When it rains, it pours. Literally.

It happens figuratively too. As I write this up for posting in the morning when I can get Internet access, I am finishing up one very long day. It started on Tuesday. I don’t remember much of Tuesday except that it rained a lot and we had to pause our phone system work to help get the network operational. The network was in such shambles from the lightning strike that we couldn’t even work on the simplest tasks for the phone system.

Out of 15 primary network switches, 9 sustained damage and will need to be replaced. 8 of those switches we were able to find temporary replacements by stealing from other buildings and making use of some older equipment. The remaining one should be replaced now but we just don’t have anything we can put in its place.

Pretty much up until dinner time I helped Jeff walk the entire campus tracking down which switches were damaged and which were still good and could be used for other more critical needs. It was very discouraging work to see how much equipment was lost, but I was also able to see parts of the compound that I would have never seen otherwise. So that part of it was nice.

After dinner I helped Tom (an intern working here for a semester during his college time in the US) and a different Jeff (Jeff H.) swap out the central network switches to stabilize the network. Things were so bad with the switches that every time we got a device to work we would come back 30 minutes later to find that yet another port on the damaged switch had died and needed to be moved and reconfigured.

The three of us finished that around midnight and then spent the next couple hours trying to bring up the computer classroom so they could have class in the morning (at 7:45). Out of 26 computers in the classroom I think we swapped out 9 of them that didn’t work any more. We pulled from the computer lab across the hall and even some of those didn’t work either. We didn’t bother to check the rest of them as that can be done later, so that count will likely go up once they get the time to check them out.

While we were working on getting the network to function Hany and Jeff S. (from RVA) were cross-connecting existing phones into the new phone system. They finished about a half hour after we did. That is to say, they finished the set of 100 or so phones they were working on. There is another 70 that terminate in a different location.

AAfter chatting with them about how they were doing and having them give me a run-down of what Jeremy and I would need to do in the morning. Jeremy and I met at 6am and began a new day by linking the phones that Hany and Jeff S. had just finished connecting into the new phone system. We finished that about breakfast time and shortly after I went back to the house I’m staying at to take a short nap (I never really made it home the night before) while the other guys started tracking down all the various phone glitches people were running into.

Back up for lunch (and maybe an hour and a half of actual sleep) I joined the guys tracing down software issues, programming issues and later in the evening some wiring issues. We all finished up about 10:30 and headed off to bed, which gives us a decent night sleep tonight.  Actually Jeff S. is in the other location finishing up the 40 out of 70 phone lines they were able to trace out during the day and getting them attached into the ATA devices. In the morning we will begin tracing out the 30 they can’t find so far. We are looking for 30 pairs of wire in a bundle of about 500 pairs.

I’m hoping Jeff S. and myself can get back down to the Lower Station today to finish programming the old phone system to talk to the new one. There are two things we still need to figure out. First is that there is a special phone that needs to be able to dial a specific code and then get an outside line to anything they want (I have found the documentation for doing this, I just need to do it). Secondly, we need to find a way for people on the old PBX to call people on the new PBX (people on the new PBX can already call the people on the old system).

To do that, we basically have two choices. Find a way to program the old system so they can dial a special * code and then dial the extension at the RVA campus. This is the preferred way of doing it. The second method would be to simply take an analog phone interface and hook it up to 8 phone lines out of the old PBX. The downside to this is that people would have to dial one of 8 phone extensions and then dial again to get somebody at RVA. The first option is of course preferable, but we are not sure we can do it with the time we have.

And did I mention that it rained a lot today? I mean a lot. Like if this was Victorville we would have called it a flash flood rain. Water was just pouring off the top of the buildings in solid sheets. In the week I’ve been here, I haven’t seen this much rain in years. And this isn’t even their rainy season here. The rain started right after lunch and abut 3 hours after it started it was clear blue skies again. Sadly, I didn’t make it back to the house to pull my laundry off the clothes line before the rain kicked up, oh well. 🙂

We have two days left.  We are confident we will be done in time, just maybe not leaving them with the system as fully configured as we would have liked. We will just keep ploughing forward and get as much done as we can and leave the rest in God’s hands to help them along after we leave. Again, we are confident. The single item I’m worried about is getting the old PBX to talk to the new one. When we started partially switching at HDC for testing we spent days just figuring this part out. I am guessing I will have about 2 hours tomorrow and thats it. So hopefully some door opens up.

I’ve only been here 4 days and I am already realizing that I will miss this place and the people here. To be honest, the last 2 days I hardly spoke to anybody because we were all locked in small rooms trying to fix things. Even so I’ve seen how much people (for the most part) are here because they want to be here, not because they have to be here. The teachers, students and all the support staff are not here simply because it is a paycheck. They want to make a difference.

1 comment for “When it rains, it pours. Literally.

  1. Jeremy Hoff
    March 5, 2012 at 11:05 am

    “The teachers, students and all the support staff are not here simply because it is a paycheck. ”

    What’s unusual about this school relative to most schools in the USA is that not only do the students (nay, the parents) pay to be at RVA, so do the staff. Well, more precisely – they raise their own support for the privilege to work at RVA.

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