My last day of work as a 1st session Student Ambassador at the USA Pavilion was a few days ago. Now I’m finished and the 2nd session group has already moved in to take our places. Although the work was monotonous at times (introducing and watching the same video over and over again, responding to the same questions and giving the same response every time), something would always happen that made that specific day different from all the other ones. Oh sure, sometimes it wasn’t a “good something.” Like when a baby pooped on the floor in Overture or a mom held her child over the trashcan in Act I so he could pee in it. Unfortunately, the peeing incident has actually happened several times. We caught one child mid-pee once and told the mother who was holding him over the trashcan that she couldn’t let her kid do that only to find that same kid peeing on the floor a few seconds later. I suppose by “couldn’t do that” the mother thought we meant “don’t pee in the trashcan” and not “don’t pee inside the USA Pavilion.” I guess that pee incident was our fault then… we should have been more specific.
But on other days, good things would happen that made me forget the grueling heat and tedium. A girl from the nearby Brazil pavilion brought over a fruit cup for me to eat while I worked the Queue line. An old man waiting in the USA line took out parchment paper and ink and wrote a beautiful ancient Chinese poem. After explaining the various components that made up Chinese calligraphy, he gave the scroll to me as a present. I chat with the security guards, make friends with the visitors, trade pins with volunteers, and always find something to laugh at.
Now, anyone that has been to China knows that Chinese people love taking pictures, especially of foreigners. So when these enthusiastic photographers come to the USA Pavilion, where black girls and girls with blonde curly hair work, they have a field day. Sometimes they ask, sometimes they gesture, and sometimes they don’t even bother and just grab you and “CLICK”. Here’s what I learned the hard way: if you are seen taking a photograph with a visitor, the other visitors will queue up and you cannot escape until every person has gotten what they want- a personal photo with you. If you try to escape, they will follow and grab you, calling “ehcooz me” all the way.
They will also come up and ask us to sign their “passports”. We aren’t even famous and they want us to sign our names! A popular trend at the Shanghai World Expo is for visitors to buy an Expo “passport” and visit every country’s pavilion to get it stamped as though they have actually been to the country. The Chinese visitors take this passport business very seriously and will sprint from pavilion to pavilion in order to accumulate the largest number of stamps in the shortest amount of time. So imagine their dismay when they discover the USA Pavilion no longer does stamping. (With good reason though- Student Ambassadors were actually injured by mobbing visitors at the stamping booth and one visitor was sent to the hospital when he was accidentally stamped by another visitor.) Anyways, so these stamp-hungry visitors will request signatures from USA pavilion workers to fill the spot of the unattainable stamp they so desire. Once again, this is a very dangerous request to agree to (like photographing). If any other visitor catches even a glimpse of that passport being signed, you will be stampeded by visitors whipping out passports and mushing them into your face. It’s a dangerous task but now my signature has gotten much better.
Despite the pesky requests and camera lenses peeking out from every which way, working day-to-day with the Chinese people is a great experience. They love to yell out “Hallooo” and “Bye-bye” every time they see a foreigner and will wave eagerly. I must say, I don’t think I’ve ever said “bye-bye” before I came here, but now I say it too!