What I Did on my Summer Vacation (2013 edition)

Typically, when students hand in their final exams at the end of term, they say, “Have a good summer!” Ha! If only.

Because of the Provincial Government’s disastrous budget, I had a lot of worry about my contract being renewed over the summer. The relief I felt when my contract was renewed for another year was short-lived, because it’s not looking good for next year--even more budget cuts are on the way. And some of my colleagues have already been laid off. So any joy I got from my contract renewal was diminished by seeing the toll the cuts are taking on the post-secondary education system--on people, and on the quality of education. Thanks, Government of Alberta: way to invest in the future.

Assuming that I had a job to return to in the fall, there were two major projects I had to complete over the summer. Not only did I have a secret project (OK, not so secret any more) to work on, but I also had a new prep. “New prep” is instructor-speak for “having to write lectures and develop an entirely new course from scratch.” This is the kind of thing that takes over your entire life for months and months like a face-hugging, multi-tentacled monster. Any spare time I had, I was prepping. In fact, here’s a picture of me at the beach, prepping on my (Faculty of Arts-issued) iPad:
Beach? What beach?

(This new prep has been such a massive endeavor, I’ve got an upcoming series of posts about it in the next few weeks.)

My family did expect me to spend some time with them, too (I know: selfish!). Usually, our summertime holiday routine includes going to Sylvan Lake. Unfortunately, the water level is so high and the beach has eroded to the point where, well, there really is none. (If you’ve got young children, a lake has to have three things: a beach, a playground, and ice cream--usually in that order.) Faced with the prospect of only two out of three, we explored some other central Alberta lakes.
  • Miquelon Lake. Did you know that the lake is high in sulfur? Yup, it smells like a skunk eating garlic during a natural gas leak. And farting. My younger daughter gagged whenever the breeze blew in off the lake. Also: no ice cream. Okay, cross that one off the list. Next!
  • Gull Lake. I remember going here as a kid when I lived in nearby Lacombe. The lake is shallow and has a nice big beach--and a really nice concession stand. Too bad we arrived right as some ominous black clouds rolled in. Who expects an extreme thunderstorm at 11:00 in the morning? Obviously not us.
  • Ma-Me-O Beach. On the way home from Gull Lake, we stopped here--at the “summer village,” unfortunately, not the actual beach. (We should have gone to Pigeon Lake Provincial Park.) I blame my wife, who was driving. And me, who was supposed to be navigating--but was actually nose-down in my iPad, prepping.
  • Gull Lake (again). We tried Gull Lake again on another weekend with better weather. This time, the extreme thunderstorms held off until right before bedtime. We watched helplessly out the window of our motel in Lacombe as hail came down on our vehicle in the parking lot, and winds ripped branches off trees. The next day, we checked out my old home, school, and the storefront that held my dad’s Thriftway grocery store. Enough nostalgia, let’s find us another nice beach-playground-ice cream stand!
  • Alberta Beach (Lac Ste. Anne). Consistent with our luck all summer, the beach was almost nonexistent; our sandbox at home had more sand than Alberta Beach. My older daughter stepped on some broken glass that littered the beach. Also: blue-green algae advisory. Sorry, but Alberta Beach is now crossed off our list. (The restaurant across from the beach did serve excellent pizzas, though.)
  • Rochon Sands (Buffalo Lake). Advisory: swimmer’s itch. Of course. No ice cream. Next!
  • Ol’ MacDonald’s Resort. Hmm, this is also on Buffalo Lake, but they told us there was no swimmer’s itch. It was fun to spend the day with some of my daughters’ friends and their families. Nice beach, but they never opened the concession stand or the ice cream stand.
In between beach trips and prepping, I managed to fit in some other summer activities:
  • my cousin and her family visited from Germany for a few short days, before they all jumped into a motorhome and drove to Vegas. They loved the World Waterpark. It’s my kind of beach: no sand, no swimmer’s itch, and no blue-green algae.
  • volunteered to help out on a fieldtrip to the zoo my younger daughter took with her daycare. You don’t know cute until you take a bus full of 4-year-olds to the zoo.
  • got stuck in my office for a few hours during a tornado warning 
  • spent an afternoon on the midway at K-Days (Seriously, does anyone like that name? It’s Konfusing.)
  • Heritage Festival, as usual. The German pavilion even offered leberk√§se this year, yum!
  • inspired by UAlberta's new DINO 101 MOOC (massive open online course), we went to Drumheller:
  • put up a couple of sheds and, in a mad scramble before summer finally ran out, my wife and I painted our deck--whew!
But mostly, prepping. But maybe a good summer after all. What did you do on your summer vacation?

Why aren’t you studying?


Anastasia said...

The cuts are quite depressing. Glad you're still teaching, it'd be a huge loss for the department if you were gone.

I took courses. I also got hired at the SUB bookstore! Already sold quite a few 104 etexts.

Karsten A. Loepelmann said...

It'd be a huge loss for me if I were gone, too.

Good to see ebooks are not killing off all actual bookstores!

LarkinBird said...

Next summer check out Crimson Lake Provincial Park for a nice beach. It's by Rocky Mountain House. Nice small lake, amazing sunsets, sandy public beach. I don't know about ice cream though.

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