Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The five steps to becoming a Kenyan Tour Guide

Karibu! So, you want to be a tour guide? Well, the good news is that there are plenty of opportunities out there and most of the time you don’t even need to be employed at the attraction you are showing people around. You just need turn up randomly. The even better news, though, is that there is a simple Five-Step Method you can learn in only ten minutes, allowing you to start raking in those tourist dollars after lunch! This method is simple and proven, having been culled from the experience of guides out there in the workplace RIGHT NOW!

1. The first step is easy. Simply find yourself a tourist attraction - be it a stunning natural wonder, a Hindu temple or a pristine beach – and hover outside it. Don’t worry about getting a uniform, or a badge or any of that nonsense. Simply say to tourists: “I’m a tour guide. Yah.” This functions as ID. And besides, you don’t actually work there anyway.

2. Many tour guides mistakenly believe that the most important skill you need is knowledge about your chosen attraction. Wrong! We in Kenya know the most important skill is sharp elbows, which you use to thrust yourself to the front of the horde of other guides haranguing a startled looking tourist who has turned up hoping for a relaxing half hour strolling through peaceful surroundings. Also ensure you have an iron grip to clamp onto the tourist’s elbow. This will enable you to win any ensuing tug of war.

3. Don’t worry about knowing much about your attraction. Usually one fact, the more obvious the better, will suffice. For example, if you are showing guests around Fourteen Falls, the only thing you should tell them is that it is called Fourteen Falls because there are fourteen waterfalls. Then you should count them out loud, very slowly, pointing to each waterfall in turn. Other facts, such as what kind of animals live in the water, how long ago this attraction was formed and what that stinking five-foot-high mound of yellow foam collecting at the bottom of the falls is are irrelevant.

4. Remember that tourists are really, really stupid. Therefore you need to repeat everything you say many times before the idiots absorb your marvellous factoid. If there is a silence lasting any longer than three seconds, you may be tempted to think that the tourists are quietly marvelling at whatever you are showing them. This is incorrect. It is more likely that their miniscule brains are so busy trying to process the information you just imparted that they have lost the power of speech. Help them by repeating your fact. Again. And again.

For example, as we in the industry know, the most important thing people need to know about the Crocodile Farm in Mombasa is not how long crocodiles live, what chameleons eat or if that rather large and bristly insect crawling up the child’s leg is poisonous. It is whether or not each and every creature in the place is edible or inedible. So, at each stop along the tour of the aquarium and the insectarium, spideriaum or whatever it is called (just invent something), repeatedly proclaim the edibleness of the beast in question.

For example: “Lobster. Edible. Lobster. Edible. Lobster. Edible.” “Spider. Inedible. Spider. Spider. Inedible. Spider. Inedible” “Sea Urchin. Inedible. Yah. Inedible. Sea Urchin. Inedible. Sea Urchin.”

5. If somebody asks you a question about something you don’t know the answer to (and let’s be honest, this will happen a lot) it is perfectly acceptable to do any of the following:

- Pretend you don’t understand their squeaky foreign voices

- Mumble something unintelligible in response and hurry to the next attraction

- Say something, no matter how stupid. For example Q: “What kind of monkey is that?” A: “It’s a monkey monkey.” Or, alternatively, use your one fact to create a credibly answer: Q: “What kind of snake it that?” A: “Edible snake”

-Make sweeping statements: Q: “Why does that lizard have holes in its neck.” A: “It is its nature”

-Read out any signs or information cards that may be in the vicinity, even if they have nothing to do with the question asked

And that, newly graduated tour guide, is it. Now get out there and do Kenya proud!

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