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Jo'Burg Days: Angie The Japanese Guide

Barbara Durlacher tells us of a Japanese-speaking South African tour guide called Angie – and the part she played in rescuing a round-the-world yachtsman.

A friend told me this story the other day.

He and his wife have a young friend Angie, who was at school with their eldest daughter. When Angie finished university she got a job with a big corporation and worked in their Japanese office for six years. She learnt to speak Japanese fluently while she was there.

Having returned to South Africa, she now lives in Cape Town and has formed her own business as a specialist Japanese tour guide. The visitors are absolutely amazed that she knows so much about their culture and always recommend her to others coming to SA. Angie says that as they have only 14 days for their holidays, they want to see as much as possible in the limited time available. Listed in descending order of importance, these are:-

1. Table Mountain
2. Robben Island [the place where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years]
3. Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
4. The Jacarandas in Pretoria

And they can’t be bothered with anything else!

And here’s another story about Cape Town:

As you know, Robben Island has now been turned into a museum commemorating ‘The Struggle’ and is run by former political prisoners, who benefit from the substantial income it generates. A dedicated privately-owned ferry service of two luxury hydrofoil catamarans has been operating from Cape Town to the island for a couple of years. This is a distance of about six miles, crossing the busy entrance to Cape Town docks and sailing over very deep water. In the past six months or so, a younger generation of ‘politicals’ have taken over the museum administration and they decided there would be better pickings and more cash in their pockets if they built their own boats which they would operate.

So, without telling anyone, they ordered a boat to be built, to commence a new service as soon as the contract for the private boats ended. Now, bear in mind that tourists from all over the world are visiting CT and book their trips to Robben Island 12 months in advance. Well, the inevitable happened, the shipbuilders couldn’t deliver on time and the service stopped running. Result, tremendous uproar from the disappointed tourists.

Tails between their legs, our clever operators were forced to go back to the catamaran owners and ask them to please reinstate their important service. “Sorrrrry…” they said, “We’ve sold the two boats to a company in the Bahamas. They’re on their way already”.

So, once again, SA’s reputation for efficiency and service goes down the drain, and hordes of disappointed and furious tourists go back home with stories of what a mess this country’s in.

To return to Angie, the Japanese-speaking guide. Not long ago, there was a lone Japanese round-the-world yachtsman who ran into a lot of trouble in deep water off the Cape coast. He frantically radioed Cape Maritime Services, gabbling in Japanese and begging for help. Fortunately, they know that Angie speaks fluent Japanese, and they got in touch with her. She translated his ‘Mayday’ message; he was found and towed into CT. His boat was patched up and some weeks later he set sail again. A day out of CT he nearly capsized again and radioed for help once more. This time Angie was up in Namaqualand taking a group on a flower tour, and it took them some time to locate her. The intrepid sailor was towed back in once again, but this time he was put on a plane and flown home, and his boat was sent back on a container ship. Cape authorities weren’t going to take a chance on his sailing skills rounding the Cape of Storms again!

And finally, one more story ‘Angie’ story.

A very important Japanese trade delegation was coming to SA on business, bringing their wives with them. While the husbands were busy Angie took the ladies to Mala-Mala, the famous luxury game camp near Kruger Park. Knowing how important they were, the senior and most important wife was given the honeymoon suite overlooking the waterhole, but when Angie heard about this, she said “OH NO! you can’t do that. In Japanese culture, the most important person in the group must be nearest the kitchen – the less important you are, the further away you are from the food!”

So, this is one of the reasons why Angie is so popular with the Japanese. she knows their culture and their language thoroughly and they feel at home with her and know that she will look after their interests in every way possible.


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