mercredi, janvier 03, 2007

Les Invasions Barbares

OK, so the arrival of the new batch of students wasn't quite that violent, but it was certainly exhausting. Just like last October, I am momentarily breaking my ban on blogging about my job at UCParis, since my life will be nothing else for the next couple of days.

The Lila staff were kind enough to let me sleep in as the first students arrived in the early morning. By approximately 10am, I had showered, changed and slipped out the door. I checked in with the folks at the front desk and then headed off to the nearest métro station to get ID cards and plastic sleeves for the cartes oranges. The carte orange is a weekly or monthly transit pass, which the students need to attend classes. Métro stations have a nasty habit of running out of these when you most need them, so I made an early run for them, in case I needed to visit multiple stations to get it done. I got the stuff without trouble, although the line moved terrifically slowly.

When I got back (with some edibles from the bakery, of course), I got a skeleton key from the building staff and got to work on the WiFi networks. When the students left last quarter, someone in the building staff went to all the rooms that had WiFi equipment in them (modems, routers), disconnected them, and put them in my room. This was a great idea, in the sense that it ensured that materials didn't disappear over the holidays. However, this also meant that I had a jumble of identical-looking equipment that had been configured in very specific ways.

I won't lie; it took ages to figure out which modem went with which wireless router. And it took even longer to figure out how to make the modems and WiFi routers talk to each other. In most cases, both the modems and routers came with built-in DHCP server firmware, and they would get positively cranky if you turned this feature off. As a result, you had to configure both devices in a way that would allow them to both serve as DHCP servers without coming into conflict. On the upside, I took advantage of the opportunity to clean up a few administrative issues, such as normalizing the encryption types across all the networks, setting the broadcast channels to avoid interference, setting IP addressing to avoid conflicts, etc.

At some point after this, I settled down with some of the folks from the front desk to a spot of lunch. 20 mintues into lunch, there was a knock at the lunchroom door as 4 more students arrived. I ran out and got them their arrival materials, showed them how to use their keys, and then reminded them of the meeting / tour at 4pm.

A few more arrivals later, it came time for the meeting. Thankfully, one of my co-workers from the UCParis centre was there to help, which made this a lot easier. I made some introductory remarks, advised them on building etiquette ("always say 'bonjour' or 'bonsoir' when you pass other residents, or you will seem quite rude"), gave them a tour of the building, and then headed out into the neighborhood for some more touring. I took them past my boulangerie, the nearby métro stop, several other shops and over to the next métro stop, where we could buy transit passes and get photos taken for their ID cards.

Alas, this métro stop, Télégraphe, no longer had a working ticket booth. Instead, they had automatic ticket machines (which didn't take American credit cards) and an "information" booth, which was essentially a transit worker without a cash register to sell tickets. Those who had brought cash used the machine (only one of them took cash), while the rest got their ID pictures taken in the photo booth. Once that was taken care of, we headed back down to the closer métro stop, Porte des Lilas, where there was a ticket booth that took American credit cards.

Finally, we staggered home and took over the cafeteria on the ground floor for some final information. I lectured the students on how to use the phones in their rooms and how the room-cleaning services worked. While the students worked on putting their cartes oranges together (i.e., cutting and pasting their ID pictures, filling out their names and addresses, laminating them) two of the students piped up to tell me that they were missing bed linens. Off I went to ask the security guard to fetch the necessary linens (the daytime staff had gone home). I get back to discover that one of the students needed a few more items, while another student needed a different set. Off I went to get more stuff. The security guard brought back some of the items, but couldn't find the rest. A third student informs me that he doesn't have a comforter. This time, I head back to the storage room with the security guard to find everything.

When I had finally sorted everything out, I took the students back to my room to distribute phones for their rooms and let them rifle through the stuff the previous group of students left for them (half-finished bags of pasta, spices, oils, etc.). I spent a not-insignificant amount of time giving catch-up information to those who arrived late, and then wrapped up my day writing an endless stream of information emails to the students, giving them their phone numbers, their housecleaning days, the passwords to the WiFi networks, and so on.

In general, this group was friendlier and better behaved than the last group, but they were also a fair bit more needy. Unlike the autumn students, these kids didn't necessarily speak French (most spoke nearly none at all), so they would request my help for the simplest of tasks--especially when the task required speaking to a French person. Nonetheless, although the neediness may have been exhausting, it was also followed with sincere gratitude, so I wasn't entire put off. I just hope they can become independent more quickly. If not, I'll be babysitting 'till March.

2 commentaires:

LEO a dit…

Oh, new students, new needs, new DRAMAS. How exciting.

And yet not.

Miss you in Chicago!

LMGM a dit…

Miss you in Paris! I know, it doesn't quite sound the same, but believe me when I say that it is possible to miss someone while simultaneously living in Paris.

Oh, and the studenty drama is never-ending. The group is really nice this quarter, though.