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November 20, 2010

Calgary - Aftermath

As my Facebook friends know (sorry for spamming you with "Places" updates) as well as readers of this blog, I spent the last two days on a business trip to Calgary, Alberta. A co-worker and I were there to give a presentation about the MET program to a couple of the local colleges: Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Bow Valley College.

First, I want to thank everybody for the well-wishes after I announced this trip. It means a lot to me to have that much support.

Secondly, the trip actually went pretty well.

We had to be at the airport for 5:30 am (flight left at 7:00), so I was up at 4:00 in order to be able to catch the Canada Line (Vancouver's new direct transit to the airport, which is actually pretty cool) at 5:00.

My co-worker was late, but we managed to catch the next train and get out to the airport by 6:00. Check-in was easy, security was actually pretty busy for that early in the morning, but I had no trouble getting through it. Slow because of the people in front of me, but I went through without a hitch.

Thankfully, with just an overnight trip, we didn't have to check any baggage. We just had our carry-ons.

The flight was actually pretty good. Only an hour long, and it was quite pleasant except for the wind that hit us on our descent into Calgary. I felt like I was on the inside of a maraca for a couple of minutes before it abated.

We arrived in Calgary, shaken but not stirred, and headed out to catch a taxi to SAIT. This is when it hit us: it was f-ing cold!!! Minus 22 C and with the windchill, it was worse. It had snowed, though thankfully it wasn't snowing right then and there. We knew it was going to be cold, but it was one thing to know it, another thing to actually feel it. I was glad we were in the back of a nice, heated taxi.

We got dropped off at SAIT and were met by the people who had asked us to come. We were to give our presentation to up to 20 SAIT instructors and administrators who had expressed interest in the MET program. It was now 10:30, and they offered us a little bit of food and a tour of the building.

I have to say that SAIT has a *very* impressive campus. A combination of old and new style buildings, a student centre that had a lot of interesting things in it. I was quite impressed.

After the tour, we went to our room and started setting up. Ultimately, only 6 people showed up, which was kind of disappointing. But the ones who did show up sounded quite interested, so that was good.

I was nervous, of course, but I think I did pretty well overall. I made sure I didn't speak too fast (I tend to rush things when I'm nervous, in an attempt to get them over with as soon as possible), and I was clear, meeting everybody's eyes at one point or another (i.e. not staring off into the distance as I was talking). I didn't even stutter too much!

Afterward, we walked around the campus a little bit, as much as the cold would allow. We visited a couple of buildings, went to the student centre, and took some pictures. It was really quite interesting overall, and the people involved at SAIT could not have been nicer to us, even calling us a cab and watching our things as we were walking around (since we had come directly from the airport, we had everything with us). They were awesome people, and we may come back next year for their "Transfer Options Fair," which is what was going on while we were there.

Finally, we headed downtown and checked into the hotel. After about 45 minutes, we headed out into the frigid cold to have a quick dinner, stopping off at a couple of stores: not to shop, but just to warm up a bit (for you Americans, -22 C is about 5 F). We found this really nice pub called The Unicorn, which is called "The original Calgary pub." The food there was excellent, and they had a really good beer on special that day, Wild Rose Velvet Fog. I was in heaven (ok, the beer wasn't *that* good, but just the overall experience). I would highly recommend it, not just for the food, but the old-time pub atmosphere as well.

After dinner, my co-worker wanted to rest a little while so we headed back to the hotel. We were staying at the Ramada downtown, and I have to say that the cost of the rooms must be because of the location. They weren't anything special compared to any other hotel rooms I've stayed in. The bathroom was tiny and the room was a little cramped (not for one person, necessarily but just in overall feel).

Anyway, after a couple of hours, we headed back out to have a few beers and just enjoy a bit of the nightlife in Calgary. I think the cold was keeping people inside, though, because it wasn't as busy as I've seen Vancouver on a Thursday night. We ended up at the Belfry, a really cozy pub and restaurant. We chatted and watched the football game (damn, it looked like a boring one). We had a few beers and their 8-inch pizzas were on sale for $8, so we thought we'd give one a try. While the reviews on that site rave about the pizza, I'd have to say that it was good for $8, but I wouldn't pay the normal price for them.

Still, it was a great place with a good atmosphere, and I'd go back there again.

We crashed around 10:00 (we were both *really* tired) and I watched a little TV before hitting the sack.

Friday morning dawned cloudy and icy cold once again, and we discovered that our hotel reservation didn't include the hotel's breakfast (I think they're *really* trying to keep people from using services like Expedia), so we went out in search of it. It was *really* cold once again. I felt like my ears were going to fall off. It didn't help that I had woken up with a splitting headache and didn't have any aspirin. I honestly felt like I might be coming down with a cold.

We figured we'd happen upon some place serving breakfast on our walk, but we were having trouble finding anything, so we ended up asking a passerby. He pointed us to the Avenue Diner, a really cozy little old-style dinner (with stone wall and everything!).

The food was really good, though a bit too "modern" for my taste (I had whole wheat pancakes with flax-seed...I was really pining for buttermilk pancakes at the end of it). And they put fruit in everything! Even the water came not just with a lemon, but some other kind of fruit (it was as small as a raspberry, but it was definitely not one of those). Still, it was quite good, and we were definitely full afterward.

Then we headed out to our second presentation, at Bow Valley College. This is a small school, with two buildings on the edge of downtown Calgary (a third is being built), but they've got mini-campuses all over Alberta. They're really big into distance education. We discovered that while there were only going to be 5 people in the room, they were also broadcasting it online via Adobe Connect, which allows users to log in and see the presentation. They could hear us and see our Powerpoint presentation, but we didn't have a camera set up, so they couldn't see us.

It felt a bit weird, knowing that there were people listening to us that we couldn't react to. It was nice to have *somebody* in the room, though, so we did have an audience to bounce off of.

Even better, Adobe Connect allowed them to record the presentation, so those who couldn't be there or who couldn't log in at that time can access it later. I honestly think presentation will get us a few applicants.

How did the presentation go? Considering everything, it actually went pretty well.

What's "everything?"

Well, there was my headache, which just intensified as I was talking, plus the fact that I think I am coming down with a cold (right now, I seem to be fighting it off, as I don't feel as bad as I did yesterday). I was running out of breath as I was talking, and it was *really* hard to keep going. I *think* it still went well, but I didn't feel as good about it as I did the previous day's. My co-worker said he noticed I was having some trouble at the beginning but that I got better as it went along.

I'll have to take his word for it, because I was feeling worse as it went along.

The people at Bow Valley couldn't have been nicer to us either. They were really cool to talk to (we had an hour's set-up time and it took us basically 10 minutes to set up, so we chatted with them the rest of the time) and seemed really eager for what we are offering. So keep your fingers crossed!

We had time for lunch at a local sandwich shop (unfortunately, I can't remember the name, but the ham sandwich was delicious) and then grabbed a taxi for the airport.

We ended up being really early for the flight, but we would have been even *earlier* except for my main gripe of the day.

I know about all of the TSA brouhaha going on down in the States. I've been following it quite closely. The Canadian version of it isn't nearly as bad. In fact, we didn't even have to take off our shoes!

However, I do have one gripe, and this is probably true of the US TSA too: different standards and rules at different airports.

Ah, but this is getting too long already, so I'll do that in a separate post. Look for it tonight or tomorrow. (I know, I am such a tease).

After waiting a while for our flight, the flight itself was actually pretty good, except that the pressurized cabin along with the height was *really* making my head pound. I read a bit, napped a bit, and generally just survived.

It was nice to get back to Vancouver, though. We caught the Canada Line back downtown and I walked the 10-minute walk home.

It was wonderful to set foot back home again. It was also nice to finally take a cold pill and some aspirin. Last night was a night of lounging around, which felt wonderful.

When I returned home it was cold here, 3 degrees C. But after the two days I had just endured, I considered it balmy.

So we had a wonderful trip, and my co-worker seems to think that the bosses are enthusiastic about the effects of trips like this, so I might be doing it again. It was fun and interesting, and I look forward to it. Calgary, I hate your hockey team, but I have to say that I really liked your city. What I saw of it, anyway.

Oh, and to top it all off? After the weather I left behind me in Calgary?

It snowed here last night.

Welcome home!


  1. Loved you comments about your trip. Only bad thing is your headache. Hope it's all gone now. I also hope you don't get a cold when you are coming home in less then a month. We want you feeling great when you're here. Sounds like your trip was a success' You might decide you like making business trips. Can't wait till your comments on airport security. I was all ready to read it & you teased us. Now we have to look you up again. LOL Maybe you just wanted us to find you again. Ha. You know we will be waiting on batted breath to read what you have to say. Can't believe you got snow before us. We've had COLD but no snow in sight. Hope it stays that way. How much did you get?
    I'll be looking for your next blog.


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