My friend introduced me to take the task as a tour guide for the foreign students who will study Chinese in Zhongshan Univ. So today, depite my terrible coughing and sore throat, I guided 50 foreign students to have a Guangzhou one-day tour. It was the first time I had become a REAL tour guide like this.
The night before:
I was kinda worried about my knowledge of the city although I was a native Cantonese. I did some research, memorized some keywords, brushed up the local history and culture. In the meantime, my coughing was with me all the way…
On the day–preparation
I arrived at Zhongshan Univ North Gate almost one hour earlier than the appointed time. I reviewed the materials about places we would visit today. Later my friend arrived, I asked her what she would say the first thing on the bus. She told me about it and gave me some ideas about how to introduce the city. I felt better. My coughing is with me still. The manager of the travel agency gave us two dust coats–I wondered how come just my friend and I needed to put on the dust coat. Anyway, it looked stupid but later I was too busy to care about what I looked.
"Whose English is better?" The manager of the travel agency asked.
"Her English is very good." My friend pointed at me without hesitation.
Almost at the same time, I said modestly, "Oh no, I have no tour guide experience. Not as professional as her."
"The one who speaks better English gets on the bus which the school administrators take."The manager of the travel agency said. He added, "Here are the feedback forms. Don’t forget to give them to the teachers on your bus to fill them before the end of the trip."
After we were confirmed several important issues, like the itinerary, the visit duration of each tour spot, who is in charge of which bus etc., we finally set out.
On the day–Guangzhou one-day tour
Actually, it wasn’t a one-day tour because the tour didn’t begin until 1:15PM. So to be exact, it should be half a day. They really assigned me to take charge of the bus with the most "heavy-weights". I didn’t recognize the titles of the two administrators on the bus until at the end of the day. One is the dean of Foreign Affair Dept. of the Univ.,the other is the principal of the foreign language college of the Univ.
On the way, I did as what my friend had told me to, introducing the overview of Guanzhou, including climate, people, roads, buildings, local culture, above all, the Cantonese eating habits and food culture. The tourists seemed to be happy to hear what I introduced. At first, I spoke English more than Chinese for fear many of them didn’t understand Chinese. But later I found out some of them could understand quite a lot of Chinese, I mean by a foreigner’s standard. So I added more Chinese into my speech. To keep the balance, I gave the bilingual introduction–both English and Chinese. The administrator approved of my presentation.
Our bus stopped at Chen’s Clan Family, the Zhenhai Tower (aka Guangzhou Museum), the Five Rams Statue and the Xinghai Concert Hall. The bus passed by Sun-yat-sen Memorial Hall, CITIC Plaza, Garden Hotel, Time Squre, Guangzhou Railway East Station, Tianhe Sport Stadium and many other striking landmarks of Guangzhou. When I think back how I introduced each place, I learn the lesson. There’re more I know but I haven’t introduced yet. I believe I can do better next time.
I happened to bring several Crazy English Teens magazines with me. Because originally I wanted to show them to the right people who would be interested in recording for us and whose mother language is English today. But nobody on the bus I guided was the right one. Most of the students were from Southeast Asia and Korea, Japan. I did meet some interesting students from Indonesia, Thailand and Philippine. However, I did send the mags to three different students–one is from Congo, one is from Japan and another one is from Panama whose Cantonese is so good but he cannot read and write Chinese characters. He’s a Chinese descendants who was born in Panama. The Congo brothers and sister told me that they could speak French. Ha! I told them all the French words and sentences I knew. (very limited in fact LOL) The funny thing was several foreign students asked me for my business card. I told them I only had the old one which was made during my university years. I told them the truth that my job is actually an English editor. Anyway, once I gave out my outdated name card, more came to me to have more. So very soon, there were not many name cards left. When I was about graduate, I was worried about how to do with my "left-over" name cards. But today, I gave out more than I expected.
On the day–the end of the trip
What a day!!! I stood most of the time on the bus, holding a mic to speak as much as I could. I knew my throat was under heavy stress. I still remember part of my end-of-the-day speech was I wish next time the students could be my tour guide, showing me around their campus and using Chinese to introduce the campus to me. The administrator was pleased and confident that the students could do so after one-year’s Chinese study. Both administrators came to ask me about where I studied. I told them my educational background and my present job. Both of them appreciated my English presentation. The principal said she used to be an English teacher. She pointed out two mistakes I made when introducing the city, which were 1) the Canton Fair location has moved to Pazhou, the one we passed by was the old one; (But as far as I know, the old one is still in use during the fair, but just dealing the light industry.) 2) Indian and Pakis are not black people. (But I remember I didn’t categorize them into black people. In fact, I said "the African people and the Indian, the Paki are…") Well, anyway, I nodded my head and said I would correct my mistakes. The dean of the Foreign Affair Dept. made a comment after getting off the bus that I was the one who spoke best English among all the tour guides he had met from this travel agency. Of course, the feedback form he returned had good comments about me too. I was pleased.
Ok, that’s my new experience to become a real tour guide. It is definitely not as easy as we often think. It’s such a tough job that I’d rather be a tourist but not a guide. Cough, cough, cough…