expo 2005 photo essays
- weekly report from the World Exposition in Aichi, Japan

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Week two (April 3, 2005)

The first week at EXPO

Since I arrived the night before the opening of EXPO, I haven't had much free time yet. So I have hardly had the chance to move around and see much on site, but for now there have been enough interesting things happening right in front of me.

I bought a new digital camera on my first day off so I can put up a few photographs on this site. It's a Kyocera Finecam SL400R - nothing special, but I didn't want to carry an expensive camera around. I bought it for just 19.000 Yen (160 Euro) and I am really happy with it, because it is very lightweight, can be folded in various angles and allows me to take photo series. So in case you are interested in that kind of stuff, all photographs with the expoessays.com logo were taken with that camera.

· Working at the German pavilion

I wasn't sure before I came here, but now I think I might have one of the more interesting jobs at EXPO. I am selling souvenir photographs at the exit of the German pavilion. So for once we sell photographs taken in the (very popular) ride of the German pavilion. We have another photo machine which lets us take a photograph before a green screen, which is then replaced digitally with a famous German backdrop (Brandenburg Gate, Neuschwanstein Castle or Dresden's Zwinger).

Me taking a picture of myself at the "sonic camera" upstairs

Example picture of me with a cute Japanese girl

We've had some technical problems in the first days but since then we are selling photos like crazy. Even though Japan is quite over-saturated with print-club photo machines, the concept of fake souvenir photographs is quite a big hit. Our job means lots of communication with the (99,9% Japanese visitors), which for me is a lot of fun. Also, since we work 10-hour shifts, 6 days a week, we get to see most everything that happens in and around the German pavilion. Some of the hosts and hostesses are also located close to us at the exit, so we get to meet most everyone of the staff over the time.

· UN pavilion staff party (March 29th)

As you know, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy so we were looking quite forward to the first staff party, which was being held at the United Nations pavilion on March 29th. You need to know that the German group is one of the largest (probably the largest) group of native people here at EXPO - if you compare it to the neighbouring French pavilion, for example, you will hardly find any French people working there. It seems that most European pavilions have recruited mostly local staff to save the cost and the hassle to bring their own people here.

Update 2005-06-13: We finally picked up the photographs at the UN pavilion!

First outing at the UN staff party

Danilo and me, still fresh and enthusiastic

So anyway, finally that the day of the UN party had come our group of 40+ people took off to occupy der pavilion of the United Nations. Having arrived there and just as everyone was activating party mode and started to get somewhat comfortable, after just one hour the lights went on. Following EXPO regulations, the Japanese party police shut down the pavilion at 10:30. If you know the Japanese, you can imagine that it took a mere 10 minutes to get everybody out of the building, stop smoking, and move towards the train station. Luckily, the Belgian pavilion team invited us over to there place, where we had a few more beers and some more EXPO talk.

· Jaques Chirac visits the joint German-French pavilion

One of the first highlights at the German pavilion was the visit by French premier minister Jacques Chirac on March 27. The lower left picture is taken almost right from where I am working every day. Therefore, we were among the first people to greet Mr Chirac upon arrival. You can't see it on the pictures but the guy is reeeaally slim. On the lower right picture you can see Mr Chirac with Mrs Fechter (pavilion chief #1), Mr Kreienkamp-Rabe (general commissioner of the German pavilion) and Mrs Pittscheidt (pavilion chief #2).

Mr Chirac is welcomed at the German pavilion (source)

Mr Chirac with the German chief staff (source)

However, as every so often in Japan, communication problems between foreign and local staff became eclatantly clear. Some Japanese security folks cleared the area beforehand and actually inquired with us (the least involved party) about the route Mr Chirac would be taking through the pavilion. After Mr Chirac arrived with his French body guards, of course they took the quite opposite route than the Japanese had decided on (against our guidance), which resulted in great confusion. We have this kind of major failure of communication very often here, but I think I will write about that in detail some time.

· The Spanish pavilion

The first building in the Global Commons 3 that meets the eye is the Spanish pavilion, which is also located right opposite of our joint German-French building. The theme of the pavilion is "Sharing the Art of Life", which is meant as a "search for common ground, mutual acquaintance, and the strengthening of ties between Spain and Japan". The pavilion is easily recognizable by its facade, which is made up of over 16,000 colored ceramic hexagons, which symbolize the uniting of the two cultures.

Spanish pavilion outside

Spanish pavilion facade detail

The inside of the pavilion is really dark so you really start pitying the staff working there all day. The Harvest of Paradise room is pretty stylish with its glowing displays of fish, fruits, and vegetables. It showcases the way how traditional knowledge and contemporary technology are being used to "get the best from fertile soil and an exceptional climate". Some other rooms of the pavilion are somewhat remote from the nature theme - take, for example, the Don Quixote room ("the most universal Spanish novel") or the room with displays of "contemporary heroes", where photographs and trophies of Spanish sportsmen and -women are displayed.

Harvest of Paradise room

Don Quixote literary space

· Further outlook

Time is moving really fast and everybody is surprised when you tell them that more than one and a half weeks have already passed. Even though everyone is drowning in work, the mood among the team is great. Being a part of such an exclusive group here in Japan also means that human relationships get compressed a lot, i. e. you start making friends much more rapidly than usual. As you can imagine, that kind of atmosphere makes being here quite special.

So what's next? Everyone is looking forward to their next free day; of course, since free time is much more precious than usual, having a whole day for yourself is a real treat. Mine will be on Thursday; too bad it's not on Wednesday, the day after the Croatian pavilion party: they promised us they will last longer than the UN party last week. Update: Unfortunately, the Croatia party has been postponed to April 15th due to the national mourning of the pope's death.

· Next week: Faces of the Expo Pt. 1