Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten
Our Christmas Letter 20

Dear Family and Friends,

We hope you have wonderful holidays and a great new year.

In 2014 we continued our explorations of the world and the U.S. Elizabeth joined her friend Barbara Butler on a trip to Indonesia. Elizabeth and Brian worked there 37 years ago and it was interesting to be back. Traffic was always a problem, but back then it was because of cows, pigs, bicycles, people and a few cars. Now it is cars and motorcycles. In the spring, Elizabeth and Harriet Taylor went to Brazil and Argentina to see the magnificent Iguazu Falls. The highlight of the trip, however, was at an outdoor cafe where Elizabeth learned to tango! In December, Elizabeth and Brian traveled to Nevada for Tracy Larkin-Thompson's graduation as an Executive MBA. On the way we visited the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon State parks and then Death Valley where, in the middle of the longest draught on record and in the driest place in the world, it rained for an entire day (interesting, but not great for pictures). One of Elizabeth's best trips was a weekend visit with granddaughter Erica Larkin (future nurse Erica).

Elizabeth had an interesting year at work. She has been on a detail as Deputy Division Director and has enjoyed most of it. She does miss being a program director, however. Earlier in the year, she ran the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Math Teaching (PAMEST) program. In January, 108 elementary teachers came to Washington - along with a major snowstorm that shut down DC. Government buildings closed, busses stopped running, and sidewalks were treacherous. Nevertheless, the teachers and Elizabeth trudged to the subway, walked to the White House, slipped, skidded, got soaked and cold, but did meet the President. He was amazing - stayed with the teachers for about 45 minutes, shaking each of their hands. They were allowed to take pictures in the public rooms - something that is not usually allowed.

While Elizabeth was touring Indonesia, Brian was roaming the Arizona-Mexico border country, visiting historic towns like Bisbee and Tombstone and national monuments like Organ Pipe Cactus and Chiricahua where he became a believer in GPS's. He had a high clearance vehicle, detailed map, compass, and updates from the ranger, but crossing the Chiricahua Wilderness on limited maintenance primitive roads, he found himself looking at an uncrossable river that wasn't supposed to be there. He had no idea where he was, so compass and map weren't much use, and figured it was going to be a long day back. Then it occurred to him to try the GPS. Entering an address of a town where he was headed, the GPS laid out the route. Amazing: GPSs work in the wilderness! They not only gets you to places - they get you out of places! What he most liked was driving along the border from historic Douglas to the pretty little border town of Naco and through a series of forest service roads across the San Rafael savanna to Nogales and then through the border wilderness west to Ajo. One of the odd and interesting spots was the 6,575 foot Montezuma Pass at the crest of Coronado National Monument, which has effectively been taken over by the Border Patrol, who explained their satellite technology that allows them to spot illegal immigrants up to 35 miles away.

We continue to enjoy our expanded condo and all the visitors who have stayed in our new guest room. The invitation is open - DC is a great place to visit and we'd love to see you.

Elizabeth VanderPutten and Brian Larkin
Christmas 2014, Washington DC