No. 6: The Ritz Tour Bus: Three Times a Week, They Come Here to See You.

Three times a week, at 9 a.m., the doors of the Ritz Tour bus open, and a flood of chattering

Three times a week, at 9 a.m., the doors of the Ritz Tour bus open, and a flood of chattering Chinese tourists pour out, cameras in tow. On a six-day tour of the Northeast, the group works from Niagara Falls to New York City to Boston. They save the best for last. Much-anticipated Harvard Yard is their final stop.

The eager East Asian tourists who populate the Yard usually get little better than a grumble from Harvard students. In fact, Chuck Houston, head teaching fellow for Psychology 15, “Introduction to Psychology,” said that a recent study found that Harvard students are much more likely to walk in front of a tourist taking a picture of John Harvard if the tourist is Asian.

“It was suggested that there is a stereotype that [Asian tourists] take photos 24/7. So [people think] it’s no big deal to interrupt their picture,” says Houston.

But the Ritz Tour travelers seem awestruck by Harvard Yard nevertheless. The visitors, mostly lawyers, doctors, teachers, and architects, shell out over $800 for the privilege. Pointing to passing students and smiling conspiratorially on a recent visit, they seemed happy to remind FM why we’re all here.

“It is hard to talk to people at Harvard because they are at the top of the ranks,” said Dorothy Chu, admiring the John Harvard statue. Given an all-American nickname in her grade-school English class, Dorothy said, “In the United States you are thinking you are kind of eager to go to University, but it is hard to graduate.”

“The building style looks like University of Southern California,” said Amy Chien, a graduate student at USC. She felt the H-bomb impact, making sure to snap pictures that people back home would recognize as uniquely Crimson. During her visit, Chien insisted on taking a picture of this reporter (a real Harvard student!) in front of John Harvard. Chien critiqued his pose with an eye well-trained for digital photography. “The way you stand. Why like that? It’s not a nice pose. You Photoshop it.”

She couldn’t articulate why she wanted so badly to see Harvard. But it was important to her.

Another Ritz tourist, Betty Liujiame, told FM about her studies at Guanxi Teacher’s Education University. The school, one of the most diverse institutions in China, may be more inviting than Harvard. In fact, Betty extended an invitation to FM to visit China. “They are nice to white people because they’re totally different,” she said.

Before climbing back onto the bus, Wanjun Gao recollected the infamous three lies of the John Harvard statue for FM. “The statue is wrong. The time is wrong. The founder is wrong,” he said, correctly. Then, tipping his cap, Gao disappeared into the bus, satisfied.

So the next time you’re rushing to class and happen upon a tourist snapping John Harvard’s picture, just walk around. It means more to them than it does to you.