Monday, September 15, 2014

Birthing Pains

Marhaba Week has passed, the traditional week of "welcome" for the freshmen, and we're two days in to the second week of classes. Everyone involved with this new campus knew going in that we'd have growing pains. It's a large and complex project, after all. But I don't think anyone anticipated just how rough things would be. We're not having growing pains - we're having full-blown labor pains. With no anesthesia either.

I haven't posted much recently because along with the rest of this campus, I have been busy. I've not been sleeping well. I fall asleep thinking about what happened during the day and what I need to do when I wake up, and then I wake before the alarm goes off and immediately start planning my day. And I'm only dealing with the "fun stuff"!

There are people like Doug who are dealing with operational issues which include such things as getting the A/C to work properly (some spaces are too warm and others are like an ice box); water (pipes have broken around campus causing minor flooding and some damage); and doors seem to randomly lock or unlock (today, for example, I cannot open the refuse room door). These problems will be taken care of over time, of course, but some people are getting a bit cranky. 

Many of the classrooms were not quite ready for day 1. Or day 2 or 3.....  A/V equipment not available or not working; lights that are motion activated, which is a good energy saver but annoying if you're teaching a film class and can't turn them off; and so on. 

Of greatest concern has been the discovery of mold in a number of the faculty and staff residences. Families have been moved to a nearby 5-star resort while their apartments are being checked, cleaned and repaired. Some people have been out of their homes for a few days, but at least one couple I know has been in the hotel for a month, and even though it is a luxury resort and they are very patient people, "it's getting old" as they tell me. So there is a lot of frustration going around. A lot. 

It's interesting to observe everything that is swirling around me. But then again I am not just the Observer anymore, I am part of this. My twice-weekly stint at the OCC desk has put me front and center to hear and deal with people's concerns.  I also sit on the NYUAD Campus Advisory Committee, and boy do I hear a lot there! I chat with people in the campus restaurant, along Broadway (the walk that runs the length of the campus), and at the weekly Community Life Coffee Morning. Everywhere I go people are buzzing with stories about things that aren't going exactly right, from the simple and absurd to the very serious. The tone ranges from apoplectic, to frustrated but hanging in there, to calm and resigned.

And in all these venues I also hear the positive and lots of it. For every person who's staying at the Park Hyatt and tired and upset, there is the person such as Jessica who wrote me yesterday that "it is just what a tired mother needs" and then went on to list housekeeping taken care of, half a dozen roses in the room every 4 days, free gourmet meals, child care, and a lovely beach with turquoise waters. For every person whose classroom is problematic there is a person who speaks with enthusiasm about their students and coursework. 

And of course there are all the feelings that fall in between, which is the majority, and that includes me. 

Some of my best friends roll their eyes at my Pollyanna attitude at times (I will confess she was a childhood heroine, so I take that as a compliment), and yes I am unabashedly positive..... most of the time. Because I choose to be. I don't see anything good that comes out of being cranky and miserable - it's just a downer and solves no problems whatsoever. But even I have had my moments of frustration and just wanting to get away for a bit. Not far away. Just away. Off campus. Off the island. The generators that were promised to go away in June still thrum loudly beneath my windows (and they've multiplied from 3 to 5 since I've been here), and I've had a heckuva time figuring out who-does-what when it comes to my job with Community Life, resulting in my running around in circles and wasting time. So yes, I've had my share of frustrations.

But I AM a positive person, and I do believe that once this campus is fully birthed things will settle down, we'll get down to the business of educating bright young minds, and faculty and staff will settle into their offices and be able to work and then head home afterward to a comfortable apartment just minutes away. The pool will be open, the restaurants and other retail venues will open, the gardens on the High Line will be in bloom, and temperatures will have cooled. Tempers will have cooled. 

I have no photographs for you today. This post isn't about images so much as about emotions. Color them mostly red and orange.

Birthing is painful. It's not easy, and more often than not there are surprises. But the process does come to an end, and then once things have settled and healing takes place (including getting some sleep) then comes the fun part. Then we get to watch what we've birthed begin to grow and learn. And grow and grow and grow. 

Then we'll have some growing pains. But for the moment, friends, we're still in heavy labor at NYUAD. 

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