Monday, November 13, 2006

Getting Two Thumbs Up?

And another seven people know the depths to which my singing abilities can plummet. This was the culmination of a stereotypically strange but enjoyable evening.

A couple of weeks back I'd been asked to help out with the career development society of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as a native English speaker. Because many of the students will head into industry or beyond in multinational companies, it is important for them to have good experience with professional interviews. I said that though I had no experience with such interviews I was very happy to take part. Somebody else from a large company would be there interviewing with me so I wasn't too worried about my lack of experience. I was simply there as a native speaker. The first strange aspect of all this was that the rest of the career development society would be there as an audience.

I was sent the resumes of the students I'd be interviewing and had a quick look through to get some ideas of sensible questions. I was also sent a list of oft asked interview teasers. The time came around last night and I headed over to the room, only to discover that I was the lone interviewer and the professional was a no-show. I met this with mixed emotions including a mild feeling of panic but figured that I could still make this a respectable experience (speaking of which I was dressed up in my finest suit). A had expected that the other person would be leading the interview and I would simply interject when appropriate so this left me with 15 minutes to read through the resumes again and come up with something sensible. 20 minutes later having introduced myself to the audience of 20 or so I gave the first half hour interview to a student of polymer sciences, hoping to take his academic knowledge into the real world. Five seconds before I started I hadn't clearly decided what I was going to say but having composed a reasonable first question as I spoke, the rest of the interview went smoothly and was a lot of fun. I neither made my interviewee cry, nor do he have a free ride and people seemed genuinely pleased with the outcome. After each interview I gave my feedback which I expressly pointed out would simply be my 'common sense' and was in no way a professional opinion. Still, they all seemed to nod sagely as I spoke and came afterwards to give very pleasing feedback on the whole experience. Apart from the fact that the room was truly freezing and I couldn't feel my feet by the end I would definitely be happy to help out at this sort of event again.

So, in celebration of this event (having interviewed four students over a two hour period) karaoke was the order of the night. Some student qualities being universal, the fact that karaoke becomes very cheap after midnight made this the sensible time to head there. As the guest I seemed to sing considerably more than my fair share. After a shaky start and a shaky middle my singing continued on to a shaky if enjoyable end. From the three times I've been to karaoke so far there have been a reasonably large selection of Western songs to choose from. Unfortunately my knowledge of NSync, the Backstreet Boys and Boyzone isn't up to the challenge, so I spent my time mutilating Beatles classics and a few other more embarrassing numbers.

Around three in the morning my eyes lit up as I spotted one particular song on the display and, though I think the others perhaps didn't share my enjoyment, my highlight of the evening was giving a rendition of Bad Touch by the Bloodhound gang. A truly memorable experience.

Along with a great deal of rather surreal dancing, some good free food and some fine singing from the others, it was another unexpectedly enjoyable evening. Having got back at around four in the morning, I've spent today struggling to keep my eyes open while finishing off a paper which must now be checked over by the other authors, and writing a couple of talks which I'll be giving over the next week and a bit.

There was a photographer in residence to take photos of the interviews which I shall post when I get hold of them. Fortunately the karaoke was neither recorded in audio or photographic format. This, I promise is a good thing for the rest of the human race.

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