Thursday, July 15, 2010

Matt Goes To India

Hello Readers,

We have been swamped here at MUO the past few weeks with Jeff going to Shanghai and Detroit and myself going to India. I just returned from India this past Monday, and I must say that it was an incredible experience. This internship is better than anything I could have dreamed of. The purpose of the trip was for Miss Universe to travel around India with Sanjana Jon in order to raise HIV/AIDS awareness. We went to several locations and met a ton of new people. At many of the places we went there were countless members of the press and media. I had to fight tooth and nail against swarms of Indian press to get the shots that I needed. We did several interesting things including: interviews in which Miss Universe (Stefania) cooked and tried Indian cuisine, a trip to the India Gate, a few photo shoots, and even two fashion shows held in honor of Stefania's tour for HIV/AIDS awareness.

Stefania and her travel manager (Roston) were awesome in assisting me on my first trip. I have learned SO much. Working with a “Universal” icon, if you will, has truly opened my eyes into what is certainly the life as a member of the professional media and/or press. I’ve learned that it is not easy to balance professionalism and courtesy while still getting the shots you need to put together an interesting, informative piece on your subject matter. In addition to these things I have learned first hand, the stresses and pressures of working in this type of a time constrained environment. An environment in which the action never stops, and in which you always need to be on your toes and on top of your game. There is no possibility of pick up shots later, because, well, you'll be on the other side of the world. This trip has also granted me experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. It would take pages to express all the moments that touched my life on this trip. Not necessarily moments that changed my life, but moments that I got to experience. In the places we were staying there was no real “culture shock,” or noticeable extreme poverty. In fact, I truly believe from what I have heard and the people that I have talked to on my adventure, that within the next 10-20 years, India will be one of the worlds most dominant super powers, possibly even stronger than the United States. They have the knowledge, the will, and most importantly, the numbers to turn themselves into one of the most economically profitable countries in the world. This is my humble opinion, but time will tell.

Next on the to do list will be the Bahamas for the Miss Teen USA Pageant, then off to Los Angeles for a few days, and then the Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas for the better part of August.

Here are a few photos of me doing my thing in India:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jeff Goes To Shanghai, China

I'm going to do this the easy way, and follow a chunk of text with a chunk of pictures.
Week three of this internship I was shipped out. I spent the last week in Shanghai, China with Miss USA Rima Fakih. The 2010 World Expo is being held in Shanghai, and Rima was invited by the USA Pavilion to host the USA National Day celebration and make several appearances around Shanghai and the Expo.
Due to some flight complications I was flown out a day early, and got to hang out in Shanghai an extra night. I took the time to wander around some places near our hotel. There was a massive mall across the street, and when I say massive, I mean 12 stories tall and hundreds and hundreds of stores. Then when the sun set I noticed the real Shanghai. I knew china was technologically advanced, but the lights blew my mind. LED lights lined every building, road, and tree. I snapped a few pictures, and went back to the hotel. We are bunked up at the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong. The hotel had been open nine days before we showed up. I think I'm the first person to sleep in that bed. It was awesome, huge, and nice. Probably the nicest hotel i've ever stayed at.
Some history of Shanghai I learned over the trip, is that Shanghai has been more or less built in the last 20 years. And they are constantly building. Looking out the window of the hotel, I can see five buildings in construction. It's nonstop, and they keep getting taller and taller.
In the morning I went to the airport with a few USA Student Ambassadors to pick up Rima and Esther, MUO staff. We shot a bit of footage at the airport, and checked in at the hotel for the night.
Official day 1 was spent touring Shanghai with Allison, our USAP coordinator, and Joy (USAP staff). We visited the highest observation deck in the world, located on the 100th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center. The whole place was like a spaceship, and then the view was incredible (picture below). We then toured around the old side of the river, which was still fairly urban.
Day 2 we headed to the World Expo. We stopped by the USA pavilion for Rima's introduction to the media, a couple news interviews, and then a photo op with all the USA pavilion staff. We then went to a few country pavilions. Our tour consisted of France, Germany, Lebanon, and China. My favorite was Germany, followed closely by China. The german pavilion showed Germany very well, and you could get a good sense of what life in Germany is like. Landscapes, gardens, arts, and then technology and industry. Everything was covered. Plus the germans took us to the VIP room after the tour where we relaxed in the air conditioning. The chinese pavilion was technology heaven, with a massive projection wall with a large animation of an ancient chinese village. There were fake trees filled with LED lights, and then real plants with soil-less nutrition covering the ceiling. There was also a really cool film depicting three generations of Chinese life, projected on four massive screens. Three on the wall, one on the ceiling. Crazy stuff. The Chinese also took us back to the VIP area of their pavilion, and explained some of the behind-the-scenes of the making of the video, and the pavilion itself.
That night we attended a dinner party at the home of TV personality and businesswoman Yue-Sai Kan. She is very well known in Shanghai, and does a lot of business in America as well. Let's just say that this party was well-attended. Harry Conick Jr. was in attendance, as well as the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and several other White House staff members. I can check "get stopped from filming by the secret service" of my list of things to do before I die.
The next day we visited a couple more pavilions, including the official USA Pavilion tour, and the Saudi-Arabia pavilion. This day also was USA National Day at the Expo. Every country gets a "national day" where they can parade, and hold special activities and shows to display the country. Rima started the day by riding a float in the parade, led by the University of Southern California Trojan marching band. It was hot, and I was running back and forth around the parade getting the shots I needed. By the end of the parade I was a sweaty mess. But so was everyone else. I felt real bad for the marching band. I know how hot those uniforms get, and the weather was miserably hot. Despite the heat, Rima had a lot of fun. She danced around and waved to the crowd. There was an American dance troop on the float behind her blasting pop music, and at one point they wandered up to her float and starting dancing with her. It was a good time and made for good video.
Post-parade, it was time for rehearsal for the nights performance. When we showed up the marching band was on-stage, and Rima was asked to guest-direct one song. Without hesitation she obliged, and ended up doing it in the actual show as well. Rima and the translator didn't get a chance to rehearse their opening dialogue on-stage, and went backstage quickly to get as much practice in as possible. After a quick wardrobe change and some makeup, Rima was ready to go. A couple more run-throughs with the translator, the lights went down and they went on stage. Everything went smooth as butter. The event was well-received and Harry Conick Jr.'s performance was really entertaining.
The last day was made up of visiting a hospital and discussing breast cancer and treatment with several doctors, and then attending a 4th of July event for American EXPATs (Expatriates) in China. Again it was miserably hot, but Rima had a good time hosting a watermelon eating contest, and taking pictures with everyone.
In closing, the trip was an amazing experience, and considering it was part of an internship it was unbelievable. I have so many people to thank and I can't name them all, but I really want to thank Miss Universe president Paula Shugart for allowing me to be a part of the program and visit China.
So.... photos?

The blue dude is named "Haibo" and is the mascot for the 2010 Expo. He was everywhere.

Rima purchasing some tea.

(For more of all of this, visit my personal blog at Sorry OU people,
but this software is kinda difficult to use. I use wordpress, and am able to do alot more, so I
post more there.)