Monday, September 05, 2005

Waiting for Godot, I mean, the students.

You may think that all I do here is sit around and drink wine and eat paté and cheese.* But no! I have a job. Yes, that’s right. I work, not just eat and wander aimlessly around Lyon. After several study abroad experiences it’s my turn to see the operation from the other side. Our director, Laurie, returned from maternity leave at about the same time that I arrived, and once we could get into the office again (yes, Lyon 2 is once again open) we were joined by Rémé, the program assistant. What can I say except that both of these women are exceptional in their own way and know how to run an excellent program. We spent the final week before the arrival preparing final details for the students and for us. As the graduate assistant, I basically do whatever they need. This vague job description has led me on some pretty interesting adventures.

All of the students get a TCL card for the month of September (as I have). This is the card that allows access to all public transportation in Lyon (metro, bus and tramway). It includes a picture and the all-important “puce” (a computer chip with personal information, like what you’ve paid, name, favorite color, etc. Just kidding about the color. Or am I?) But once it gets towards the end of August, beginning of September, the lines at the offices all over town to procure these carts become almost as long as the Great Wall of China. It was much simpler to send me to collect all of the cards before the lines became massive and before the students even stepped foot on a plane. This is, and should have been, an easy task. The office had all of the information, I had the Centre Oregon credit card (how exciting!), I made nice conversation with the woman in the office, she finished everything, added it all up, I handed her the card (still exciting for me at this point) and then, the clincher, she said “Oh non, il faut payer avec une cheque!” (translation- “Oh no, you silly girl, you don’t get to charge this insanely large amount on a credit card that’s not your own- go get a check!”) I quickly called Laurie and returned to the Centre Oregon, where I was presented with the oh-so-desired check. Rémé also asked me to pick up the cards for another group she works with, so I left armed with several checks. I thought I had beaten the system and would return triumphant, and soon. This, however, was not my destiny. When I returned to the office, the woman working there was in the middle of charging the cards for the other group. This in itself can take a while, and the process is made even longer when the computer crashes. TCL has apparently just changed computer systems and so crashes are common (Laurie mentioned today that this is another reason the lines are so long). After a very long while, I was on my way with all of the cards and more receipts than you can imagine. I swear, this TCL woman and I are now best friends, after all the time we spent together.

Another adventure, another staple of French life- la Poste (the ever-recognizable Post Office, that of the bright yellow signs). Anyone who’s known me for several years will know that I used to be obsessed with la Poste. During my stay in St. Brieuc I spent excessive amounts of time there and always ran into my friends. Later I discovered that this is not a phenomenon that occurs at every la Poste, and that sometimes employees of la Poste aren’t all that nice. Case in point- the family mailing. Rémé and I had put together a mailing to be sent to all the host families. Envelopes stuffed and addressed, they now needed to be mailed. She sent me on my way, with yet another check, to mail the envelopes (on a separate note, the post office she sent me to is, in fact, next door to my apartment. But I couldn’t go home! It was heartbreaking, and not the last time this would happen). When I got there, the clerk decided that the easiest way to mail the twenty-six envelopes was not to run them through the computer, but rather to sell me stamps and have me adhere them all. Needless to say, these were not self-adhesive stamps. The best part of it all was that he sat there and watched me lick twenty-six stamps with a severely annoying smirk on his face. Oh la Poste, your spotless image is gone!

But, regardless, after these and other adventures, the students arrived. Stay tuned for the next installment- My day at the Part-Dieu point rencontre, where students arrive, several gazillion pounds of luggage is lugged around, and I spend ten hours at the train station, followed shortly by One afternoon in Vieux Lyon, where Marc and I lead jet-lagged students around, ice cream is consumed, no one gets hit by a car or bus, and I don’t lose any students.

*Note- this does not mean that I never sit around and eat paté and drink wine. This has occurred on several occasions, and I hope it keeps occurring.


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