This year, I attended the world expo in Shanghai, China, a gathering of 190 nations and 73 million attendees. I participated as a private citizen in June, and returned in October as a member of the delegation from the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE).
I've written a number of stories about the expo experience, but not all the facts picked up made it into my stories. In the spirit of WikiLeaks, therefore, I here dump some of the vital foreign information I gleaned from national and corporate pavilions, hoping to add to the spirit of diplomatic transparency. Make of these startling revelations what you will.
Don't tell the Aztecs:
The Dutch can make artificial obsidian out of waste products.
Pre- or Post-Global Warming?
Kinshasa, Congo is known as "The Garden City of the Sub-Sahara."
Tiger in your tank:
When it comes to gasoline, Zanzibar is still trying to go unleaded.
In Lesotho, there's a bottled water called "Mohope."
A little less than the GDP of Micronesia:
The Saudi Arabian pavilion cost $192 million.
A three-hour junket?
Descendants of ancient Chinese shipwreck survivors live on the coast of Kenya.
Not everyone's on board with the Drug War:
In Bolivia, there's a saying: "Coca is everything."
It looks like a macadamia nut:
The Hungarians have invented a new 3-dimensional geometric object called the GÖombÖc.
Brunei's slogan is "Gateway to Borneo."
Win the battle, lose the war:
Appropriately, the term "Pyrrhic victory" refers to a battle fought in Albania.
And I thought it was Fremont:
San Marino is the smallest and oldest republic in the world.
In Brunei, a bronze cannon-shaped like a crocodile was once used as currency.
And there are none speaking Esperanto:
Lichtenstein is the last German-speaking monarchy.
As opposed to all those other Caribbean morons?
Dominican Republic's slogan is "Intelligent Tropical Lifestyle."
Don't dispute it if you haven't been there:
Vanuatu says, "Stop for awhile at the happiest place on earth."
Especially if you're on a weight-loss program:
North Korea says it's a "Paradise for people."
It's now called "English-as-a-second-language Bay":
For over 50 percent of Vancouver, B.C.'s population, English is not their mother tongue.
Don't tell the Taliban:
Afghanistan's slogan "Land of Opportunities and Resources."
Just a steppe away:
Tallinn, Estonia is the closest EU capital to Beijing.
Perhaps they were tired of internet Yahtzee:
According to a sign in the Algerian pavilion, the game of dominoes evolved from dice.
He was the first to write about vampires:
Slovenia's intellectual hero is Janez Vajkard Valvasor, the 17th-century "polymath of Carniola."
Jimmy Carter once declared he would make love to the Polish people:
Slovenia's slogan is "I feel Slovenia."
Perhaps we now know who conceived Seattle's downtown tunnel schedule too:
The ancient Persian king, Darius the Great, first ordered the digging of the Suez canal.
Runners-up to the Belgian Waffle:
Products introduced to the public at world's fairs: elevator, phone, steam, plough, hot dog, Wrigley's gum, x-ray machine, TV, nylon stocking, and the zipper.