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Registering for classes and signing forms about my room used to be so easy

FRANCE | Friday, 4 September 2015 | Views [355]

Tuesday we met for a walking tour of part of Marais. “Marais” being French for “when I was a kid, the entire city used to a swamp, and we had to go to the Latin quarter just to be on solid ground.” It was led by Guillaume, an art historian who will also be showing us around several museums later. He was informative and interesting, though his bias showed. He showed us several “hotels” (hotels particulier, for exceedingly wealthy Frenchmen of antiquity, not to be confused with actual hotels tourists could stay at) beginning with one that has been converted to a library for art history. (It might be worth pretending to be interested in art just so I can look around there. It’s lodged in the Hotel des Sens, and the couple of times I’d walked past the garden on my own, it had always drawn my attention until I stopped to take a picture.

Occasionally, other tour groups would walk by and hear other information about the building we were looking at. Including an English tour guide. Which was challenging, because, although I knew I should be paying more attention to the French, the English was easier and more interesting. While Guillaume was talking about the evidence of ancient Greek architecture on the hotel, as evidenced by the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns, the other guide was saying things like "since property used to be considered to go all the way down, a group of clever landowners got together to sue the RATP for building the metro. Fortunately, they lost, because the repercussions would have been enormous if they'd won." and "if I get run over, help yourself to the money in my bag."

Although, if Guillaume had been run over, he probably would have wanted us to help him instead of robbing him, he was still a very good tour guide. He showed us the surviving part of a wall that old Parisians had built to convince the Vikings that England was an easier target (now built into an elementary school) and the current street names (on friendly blue plaques) above the street names in stone. (Old being a relative term, since for a long time Paris had no street names, tourists needed a personal guide to hope to get around.)

After that we split up. Most people headed back to the office but, since my next appointment was at the university, I didn't see much point in that. (We were about 15 minutes walking from the university right now.) Stephanie warned me that I shouldn't get there before 14:00, because they would still be at lunch. So that gave me plenty of time to kill.

I went with Clara, Laura, and Cambria to get lunch. Clara talked a little about what a terrible job Italy did of publicising their tourist attractions, since, despite having enough historic, artistic, and architectural sites to make pretty much every other country jealous, the vast majority of those sights are ignored or unknown. It reminded me a bit of Morocco, where they still have dungeons blocked off because they've never been properly explored, and are too dangerously big to explore them improperly.

After lunch, the others went back to the office, and I went to wander around the vicinity of Juisseau. (Sign number three you're near the campus of a math and science school: there's a nearby café called the Epsilon.) On my walk, I went into a bookstore and a miscellaneous lamp, being, etc. store and a bookstore and a café. Then it was time to stare at the university, and finally to go in.

Ben had arrived before me, so I used him as a guinea pig to determine what room to go into. There were about five promising candidates, and a hallway full of people waiting to enter them, so this was not a trivial question. It took him three tries, but finally he was in and out, done for the day. Now I just needed to be more aggressive, so I could enter the room in question the minute it was vacated. (One of the things I’ve noticed is how terrible people are at queuing.)

It was supposed to be a quick procedure that got me back with plenty of time before the class with Christine. Given it was thirty-minute metro ride back to the office, when at 15:00 I was still waiting outside, it became clear that was not going to happen. But registering for real classes was more important, so I didn’t have any real choice but to wait.

A student was in the office. Student and administrator left the office. They came back. Student left, and another student immediately went in. Administrator left the office, locking the door behind her. Wait a second… she hadn’t just locked a student in, had she? Administrator returned. Student and different administrator entered. Second administrator left. Yeah, the office had definitely been empty for a bit, and I could have gone in. Student left. I entered.

I had my sheet already filled in with the classes I wanted to take, so all that remained was to decide which section and enroll me in the courses. For the mathy math classes, this simply required clicking on a link, showing me a schedule, and asking me to choose a section. And then enrolling me, which didn’t seem to be a concern of hers. It was a process that was a lot simpler than it felt like at the time. I later realized this was because she was asking me to choose between two or three sections, meeting at different times and different days of the week, and I wasn’t used to that. (Freshman year I had multiple sections of 3 classes first semester and 2 classes second. First semester sophomore year I had one class with three sections and one demi-class with two sections, one of which conflicted with another class. Last semester all of my classes had a single section. So the idea of actually designing my schedule was pretty new to me.) Halfway through I realized that if I avoided classes on Fridays, I’d have an extended weekend, so I started frontloading my courses, even if it meant a morning class.

Overall, a smooth process… for my mathy math classes. I also wanted to take Russian, (which I knew the math department wouldn’t know what to do with) French language, (ditto, but that I was already registered for) and History of Mathematics (a class that appears on the list of “things we kind of expect our students to be taking in their third year of a maths degree.” It turns out that, since History of  Mathematics is technically in the history department of UPMC, [a very lonely department] they couldn’t register me for it, or even tell me the hours.) To deal with Russian I would need to go to the building that held the offices of the Russian administrators. Ditto with history of math, only before I showed up there, I should write an e-mail at this address. Clear?

Clear enough. I left, checked the time, and decided that I should check out the language building, because I was going to be very late anyway. Once I found someone who was free and tried to put as much relevant information forward as possible, she pointed me to an office door. An out-of-office sign was posted, informing me that they would be back 7 September. Which was the actual start of the university and classes and such. So that’s helpful.

I managed to find my way out of the university, then went back to the office for the last half-hour of the class with Christine. We were supposed to read through newspapers and determine the political leanings. I took the nearest one (L’humanite) and, within 30 seconds, had determined that it was very left-leaning. So at least the lack of time didn’t hurt me there, though it did mean I’d need to give a presentation alone on Friday. (Everyone else had given it today.)

I left the class, filled Stephanie in on what had gone on with the university, had her proofread the e-mail I’d composed on the metro ride back, and sent it. Then I waited around for a bus. During the ensuing 13 minutes, I found myself thinking longingly of the metro (not a direct line back to my apartment) and wondering what the point of busses even was. This feeling increased when the crowded bus showed up, and I was left trying not to be in the way, and ideally finding a seat.

When I got off the bus, my landlady was there waiting for me. We went back to my apartment to drop stuff off and try and find the nearest SFR store. Which we did, and got there slightly before they closed. (Along the way I did my best to explain that I had wireless right now by saying “Erin loaned me a portable internet,” which felt like a logical thing to say at the time, even though that oversimplication is enough to make me wince internally.) Unfortunately, they didn’t have what Eunice was looking for, so we called it a failure and went back to eat dinner before doing inventory and signing the lease.

The thing is, Eunice had very recently gone through the apartment and made a list of all of the items that were in the apartment. And now we needed to go through it together. She said this was because last year, after one of her frying pans went missing, the girl had denied it ever being there and, since Eunice didn’t have a signed copy of the inventory, Erin had said it wasn’t valid. So this year, she was making sure she didn’t have that problem.

Although I appreciate her reasoning, there are much easier ways. IMSA and Carthage seems to be aware of one of them with the way they handle Room Condition Reports. RAs go through and note all the damage to the room before the student moves in, and then they give the sheets to the student. The student has a day or two to look through, confirm it, and sign. Then they hand it back. If they want to go through everything in detail before signing, they can. If they want to go “I cannot read any of this. I’m going to hope it’s right,” and sign it, they can. If they look at the room and think “there sure is a lot written down here, and the handwriting looks neat. They seem meticulous and trustworthy. I’ll sign.” you can. (Completely hypothetically. I definitely look at the room before signing instead of relying on graphology, signing, and waiting 20 hours to make it seem like I’ve put thought into it before I return it.)

I’m trying to decide which would be more painful: going through inventory with Eunice, or going through an RCR with an RA with small and detailed notes. On one hand, the apartment is much bigger, on the other, going through objects is probably much more fun than going through damage. (“Do you see that scratch on the wall? It’s about 5 cms. And over there are tiny holes. I count six of them. How many do you count? Six as well? Cool. Moving on… windows! This is my favorite part. There’s a slight tear there, and the latch doesn’t quite close all the way… come over here and try it.”) Neither seems terribly effective, since by 20:00 I was willing to sign an inventory that said she had a complete tea set of bone china, Waterford Crystal glasses, and an antique Persian rug. I’m pretty sure “I trust anyone who writes this neatly” is better logic than “if I sign this, will you go away and leave me alone for the night?” Especially since the latter reasoning followed me into what seems like it should have been a pivotal moment: signing my first lease.

As with the inventory, I was forced to pay enough attention to make sure that everything was going as expected. Rent, duration of stay, electricity, address, etc. I would have noticed if she’d slipped in a clause about bringing over her Golden Retriever, and the locataire being expected to keep it fed and bring it on daily walks, and make sure it socialized well with other dogs. I might have signed it anyway, though. A Golden Retriever would have been a pain to deal with for four months, but I really just wanted to pour myself a glass of wine and curl up on the sofa, dreaming of dorms where everything is taken care of and move-in meetings are about twenty minutes of going over the rules that essentially boil down to “please don’t make us write you up.”

On the other hand, if I was at Carthage right now I wouldn’t be able to drink wine without running the risk of being written up. And, as terrible as bureaucracy and administrative details are, they are a one-time thing. I’m a step closer to being done with academics, and most of the way through getting the details of housing sorted out. And when I think about where I was a week ago, I’m a little amazed by how far I’ve already come.

Tags: apartment, class registration, tour, transport

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