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A new world beckons

By Qian Yanfeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-01 07:07
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As the showcase ends, villagers tell Qian Yanfeng in Shanghai how it has helped them better understand modern life.

As a bonus for working part time with his local water resources bureau, Huang Xiao'er was given two choices in mid-October: a free three-day trip to Expo 2010 Shanghai or a 500-yuan ($75) rebate on his water bill.

The rice farmer, who earns just 700 yuan a month, made the decision with little hesitation.

A new world beckons

A farmer from Anhui province shows his 2010 Expo Shanghai passport, which was stamped by every pavilion he visited, on Aug 29. [Provided to China Daily]

Many of his neighbors in Nanchang county have never left their native Jiangxi province, let alone China, and Huang believed that visiting the world's fair would broaden his knowledge and experience of the world.

It was a motivation shared by thousands, if not millions of people from the Chinese countryside who have flocked to the sprawling Expo since it opened its doors on May 1.

Although the county water resources bureau covered most of the costs for Huang's trip, it still proved an expensive adventure for the 56-year-old.

Instead of wearing his usual cloth shoes, which can be bought for just 10 yuan, the farmer spent 150 yuan on a pair of Li Ning runners to protect his feet during the many hours of walking. Food was also far more expensive compared to near his hometown.

"It was well worth the money, though," said Huang, who after returning to Wushi village last week was bombarded with questions from neighbors about what he had seen.

"I told them about the pavilions I've visited," he said with a proud smile. "I told them about the rice crops exhibited at the China Pavilion and how they were a much more productive kind than what we grow here."

With a minimal educational background, Huang was only able to list from memory some of the elements he could easily make sense of - wicker plate framing at the Spanish Pavilion, bamboo sticks at the Indonesian Pavilion, woodcarvings at the Africa Joint Pavilion.

A new world beckons

The farmer admitted he still has a hard time figuring out the location of some countries and "what they are all about".

However, his confusion has failed to dent his enthusiasm for the expo, which he says has introduced him to a world of ideas and dreams.

"I told my neighbors they must see with their own eyes how much the world has changed," he said. "It is beyond my wildest imagination. It seems nothing is impossible as long as we think that way."

Huang brought back a handful of brochures from the pavilions he visited with introductions of their main features for the villagers.

"They can find out by themselves what all those countries are like. The brochures say better than I do," he laughed, adding that some villagers had been motivated by his experience and expressed their regret for not seeing the expo during the last six months.

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