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Indiana University

Tour Guide Serenade

Professor Bruce Jaffee, left, listens to our tour guide at West Lake, Marilyn

Everywhere we’ve gone in China, we’ve been joined by translators and sometimes tour guides. On Sunday, we met a lovely woman named Marilyn (her English name).

I don’t believe anyone of us asked her how she came to choose that name, but she displayed an inner beauty that far exceeded that of someone named Monroe.

Before becoming a tour guide, she had been in the software industry and she told someone in our group that the long hours of sitting at a desk top had led to her having back problems. Judging from the brisk pace that she kept us at, she appears to have recovered.

Our Chinese translator made this observation about tour guides: “Tour guides are like the present perfect tense. They don’t want the tourists to enjoy the sites. They want you to have been there, so the next time you talk to friends or relatives you can brag about having been there.”

Among many things, she told us that Hangzhou is “not only a travel city, but a lovers’ city,” and about the famous green tea industry nearby and about all the local landmarks.

But at one point she surprised us with a song, “Special You, Special Love.” Singing through a microphone connected to a simple PA speaker box hanging from her neck, she is sincere and her performance is memorable enough that I asked her to sing us another song on the way back, which you can hear if you click on the link below.

It is about her hometown.

Because the bus was moving, we couldn’t give her a standing ovation, but Xia xia (thank you), Marilyn.


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