You can imagine my surprise last week, when out of the blue, I received a telephone call from a lovely Georgian lady called Rusiko, who asked me whether I might be prepared to go to a recording session for the National Examination Centre in Georgia, to have my voice recorded as part of the English language exams. I think my mumbled and rather garbled reply was something along the lines of errrr,oooh, ok!
So there it was, on Saturday afternoon, that myself and another Leader from the Oceans Project were off to the middle of what seemed like a totally different country, in the middle of nowhere, having blagged a lift from someone who might or might not be a taxi driver who was taking one of my teachers from school to what I had thought was roughly the same direction, which turned out not to be at all.
That’s the thing with Georgians. They are very hospitable, and they will offer you a lift and they like to look after you, even if its actually very inconvenient for them, and isn’t anywhere near where they had planned to go. And when we offered to give them money towards the taxi fare, they totally refused, although I think the taxi driver wasn’t a taxi at all, but probably just a friend, who happened to be a taxi driver and own a taxi. They had no idea where the street was that we were supposed to be going to, nor did we, nor did anyone we asked, but I knew my School Director had been there before, and she solved everything, just as always. In fact the first time I ever met my School Director, she even told me that when I’m with her, there are never any worries, like the Lion King movie ‘hakuna matata’ (however you spelt it), ‘it means no worries’. And its definitely a philosophy and a truth as she always seems to be able to fix any situation, no matter how much you think that situation is unresolvable. Like a secret magician!
And there we were, tired, and starving after a very busy Oceans Project sessions, and driving to the snowy heights of somewhere in Tbilisi that really was at the end of the line, literally and metaphorically. But we got there, on time, and excited, and received a call from her just as we arrived, telling us where to go to find her office. The previous direction had pretty much been, the building with the mosaic on the side. Which isn’t massively helpful, in a post Soviet country where there are mosaics everywhere and where districts are fairly big, but miraculously we found it with no problems at all. Quite an achievement really, as Georgians, I have discover, on the whole, are awful when it comes to directions, and often if you ask someone in a street where something is, they will usually drop whatever they are doing and personally take you there instead. In fact, that might be why Georgians are so bad with giving directions, because they generally don’t give them, but instead personally escort you??
We hadn’t had much time to go through our lines, or to learn our scripts, and neither of us had done anything like this before, ever! But the sound recordists and everyone were very nice to us, and we soon got over any nerves. We arrived at the building, were met by a scary looking but very friendly security guard who allowed us to use his toilet and directed us to where we needed to go, which was good, because there was no one around for what seemed like miles, and the building was a maze of freshly painted corridors, with very plain, un-pictured walls.
We were famished, so we probably ate far more of the cakes that were presented to us than we normally would, and that British manners and etiquette would usually dictate, but we apologised profusely and explained that we were starving because we had come straight from the project and had expected to find a shop near this building somewhere, but there was nothing!
We ran through the script, changed a few things to make them more natural for us when speaking as Brits, and highlighted which lines we each had. Practiced the timings, pauses, and intonation. It was quite a strange thing to do, but equally quite enjoyable. But I felt I probably did better on the earlier read throughs than on the later recordings, as it was hard to read perfectly as I got tired and the coffee wore off. But they were very happy with us or at least that is what they told us, and with one more toilet stop and a glass of water, we were led into the recording room.
They gave us headsets across the room from each other, and did all the necessary sound checks. We had a choice now. To have the headsets so that we could hear ourselves as we spoke, or to not be able to hear ourselves. We both listened to ourselves talking at first, and quickly decided that it was just too weird, and that we cringed at the thought of hearing ourselves.
And then the recording began. I made a few fluffs, and a few ad libs, but on the whole they seemed pretty happy and were surprised that we finished recording so quickly and pretty much in just one take. So that was nice, and better still was the fact that we would be paid quite a nice sum for our work, and it had been not only easy, but also quite fun.
I wish I’d been able to take a photo of us, as we must have looked pretty funny, talking to each other in our very British acccents from across the room, and nervously, (but silently so as not to be heard on the recording) giggling and making faces at each other to hide just how nervous we really were!
So, I apologise in advance, to anyone who is taking an English exam, and who gets to listen to me drawl during their exam now. But its nice to think that somehow there is a little bit of my Britishness spreading out across the world in tiny little moments of randomness and as a teacher, there is a little bit of me that is secretly happy to know that somewhere there will be a student who is cussing me in their exam and wishing that they were anywhere but there at that time in their life. Just as I remember sitting in my exams at school, for French and German exams, and wondering who on earth these people on these recordings were. I bet they were not real Germans or French people, and I imagined them sitting there in their national costume, eating local food, somewhere glamorous making these recordings…..but its obviously not like that at all, but it feels like a bit of karma somehow. I had to sit through hours of those language recordings, and now so does another student!