Expo 2020 Dubai is the World Expo celebration currently underway in the United Arab Emirates. Encompassing many of the values that SDDC holds dear, we have been delighted to work with Global Ties in gathering likeminded individuals to represent the United States in Dubai.
One such individual is Denison Kappas, who was selected to work at Expo 2020 Dubai’s US Pavilion as a Youth Ambassador. Read on to discover what a day in Denison’s life is currently like!
After taking the elevator, I look out at the pool under me. With Expo Village’s gym overlooking the water, and with my shift starting right at 4:00 PM, I have time to lift some weights, lay in the sun, and buy some ready-to-eat Indian Food at the Village’s grocery store. Expo Village is akin to an Olympic Village, consisting of residential towers located across from the Expo 2020 grounds, reserved for pavilion staff from all over the world. The USA Pavilion shares a tower with Germany, France, and San Marino, allowing the staff from these nations to become close friends through frequent socializing in the halls and pool.
Once my morning routine is finished, I walk across the street to work, passing the Expo 2020 metro. Expo 2020 has three themes and districts: Mobility, Sustainability, and Opportunity. Each country’s pavilion is located in one of these areas. The USA Pavilion is in Al Forsan park, a subsection between the Opportunity and Sustainability districts, allowing the USA Pavilion to pull inspiration from both. Passing Luxembourg, the UK, and Saudi Arabia, I make my way around our Kazakhstan neighbors to enter the USA pavilion. After clocking in and changing into my work uniform, I sit down and chat with my colleagues and friends while we wait for our pre-shift briefing to begin.
In every shift, there are 16 designated positions for Youth Ambassadors. Each morning, we assigned a role, which rotates every 30 minutes. While the frequent rotations help vary our experience, they are mostly implemented to help prevent staff from overheating, as it is common for the day’s temperature to reach 105°F. Tonight, I will be stationed outside; helping guests queue, taking photos with families, and answering questions people may have about the USA or the USA Pavilion. Since it is a weekend and the weather is noticeably cooler at night, we prepare for a large influx of guests from all over the world to visit the United States. By 6:00 PM, the queue is over an hour long. My duties shift to helping People of Determination (the term used in the UAE to refer to people with disabilities), elderly, and pregnant women to the front of the queue while my coworker helps to keep the general queue organized. Every half-hour, I rotate inside, helping guests step onto our “travellator,” a moving walkway similar to what you see at airports. The travellator takes guests through the first few exhibits, telling the story of American history and how the foundational values of the United States have laid down the path for world-changing technical innovations such as the telephone, car, and airplane.
At around 7:00 PM, we are told to close the building down. A princess from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Her Royal Highness Sora bint Saud Al Saud, would like to visit. For security reasons, the building must be cleared. She arrives 30 minutes later with a small entourage, and another Youth Ambassador, as well as the Pavilion Director, meet her at the front of the pavilion to provide a private tour. As they pass my coworker and I, the Pavilion Director introduces us and we briefly introduce ourselves. My coworker speaks fluent Arabic, and carries a small conversation with the princess while I patiently observe. A minute later, the entourage moves on, and soon the Pavilion is reopened for general guests.
At around 10:30pm, the last of the guests pass through the pavilion, which leads out into the Rocket Diner, an American themed diner underneath a to-scale Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket replica. We have a short debrief, and I head home.
Being the “Face of America” means that every interaction with guests must be positive. Many people have never met an American before, and I am frequently asked to take photos with guests who want to brag about meeting a “real American.” On the flipside, for the first time in my life, I am making friends from nations that were barely referenced in a high school geography class. Guests from Uzbekistan, Kuwait, Malaysia, and many other countries stop by and leave lasting positive impressions, helping me learn more about the world with each interaction. The bucket list of places I wish to see in my life has increased tenfold, and every day I learn of a new food, tradition, or place. Serving as a Youth Ambassador has opened my eyes to the diversity of the world, and I am ecstatic to see how the next three months will unfold.
To keep up-to-date with Denison’s experience in Dubai, follow him on Instagram @denkapp