A Hong Kong Tour Guide in Fascinating South Africa
    2010-09-08 21:11:38     CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Zhang

Mixed feelings about the experience in past years can be read out in Linda Leung's face during an interview with China Radio International on August 28, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com] 

By Zhang Zhang

Having lived in South Africa for more than 20 years, Linda Leung acknowledged she feels more like a South African than a Hong Kong citizen.

As a tour guide, she worked nearly non-stop during the World Cup, but was glad to see the tournament inspire people of different colors to be more harmonious with one another while helping visitors from outside Africa learn how wonderful the country was.

Born into a family of educators in Hong Kong, Linda was expected to follow in her parents' footsteps and become a teacher. In fulfilling a childhood dream to travel around the world, she instead decided to be a tour guide.

"I prefer traveling thousands of miles to learning knowledge from thousands of books in a limited space. But with instinct as a teacher inherited from my family, I also would like to share with others my experiences in the places I have been to."

Since starting her guide work in the 1980's, Linda has left her footsteps on all the continents except the Antarctic and she has traveled through 10 African countries so far.

Linda came to South Africa in 1986 and found it hard to leave the country as she was deeply impressed with its friendly and polite people, clean air and fantastic natural landscapes.

"What attracts me most here is the manner in which the residents behave. Everyone is polite. Drivers are always polite to each other on the roads and people smile to whoever they meet. And the natural scenery is of course another factor that keeps me here."

Linda re-embarked on a career in tourism while working as a freelance guide three years after settling in South Africa. Though difficulties were inevitable in the beginning, ranging from the language barrier, to cultural differences and public rules, she quickly adapted to her new home and later became outstanding in her work thanks to her language advantage. Able to speak well in English, Chinese and Cantonese, Linda became popular with local travel agencies that were busy serving a surging number of inbound tourists from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries.

Linda received high praise from both the agency and her customers. Her career peaked in 2009 when she won three major tourism competitions sponsored by the South African government.

Winning the Welcome Award National Tourist Guide is always the most memorable for Linda. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

The selection was based on the comments from her employers and tourist customers as well as from an assessment lasting more than one month, during which an assessor from a randomly-chosen travel agency joined in Linda's group and recorded her work on video.

After a sweeping victory in the state of Gauteng, Linda qualified for the national competition, where she later made an unexpected "miracle".

"One of the competitors in the final was a local black girl. I thought she had a bigger opportunity than us to win and was ready to compete for the runner-up. But to my surprise, the top award went to me at last. It was hard to believe."

Linda said the award was not only an honor for herself, but also recognition for the Chinese contributing to the country.

Months ago, Linda established an association for Chinese tour guides in Gauteng to facilitate information on traffic, weather and places of interest. The non-profit organization also helps the administration investigate customer complaints and defend the rights of its members during such probes.

Linda said they were planning for emergency training for its members after the recent bus hijacking in Manila, where eight Hong Kong citizens were killed.

Though having acclimated to local life, Linda suffers from nostalgia sometimes and maintains nearly all traditions on Chinese festivals like wrapping Zongzi and watching the dragon boat competitions at the Duanwu Festival.

"I return to Hong Kong nearly once a year and will move the family back there when I'm old. Going home when one is old as falling leaves return to the root is a Chinese tradition."

Linda wants to teach tour guide license applicants after she retires, or work at an orphanage in Hong Kong or in the Chinese mainland to tell children about her experiences and inspire them to embark on a global tour one day.

The "miraculous victory" in the Welcome Award. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]



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