Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to Feel Like a Rockstar

On Friday, we went on a field trip to the Beijing Urban Planning Museum. While normally pretty empty, it was exceptionally crowded that day, as roughly 500 elementary school children were also on a field trip to the museum. As we got ready to leave, they were all lining up by the door, and I quickly realized what a rockstar must feel like: as we walked out, I could feel lots of little eyes staring at the Americans (which was compounded by the fact that I was right next to Alex, the palest 6'4 person you'll ever see). Finally one worked up the courage to say "Hello!" and I said, "Nihao!". It was like a dam broke loose, and all of a sudden there were tons of children yelling Hello at us and waving madly. It was like being an Asian pop star who is marketed to the 8 to 12 year old group. (insert sarcastic reference to Justin Beiber here)

The museum itself was interesting, there was definitely a strong emphasis on the future of Beijing, which will apparently save tons of energy and have hovercraft cars. We thought the future had already arrived when we went to a short screening of a "4-D" film, though it was actually just a 2-D film on 3 panels, so it was like a panorama, and then your seat shifts and bumps as you "ride" in the hovercraft. One of the slogans I liked was the "Shifting from 'made in China' to 'invented in China'", though another was "The World's Crisis - China's Promise", which included massive green energy overhauls by 2020. They also had a huge miniature city of Beijing, which was really cool; you actually got to see the size of the city (the only other time you could see it like that is from the air, but then you have the "crazy bad" levels of pollution). Overall, it was very awe-inspiring, if everything they're advertising actually comes into practice (which it very likely won't, of course). It definitely seems like there's a large scale plan for the city going forward, which I don't know that we have as much of in the US- do we have urban planning museums? It seems like we just get focused on putting band-aids on all of the problems with our cities, as opposed to looking more long term. Maybe that's the problem with a democracy - you're never entirely certain you're going to be there long term. :) Maybe it gets bogged down in city planning committees, or maybe I just haven't noticed because I live in Montana or in an academic bubble most of the time. :)

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