November 1999 Istanbul.
HABITAT meeting was held in Istanbul in 1999.
As a freelancer I was offered to Interpret for The Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik (I believe he is still the Prime Minister of Norway) and Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek and Mrs. Vollabaek during their meeting with the Mufti of Istanbul Mr. Necati Tayyartas.
I was nervous but confident that everything would be all right, after all, I was experienced and that is why I was chosen for this particular meeting. I had no idea what these people would talk about at the meeting. Anyway, following all the pomp and ceremony we were seated at the Mufti’s room. On the second floor of an ancient Roman building surrounded by the graves of fallen warriors.
At one point the Norwegian Prime Minister made a comment and said something to the effect of ` We, those who follow the celestial religions believe in one and same good`
I froze. I did not know what `celestial` was in Turkish language. I coughed, combed my hair with my fingers, I could not remember any word that suggested ` celestial` God, what was I going to do? I turned towards the mufti ` I’m sorry sir can I please have a glass of water, my throat is preventing me from talking any further (by that time I had been interpreting for about 50 minutes, continuous). He asked for a glass of water from the orderly who was standing at the far corner. We waited for about 4 minutes; in the meantime, my mind was racing through its database; all those dictionaries, books etc I had read all my life. No. No.
I drank the water and finally decided to do what an experienced interpreter might find embarrassing to do.
` I’m afraid I cannot recall the word for `celestial` in Turkish. I have to look at my dictionary if you excuse me. A smile appeared on their faces.
I pulled the little pocket dictionary I had. The word was ` Semavi`.
Same year I Interpreted for Romanian Ministerial delegation in Izmir International Fair and acted as guide for Slovakian Attaches and Business people. I learned to study about the subjects before interpreting in any conference or meeting.