Reflections on Yeosu Expo: what’s it all about?
By Yvon Malenfant
At the beginning of July, I had a little time off and decided to take a trip within Korea. I was aware of that Expo 2012 Yeosu was happening and thought it would be good to go down and check it out. But when I discussed it with my friends and read up on it, I discovered that many people were trashing it as a waste of time and money. So being the rebel that I am, I decided to lower my expectations and with the bar set very low for my expectations, I caught a train and headed south for a three-day trip.
I arrived at the KTX station in Yeosu and with excitement in my step, purchased a three-day pass and headed on inside. I walked around checking out some pavilions and just soaked it all in. Well, what can I say? Some of them were excellent; some of them were mediocre; some of them just sucked.
The USA and Russia haven’t changed much over the decades with presentations that discussed possession of territorial waters: My Ocean ― by the former; My Northwest Passage ― by the latter. It was very pathetic! Yet, one cool thing was that the announcer in the USA Pavilion was named Yvonne and I thought I saw an uncle Vanya over in the Russian Pavilion, so I was feeling somewhat at home.
An observation that I made about the Expo is that it somewhat resembled the Busan International Film Festival. There were so many movies to watch and some of them I wanted to walk out of, but the doors were locked. Talk about a captive audience. So very strange!
One of the highlights for me was over at the German Pavilion restaurant I took a risk and tried their Bavarian dish called schweinshax’n. It’s roasted pork knuckle. It comes with potato dumplings and red cabbage. It was so delicious! The dunkel (dark) beer was very refreshing! I felt transported to another country. (Isn’t that what an Expo is all about?)
It’s also about meeting wonderful people. I met up with a very kind Englishman who lives in the area, who had been there many times and told me about some of the better pavilions that were worth checking out. My favorites were the Swiss, Norwegian, Swedish and Algerian, Lithuanian and Italian Pavilions. The Swiss pavilion had a majestic film of the mountains that transported me high above the clouds. It also had a freezer with a piece of ice that went back to Paleolithic times. (It is a great room to go in if you are experiencing hot flashes!) There was also a room with water and mirrors that created very cool colors.
The Norwegian pavilion had a thrilling film and I would rather not spoil it for you. Definitely worth checking out! The Malaysian Pavilion had some beautiful dances ― so colorful! The Vietnamese Pavilion had a cool 360 IMAX room showing views of Halong Bay. The music was fantastic! I made a note to add it to my bucket list.
I met a very interesting person at the Algerian Pavilion. They had some information on the Barbarossa pirates. Fascinating history! The photos of the Mediterranean coast beckoned to me! (Peter Greenberg, you’re a lucky son of a gun!)
The Swedish Pavilion was very much about the environment. The Peepoo is a fascinating invention that I will simply leave to your imagination. I met a very cool person from the Arctic Circle who spoke excellent Korean. On the walls were many famous Swedes. Very informative.
The Lithuanian Pavilion was magical! My friend and I were invited up to a sculptor/photography presentation. It was very stimulating! There was a wonderful wine and cheese party with incredibly stimulating conversation. We met a 75 year old woman that had the energy and gusto of a 30 year old. She blew us away! (The pavilion has a presentation every Friday afternoon.)
My favorite pavilion was the Italian pavilion. A man named Stefano patiently took the time and explained much about the history of the four major cities in Northern Italy that took turns controlling the Mediterranean region. He showed me an interactive map of Italy and pointed out some wonderful out of the way places that I must visit on my next trip to Italy. The Samsung pavilion basically demonstrated how they are skating on thin ice. The LG pavilion was an interesting IMAX balloon ride. The line-ups were insane! I couldn’t help but wonder why more Koreans didn’t check out more of the international pavilions? Would standing in line for hours at the Samsung pavilion really help them in the future when they applied for a job with them? It makes me wonder.
I also met a Canadian man from Keona. He’s the first person that I met that says aboot, instead of about. He’s a very funny guy who took away some of my homesickness. Together, we talked about one day opening a Canadian pavilion with just a 2-4 flat of good beer and some back bacon on a grill.
I met a Korean family on my second morning. The father was very kind and we went around visiting various Pavilions. At lunch, we went to the German restaurant and ate a wonderful meal…you guessed it. The waiting staff was wonderful and they did so much to make us feel at home in mini Bavaria.
I met someone from the German government that took me out for a wonderful complimentary meal. You guessed it! Some beer and schweinshax'n.
In the end, I didn’t see half of what was there for me to see. I just couldn’t get enough of Expo. It was a lot better than I was expecting. I’m hoping to go back and see it again before it finishes. I had such a wonderful time. I do try to have fun wherever I am. It’s the people that I meet and the excitement that I seek that helps to make my day a memorable one.
See you all at Milano, Italia in 2014!
The writer is from Canada and has been living in Korea as a university language instructor since 1997. His passions include music and acting.