As I write this, I’m in Vancouver, Canada on a much needed 12 day vacation. We just ended a Chinese group tour of some of the national parks. It was incredibly beautiful, with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains, culturally interesting, and stuffed full of amusing experiences with Chinese people. If you have never experienced something like this, these are some of my experiences and what you might expect.
But before I get deep into my account, let me be clear about a couple of things. Although my naturally sarcastic brain found many things to keep myself amused (some outright ridiculous, some simply culturally funny), that does not mean that I didn’t have anything less than a wonderful time.
The tour guide was an amazing man who did a great job, and said everything in both Chinese and English only for my benefit, since I was the only non-Chinese speaker there. The people were mostly very friendly and respectful, and this type of group is a hidden travel secret to visit many places without having to drive yourself, and paying less money than you would almost any other way.
Having said that disclaimer, here’s what happened:
We met at the bus at 8 AM. On vacation, one would expect to get to sleep in a little bit, but the 8 o’clock time was actually our latest of the whole trip. We got on board a standard tour bus, the kind with areas to stow your carry-ons above your seat and the little fold down foot rest. There were two more stops for others to be picked up as well.
By the time we were ready to go, the bus was full of excited and chatty Chinese people…well, except for the seats directly around the two of us. Those sat empty as a sort of buffer zone from the white guy, apparently. I wasn’t really offended. This meant more space for me.
Our collective DMZ was short lived though, because the tour guide quickly announced that we had been given assigned seats. These would change each day according to who had made him the happiest the day before (or something like that), and we would need to move to those seats after the first rest stop.
Yes, on vacation…assigned seats. I had returned to Mrs. Zimmerman’s second grade classroom. I was sure there would be homework later, but I looked forward to some dodgeball during recess.
Actually, it is sort of like your first day of school, or summer camp. You are anxious about how your teacher/tour guide will act, and you know there will be certain roles each person will play. Some people you will like, some you won’t. There will be the popular kids, the nerds, and a group of bohemian iconoclasts who do their own thing. I was in that group, naturally. I was after all, the only white guy.