DOW group. They are expecting to sell over 70 million booklets by October 31st the date the Expo is due to end. The booklets look like real passports and the stamps at the pavilions look like entry visa stamps. Souvenir shops are providing the passport photos for the booklets for an additional 20-Yuan (U.S. $2.94).

Most of the Chinese buying these booklets never left China and this is a way for them to feel as if they actually traveled the world. They want to hold on to the booklet as a souvenir. Over 80 percent of the Chinese visitors have bought the fake passport booklets and its popularity has set sales and profits through the roof.

When the Expo first opened the Souvenir shops throughout the Expo grounds were running out of booklets in less than an hour. They still are running out of booklets due to their popularity. The Souvenir shops place signs in their window “No Passports” each time they run out. The “passport available” signs draw huge crowds to the shops.

A shop assistant yelled in Chinese “we have Expo Passports” causing a stamped of people rushing to the shop.

People are also placing Ads in Newspapers looking to hire very old people or people who are physically handicapped. People want to hire them for the day so that they could use them to bypass the long lines at the Expo. The staff at the various pavilions allow the very old and the handicapped to bypass the long lines. Some of the ads say the elderly or the handicapped person will be picked up at their home and dropped off at the end of the day. They will be paid 100RMB (U.S. $14.70) including two meals for the entire day at the Expo.

When I went to the Expo I wanted to visit as many pavilions as possible but the long lines was a bit frustrating to say the list. When I learned about the fake passport holders and the frenzy for the pavilions entry visa stamps I started to laugh. My friend Stephanie however reminded me that the Chinese buying those booklets never had the privilege to travel outside of China and they never will. Getting on an airplane and traveling to various countries is something that I as an American take for granted.

At the summer camp my students were all from various countries, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. I also had a student from New Zealand who asked me what I saw at the Shanghai Expo.

I told him in a somewhat humorous way, “many, many, many, many, Chinese people waiting in long, long, lines.”

The students quickly corrected me because they visited the Expo too. I was quickly reminded that they are not Chinese and they waited in those long lines as well.

Working at the summer camp for the month of July was a great experience. I truly had a great time working with the kids from various countries. They reminded me of the things I enjoyed doing as a child and they certainly brought the child out in me. That is certainly a good thing for this coal cracker from the Pennsylvania coal region and I hope I have the privilege of working there next summer as well.

Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill, Shenandoah Native

Phone: (800) 272-6464
China Cell: 86-15114565945

(800) 272-6464
China Cell: 8615114565945

Skype: thomas_f_oneill


Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found at the links below.

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