being surrounded by endless coverage and hype of the world expo these past few months, we knew we’d have to make the trek southeast to see for ourselves what yeosu had to offer. we’d heard rumors of expensive food and of long lines. but as they say, when in rome… you should probably just go check it out anyway.
last saturday, we decided to give it a go. we met some friends at the bus terminal to get tickets, and after about an hour and a half ride, we were dropped off on yeosu’s coast. our first bonus of the day was when we did some fast math at the ticket counter. apparently, a group of 10 or more foreigners can come into the expo for 10 bucks a person (the regular price was over 30 bucks a person – a significant difference). there were 7 of us. for a few minutes we looked around for any other foreigners, then we realized that even if we just bought 10 tickets between the 7 of us, we’d save some serious cash. so, we got in a lot cheaper than we’d originally planned on – which left us with more money to spend on food. always a good thing.
the expo was pretty unreal, visually. there’d been dozens of new buildings artistically and elaborately constructed, specifically for this reason (one wonders what yeosu will do with all this once the expo is over). the ceiling connecting the international pavilions was actually a massive screen, showing digital fish, whales, and marine life continuously swimming above everyone’s heads. it was incredible.
we spent almost our entire day at the international pavilions, exploring what dozens of countries had to offer. there was also an aquarium, a korean pavilion (which we decided we didn’t need to see since we are basically living it) and some buildings that talked about technology and robots and blah, blah, blah. i came for the culture and food, and i walked away fully satisfied.
we started out our day with a fantastic chat with a couple guys from tunisia, who offered us some of their food for free and welcomed us into their offices (after we had accidentally stumbled in there, mistaking it for a part of the exhibit). it was pretty humorous. we enjoyed food from turkey, we enjoyed visuals from switzerland and left uruguay feeling a little let-down. we ate mouth-watering tapas and sangria in the spanish restaurant, and we enjoyed street-performers who sang or danced between pavilions.
one major highlight of my day happened as we stood outside the russian pavilion. my grandma had passed on an email to me from tanya – tanya who was a foreign-exchange student with my aunt and uncle a few years back. she’d basically been a part of the family that year, at all the gatherings, and she’d done a good job of keeping in touch since. she was working at the russian pavilion, and had mentioned to my grandma that if we asked for her, she could get us in without having to wait in line.
i felt uncertain whether she would even remember me, and i worried we’d just be an inconvenience to her, but i figured we should at least try. the guy guarding the door was taller than me, in a sleek grey suit with some sort of microphone in his ear; he basically looked like he a member of the KGB. i went up to him and timidly asked him if he knew of a girl named tanya. all he said to me in reply was “two minutes.” then he disappeared. it was very strange, so i shrugged to all my friends and we stood around waiting. in the meantime, an elderly korean man came up to us and started grumping at us, wondering why we thought we could cut the line. we tried to explain that we were waiting for a friend, but i don’t think he understood.
after about 5 minutes, mr. KGB came back out and curtly stated, “one minute.” i turned around to talk to my friends again when tanya came out of the door, dressed in a traditional russian outfit and a mic attached to her ear. she looked totally confused as she scanned my friends’ faces, but when her eyes met mine, her reaction was priceless. she was so excited to see me, and i felt the same. we hugged and i introduced her to my friends, but since she was working, we couldn’t talk long. she let us come into the russian pavilion first (to the great distress of the elderly korean man), and we listened to her give an impressive presentation all in korean.
as we followed her through the exhibit, we had quick conversations about “grandma and grandpa” and “molly, rachel, joey, and ronny” and i started to feel overwhelmed with nostalgia because for the first time in almost a year, i was talking to someone who was a part of my family (not counting david, of course). i didn’t have to clarify with “my grandma” or “my cousins.” she knew exactly who i was talking about. i hadn’t had that kind of context in way too long. it felt so relaxing to be able to talk like that (my mom later thought this was hilarious – the idea that i felt closest to home when talking to a russian foreign exchange student while in the middle of korea).
we talked briefly about trying to meet up before she leaves, but her schedule sounds complicated, so who knows. but it was great to catch up with her for those few moments.
the rest of the day was a continuation of the morning – more food and pavilions. i loved seeing all the people and displays from all over the world. being surrounded by different cultures is something i didn’t realize i missed. it felt a bit like a world’s fair. and, of course, we made quick friends w/the americans working at the usa pavilion (which was so dramatic and american, it made me laugh).
we really lucked out though because all the lines were incredibly short. we’d heard of people waiting for hours to see different exhibits, but on this day it was a little rainy, so hardly anyone had come out to the expo. the rain also meant it was cool, and i didn’t have to sweat all day for once. i think we got to see every country we wanted. i enjoyed the northwest african booths, and singapore and peru were good. we ate some delicious crab soup from singapore that was spicy and sweet and made me want to plan a trip down there asap.
the last thing we did was observe the “big-o show” which was an elaborate show done in the water, full of fountains and bursts of flame and projected pictures. we couldn’t really hear/see the storyline, but it was fun to watch nonetheless.
we caught a late bus back to gwangju, with tired feet and happy stomaches.