I decided that this year, instead of doing a Christmas letter, I’ll do a Christmas
blog. Then nobody is obligated to read it and I’ll save on postage. Everybody
wins. So, what should I tell you about this past year? If you want to know
about any of me and Ben’s vacations this year, well, you can already find all
of that on the rest of this website. So maybe I’ll tell you some other things
we’ve been doing.
Keeping Busy Outside of Work
Although I do my fair share of lounging, TV watching (Chuck is my new
favorite show this season), and gaming (Guitar Hero anyone?), I also like to
keep busy with other activities. I’ve been playing soccer and volleyball
almost continuously since coming to Boise. My soccer team is a lot of fun;
the best thing about our team is that everyone tries really hard. You wouldn’t
believe how much difference that makes in a game – we’ve beatan plenty of teams
who may outskill us, but we outplay them. Volleyball is fun because a bunch of
my friends at work also play. In the summer we play in the sand at HP on an
organized league, which is nice for getting out of the office for a couple
hours during the day.
Besides sports, I’ve also taken the role of President this year for our
local Society of Women Engineers section (Southwest Idaho SWE).
I’ve been involved with SWE since college because I enjoy networking with
other women engineers and encouraging young girls to consider engineering
for their career. Unfortunately, I think there is a social pressure for
young girls to shy away from math and science. Until that changes, I think
it is important to provide positive role models for girls, tell them what
engineering is and encourage them to try it. I’m not in SWE because I think
women are better or worse engineers then men. I just think that women bring
a diversity of ideas and skills to the workplace and they should not be
discouraged from entering a profession dominated by men. So, this year I’m
the section president and although it’s keeping me busy, I am really
Ben has also been busy with side projects outside of work, which you would
know if you saw our living and dining room – currently full of wires, resistors,
and other miscellaneous electronics. And, although mountain biking season is
over, we’re excited for the upcoming snowboarding season – let it snow, let it
snow, let it snow!
Ben’s New Job
This fall Ben took a new job with HP. That’s right, now we both work at the
same company. We work in different areas though – I do hardware design for
LaserJet printers, and he’s doing software design for a color and imaging
group. Confused? What I do is make the little black chip that goes inside
your printer. Ben basically writes programs that run on that chip. See,
totally different 🙂 Anyway, so far we’re both really happy with the move.
I like having a carpool companion, and he likes the challenges of his new job.
From traveling to my dream location of Machu Picchu, to spending holidays and
vacations with family and friends – Ben and I have had another amazing year. I
hope that all of you are happy and in good health. Have a Merry Christmas and
a very happy New Year!
Alonna and Ben
Trip Dates: August 17-20, 2007
Every year in the tiny town of White River, South Dakota they have a weekend called Frontier Days. My mom grew up in White River, and my Aunt and Uncle and Grandparents still live there. Growing up we often travelled the 7+ hours by car to White River for Frontier Days weekend. This year, everyone in the family went – including me and Ben, Mom and Dad, Clay, Cody, Heather and the kids. We all went to the parade and rodeos, Kenn took Ben and I prarie dog hunting, and we even stopped by the Native American Pow Wow on Saturday night. It was a lot of fun!
Trip Dates: August 2-5, 2007
Coming from Idaho (Ben and Alonna), Minnesota (Alonna’s Mom Candy), and Virginia (Ben’s Mom Robin and two sisters Beth and Kim), six of us met in California to take a weekend trip to Yosemite National Park. None of us had been there before, and we had a great time sightseeing in Yosemite Valley and hiking around the giant sequoia trees. I think we all look forward to going back some day.
Wow, what an amazing trip! Peru is a beautiful country and Ben and I had a great time. Check out some of the photos that I posted from our trip. Some of them deserve a little explanation, so I will post a few stories here. I have also posted a trip report on tripadvisor.com, although it’s geared towards people who are planning a trip there, feel free to check it out if you’d like. You can get there from this link: Tripadvisor Trip Report.
Our first stop in Peru was in the city of Cusco. This city used to be the Inca capital until the 1500’s when the Spanish came and conquered. Cusco is at 11,000 feet and although we didn’t get altitude sickness, we were definitely huffing and puffing going up stairs or inclines. In Cusco we had a great time shopping and walking around the city.
Probably the coolest site in Cusco was the nearby ruins called Saqsaywaman, where the Inca brought giant stones over 7 miles to make this fort. When you see these stones in person, it’s hard to imagine the Incas moving them there. They also didn’t use any mortar; instead they carved and polished the rocks so that they would fit together perfectly. It’s amazing.
At lunch one day in Cusco a girl named Melanie, who’s mother worked at the restaurant, joined us for lunch. She was totally adorable as you can see. Since Melanie was young and spoke using simpler sentences in Spanish, we had a fun time trying to communicate with her. I gave her a little hair binder that I brought along, and she was pretty excited. It was a cool experience.
Wilhoc is an isolated village in the mountains of the Sacred Valley (the large valley between Cusco and Machu Picchu). We had a guide one day that took us to this village to see the people living in the traditional ways. When we arrived, all of the women started to come towards us and setup their weavings on display for us to see (and buy). We were shown how they make a poncho, which takes almost a month just to make one. Everyone in the town was wearing their everyday traditional clothing (they didn’t know we were coming, they always dress this way), in beautiful bright reds and oranges. We then went to the town school, and our guide took us into a first grade classroom. He asked each student to say their name and age. We passed out pens and bread to each student (I wish we had more school supplies with us to give out), and then they sang a couple songs to us – actually it was more like shouting than singing. The kids were very cute and it was really fun to meet them. After leaving the classroom, Ben and the guide attempted to hand out the remaining bread to the other students. You’d think they were handing out iPods the way those kids swarmed around them 😉 Visiting this village was a really cool experience and one of the highlights of our trip.
The ruins at Moray are circular stone terraces that were built into existing natural craters in the earth. They were originally built in pre-Inca times, maybe as long ago as 1000 AD. The natural earth formations have a huge variety of temperatures, depending on the depth and where the sun and shadows fall. One scientist recorded a full 15C (27F) degrees temperature difference between the top and bottom terraces, which is only 30 feet! For this reason, historians believe quite certainly that these terraces were used for agriculture experimentation, sort of like a natural greenhouse. They believe that pre-Incans used this site to develop different strains of Maize (corn), allowing them transform maize into a high-altitude crop, thereby allowing the ancient civilizations to thrive in the Andes mountains. I found this site really amazing.
That’s all for now. I have a lot more stories, but I guess you’ll just have to ask me or Ben to hear the rest 🙂
Hello from Machu Picchu!!
(sort of, I´m technically in the town, Aguas Calientes)
We just spent the last 2 days visiting Machu Picchu. It´s totally amazing! The mountains here are enormous, very steep and the close ones are lush and green. Behind those are the ‘real’ Andes, steep rocky peaks with snow and glaciers.
I´m at an internet cafe in town. This is a small town, which you can only reach by train. We took the train here yesterday afternoon, and are leaving later today. To get to Machu Picchu, you take a bus up a steep set of switchbacks. The road is dirt and about the right size for one way… but there are lots of buses going up and down, so you have to continually pass the other buses. A bit scary at first, but I got used to it.
We had met a nice couple from New York, and decided to share a guide with them for the first afternoon at Machu Picchu. The guide showed us around for a 4-hour tour. He gave us a lot of information about what the different ruins are and theories about their uses.
The second day at Machu Picchu, Ben and I decided to join the other ambitious tourists and get up early to see the sun rise on Machu Picchu. We woke at 4:30am, took the bus up, and got to the site around 6 or 6:30am. Machu Picchu was covered in clouds, and I was prepared to not see the sun rise onto the site at all (I heard that sometimes the clouds don´t rise until 9am or so). But these clouds just disappeared after about 10 minutes. Small wispy clouds would form off and on and sort of travel up and over Machu Picchu. It was very cool.
The sun didn´t come over the mountains to shine onto Machu Picchu until about 7am. Once it did it lit up the whole site and was beautiful. We then made our way across the ruins to the mountain at the other side (the taller one in all the photos). It is called Wayna Picchu (or Huayna Picchu, everything here has 3 names, the Inca name, Spanish name, and English name!). We hiked to the top of it, via lots of steep inca stairs. There´s a few inca buildings, walls, and terraces at the top. And the view is amazing. It was a lot of work, especially at 8,000+ feet, but totally worth it.
That´s all for now. I´m working on posting a few photos, hopefully that´ll work. Now we´re off to the Sacred Valley for 3 days for more sightseeing and also some mountain biking!
Here are some photos uploaded from Aguas Calientes!
We’re going to Peru! When we tell this to people, quite often the response is “So why are you going to Peru?” Well, for one, Ben and I love to travel and see new places in the world. But mostly we choose Peru because of the famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. This has been the top of my ‘places to visit’ list for a long time now. I believe the first time I learned of Machu Picchu was from the NBC Today Show’s “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” probably 10 years ago. Ever since I’ve dreamed of going there. So a couple months ago Ben and I decided it was time for another trip. Once I started exploring the possibility of Peru, I was hooked. And it’s been all I can think about for the past month!
There are definitely some new challenges for this type of trip. This is our first time to South America, and we don’t exactly know what to expect. We did need to get some immunizations for the trip, and have bought all kinds of extra clothing, electronics, and other necessities for this trip.
For one, we will be spending an excessive amount of time travelling. To get to Peru, we be taking 4 flights which will add up to a total of 24 hours travelling from start to finish! And that’s just one way. In addition, we will spend at least 3 hours roundtrip on a train, 1 hour on bus, and many many hours in taxis. So, to keep ourselves occupied we are bringing a ridiculous amount of entertainment – books, Nintendo DS’s (one for each of us), a portable video player (Creative’s Zen Vision W) loaded with movies and TV shows, puzzles, and music.
Another interesting fact is that we will be at very high altitudes in the Andes mountains. The first city we will visit is Cusco, which is the main base for visiting Machu Picchu. Cusco is situated at 11,000ft! Many people get altitude sickness when staying above 9,000ft. Since Ben and I have hiked to 14,000ft in Colorado and haven’t had troubles, we’re hoping we’ll be okay in Cusco. But just in case, I’m taking a drug called Diamox which is supposed to help.
Then there are the normal precautions to take when travelling to South America – mostly avoiding the tap water and uncooked foods. We’re bringing lots of hand sanitizer, mini toilet paper rolls (apparently public restrooms do not have TP), antibiotics, and we will be buying lots and lots of bottled water.
This is definitely a big adventure for us. I just can’t wait to get there and finally see Machu Picchu!
Finally I have our new website in a good enough state to upload. I moved the old wedding website to www.bendandalonna.com/wedding/wedding.php because I just couldn’t get myself to part with it yet! Plus all the wedding photos are still there, which I will never get tired of looking at 🙂 I’m not sure how much Ben and I will get into the blogging thing… but at least we can write some things about our trips. Someday I might try to add some more photos and blogs for our past trips.
We leave for Peru in only 5 days now! This weekend we spent trying to pack and get all of our information organized. I couldn’t resist, and made a spreadsheet with our itinerary and all the details. I think next I’ll try to compile a list of recommended restaurants and places to visit. Tripadvisor has definitely been my friend for this trip, I have gotten tons of advice and even made a couple friends that I will be meeting up with in Peru.