A World Expo may have made sense a century ago but since the invention of television the idea seems obsolete. In Shanghai, China, the basic premise is to wait in lines; incredibly long lines. Occasionally, a speaker system announces three hours waiting time for this pavilion, seven hours here, five hours there. Queuing for hours to visit something I never wanted to see is not my idea of fun. Yet here I am, with a group of students I’m obliged to accompany, watching our tour guide hand out hats to make sure we look as ridiculous as every other tour group. Fortunately, it isn’t long before I lose them but what do you do in a world exhibition filled with several hundred thousand Chinese? Over a cup of coffee I forge a plan: Around the World in Eighty Minutes.
The plan is to walk around the site without entering a single pavilion. In front of each pavilion, I take a self-portrait in the style of the modern tourist: camera at arm’s length with the attraction behind me. “I was there,” the picture says. So I don my hat and begin the journey, visiting about eighty countries and spending only a minute in each without even pausing to examine the pictures. I miss a country or two, but that’s to be expected when you travel in a rush.