My story takes place during a city tour of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik.
Once upon a time, I was working on this particular day as a so-called ‘whisper guide’ for a very nice group of Chinese passengers.
For those unfamiliar with the term ‘whisper guide’, it means that there are two guides working. One is the qualified local guide, whilst the other acts as interpreter. On this occasion, and as I don’t speak Chinese, I had a very pleasant Chinese girl sitting next to me in charge of the microphone. I whispered the information to her, and she in turn translated it and shared it with our passengers via the mic.
Working as a whisper guide is actually quite tricky. You have to provide your interpreter with pertinent information on a given subject ahead of it actually coming into view. Timing is crucial. Talk about something too soon, and it might not yet be in view. Talk about it too late, and you might have passed it by. So city tours can be quite stressful as there is usually a lot going on and little time in between the sights to catch your breath. But this girl was a pro and we had a good system going and were working well together.
We were just about to pass one of the city’s landmarks, the Salvation Army building, when I shared the information that Iceland has no armed forces. No air-force, no navy, no army and so on. BUUUUUT… wait for it, (drum roll)… we do have a Salvation Army! Ha!
Now this usually raises a smile from passengers, and I will admit that I was kind of expecting a bit of a low-key titter. But I was certainly not prepared for the thundering response that followed. A round of rousing applause with even some foot stamping thrown in for good measure!
These people were pretty excited. Really!
“Who would have thought that the Salvation Army would be so popular in China,” I mused. “I’ve certainly learned something new today”.
But no time to dwell. Our tour bus was heading towards a row of impressive embassy buildings and I had to get to work pointing them out to my colleague. First the French Embassy, then the Russian Embassy and so on.
But she seemed distracted by the barrage of excited questions being fired at her following our fleeting drive past the Salvation Army ‘barracks’.
“So, how long have they been here?” she asked me.
“Who?” I asked. As this question could have applied to any one of the embassies that we had passed.
“Why, the SOUTH ASIAN ARMY of course!” came her excited reply.
Happy weekend. Make it a good one!