Sunday, December 27, 2009

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

It's been a mad scramble as we've tried to see everyone we could while in the States...On Monday we were in Utah, Tuesday Texas, Friday Iowa and Saturday Missouri...

We had dinner with Ken and Mo, and met new baby Charlie

We had a Christmas party at Kyle and Andrea's house, which included a white elephant gift exchange

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We met with my old friend Maren and her husband Scott. Really the first time we've hung out since Jacob Lake. We ate at One World Everybody Eats which serves organic food and you choose how much you pay for the meal, then walked Temple Square.

Beautiful Salt Lake Temple

Two girls from home with their babies. Olivia, Jennifer's oldest, is so funny. She was scared of me because I didn't have a baby, but warmed up to me after a while. Maleah has a baby girl named Makani. It's so strange to see friends with babies.

We had sushi with Jared and Sarah

We went to Texas Roadhouse with Jefferson and Erica. Felt like home!

The happy couple, Kenny and Iva

I had to give a speech at the wedding. First time I've ever cried out of happiness :)

Santa and Mrs. Claus came to the Hansen Christmas party! They were larger than life and sang Christmas carols!

Grandma loved her scarf from Barcelona

We sang Christmas carols and visited with Mrs. King, our high school choir teacher. That's her CUTE niece who I could hang out with all day :)

Jacob, Kai, and Jack bonded over Nintendo

Our Christmas tree with the typical amount of presents underneath. Jacob knocked the tree over this year, it was funny!

Jack, the whirling dervish
At the Christmas music party. I performed O Holy Night after a bit of social pressure, Kai did God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Jack jammed on his sax, and there was paper plate smashing to the Hallelujah Chorus and bell ringing one person to a note for Joy to the World. Afterwards, Jacob recited poetry in French. Kai called it "the elitist music party"

Christmas goodies at the Hillers

Grandpa Hiller is something else. Here is an exchange that happened the day after Christmas. Jacob and I were sleeping on the floor. It was nine am. Grandpa woke us up, saying we had to get to work.
Grandpa: You didn't have to work in Utah, and at your parents house you didn't have to work, but HERE you will work!
Me: (sleepily) Well, I cooked dinner at my parent's house.
Grandpa: (suspiciously) What did you make?
Me: Fish and vegetables.
Grandpa: Hmph. Store-bought fish?
Me: Did you want me to go catch fish in the middle of winter?
Grandpa: Well, that's what I did. Back in Minnesota, we'd cut a hole in the ice...

I got up.

Kate's boyfriend Bart is actually from Southlake, Texas! What a small world. Would've been funny if I'd wore my letter jacket to Christmas this year...he would've recognized it! We played Grandpa's rummy.

Al and Laura and Cindy. Cindy and I had each other for the gift exchange. I gave her a Moroccan pillow, she gave me a Hopi necklace, vase, and candy for Jacob :)

We didn't get to spend as much time with anyone as we would have liked to, but it was great to see all of them! We got lots of travel-helpful things for Christmas, such as an ebook reader, world phones, travel compartments for my computer and makeup, a scanner for business receipts, etc. We are now preparing for our next world trip... ASIA.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Flash Flood

We are in Utah for my friend's wedding and to spend time with family. It is so nice to be around people we've known longer than 3 weeks. My super nice uncle, Uncle Kevin, lent us his Saturn to use for an entire month. Our adventures have followed us here, however. In an ironic twist, in the nicest place, possibly, that we have stayed in our travels, our hotel flooded. The fourth floor collapsed; incredibly, no one was hurt. A frozen water pipe had burst.

Jacob was gone to lunch with Dan Todd, his former business partner, and I had just gotten up and was on the computer when I heard a sound like it was raining inside the hotel. I thought it strange, but figured they were cleaning something and continued working until the ceiling started to drip. Then, I still thought it was just our room, and before I left I had to make myself presentable. I got dressed and put on some makeup. It was a surprise when I opened the door and saw the hall flooded with water about two inches deep. I asked a hotel manager down the hall what was going on. His only answer was, "Everything is under control!"

I went back to my computer and continued to work, tucking in my chair away from the growing puddle of water. I didn't want to wait outside in the cold for Jacob, who had the car. Fortunately, he showed up just as the firemen were insisting that we all exit.

We came back in the dead of night, snuck into the building with the electricity all turned off, and reclaimed our possessions. We are now staying at the Provo Travelodge until further notice...

And we just found out today we will not be moving back there. We are now at the Amenities Inn in Provo. Also, I have gotten food poisoning twice since coming here! Both times it was from over-processed cheese pizzas. One from Freschetta's, the other from Sbarros. I am really grossed out by fast food now. Utah has proved to be our craziest adventure yet.

As a side note...I have started working out at the gym and I love it. I even went the other day when Jacob didn't go. Weird. I have read up on how nothing can replace weight lifting for your long-term health, but I have used the fact that I often walk for 3 hours a day as no need to lift weights, and when I had a membership at Gold's Gym I didn't really get into it because I found the weight machines intimidating.

I had this strange perception that girls only go to the gym because they think they're fat, and that working out will make you look masculine. With those myths dispelled, and with the realization that working out can help my posture, I am motivated and excited to work out.

It's funny because the gym was the only time Jacob and I were we're going to be together about 24/7. Good thing we enjoy each other's company :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Buenos Aires, not San Salvador, turned out to be the right choice seeing as El Sal was devastated by a tropical storm, mudslides, and flooding. Thankfully our friends are all right!

Parillas, pizzarias, and confeterias. If you don't like steak, pizza, or coffee, Argentina doesn't have much more to offer. They like meat. Beef is a favorite, but sausage, intestines, and chicken all have their place.

My favorites of the Argentinian food: dulce de leche, which is milk boiled over and over (the way sugar is done to make carmel) empanadas, which are savory cheese, potato, onion, etc filled pastries often used as appetizers, and submarinos. Submarino is a creamy hot milk with a bar of chocolate on the side, which you break up and put in the milk, served with a glass of cold water in case you burn yourself. Brilliant! I always burn myself. I remember one particular instance of burning myself drinking hot chocolate from Brahms right before a singing audition. Bad news…

The dining experience in Buenos Aires was usually a restaurant crammed full of tables with as much tables as could possibly be fit, so there was pandemonium while eating. The waiters are generally friendly enough, but are extremely busy and leave you to your own devices for most of the meal.

Argentines seem to prefer bland/savory to the spicy/hot mix which I lean towards. I was constantly salting, seasoning, mustardizing etc whatever they brought to the table.


Well, the last time we went to the dentist was in Macedonia, and so I knew it was time for another visit. I didn't want to go this time, though; I had a bad feeling I had a cavity. Which I sure did. Got it fixed for 100 pesos or 25 dollars. The quality of care was just as good as the US, except the dentist was talking to someone the whole time as she drilled…

I have been to the gynecologist, eye doctor, general doctor (2 times), nose doctor, and dentist (2 times) while abroad, somehow navigating the language barrier. My conclusion is that US healthcare is ridiculously complicated and expensive even as it is high quality, and I see no reason not to participate in medical tourism.


Argentines like to do the night scene. Even married Argentines like to do the night scene (I heard from a couple of sources that men are practically expected to cheat on their wives here)…Jacob and I didn't do the night scene but if you're into that kind of thing BA is the place to do it. They are up literally until 5 am, I don't know how they go to work in the morning…

Jacob and I went to an amusement park. This was for Jacob mostly. I have a history of losing my cookies after rides, but I did pretty well on this roller coaster. Yes, we only rode one. The lines were incredibly long. We waited an hour and a half for the one. I think this might be the only amusement park in South America. It was surprisingly big, clean, and in a pretty little town just outside of BA called Tigre. We also went on a couple of other little ones:
I did three free tours and visited two museums. Jacob didn't come. He is really getting laid back about traveling. He's never been much of a sightseer, and his favorite things to do, wherever he is, are work and go to the gym. I love that about him :)

I'm thinking about joining him at the gym because I like the way it helps him meet people. But I do NOT have the motivation he has to go every day, especially after walking for hours every day like I do…we'll see. I love yoga, dance, and swimming so if a gym had that I might bite.

I would walk for several hours a day just checking out the city, I'm such a big city girl it's not even funny.

Random Buenos Aires Facts:

BA is narrow streets with hectic traffic swarming through towering aging beautiful buildings. There are bookstores and little magazine shops on every corner; I was impressed at the literacy of these people. The street food consists of yummy candied peanuts. Women and men are equal here so I felt fine walking alone, even if I would get a few "I love you's" once in a while. The weather was usually perfect if sometimes a little rainy. The streets are full of dogs, 6 on a leash to a designated dogwalker.

The park 3 de Febrero is my favorite place to go on a Sunday. You'll find a group of young guys pounding on their drums with girls dancing with swoopy arms and karate kicks. I don't even know what it's called, I just would run into and stop and video it. I'll post one as soon as I figure out why the dang things don't transfer onto my computer...


This ward was not particularly friendly…didn't get to know anyone really except we did take the missionaries out to eat. Two elders from UT, one of whom paid for his mission by entering YouTube videos in contests. He literally won $10,000 from one of his videos. Random, huh…They didn't have a piano player in the ward, just sang a cappella, so after a couple of Sundays I volunteered to play.

Public Transportation

BA is touted as having excellent public transportation, and it does have an excellent bus system…but the metro is like a spider whose legs don't cross. If you go the wrong direction on accident, sometimes there is no easy way to switch and go back the other way. It's pretty limited, in other words, compared to other cities of its size (13 million).

We went on a little trip up to Iguazu Falls in the corner of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. We didn't get visas for Paraguay or Brazil because Jacob's passport is about to expire. It was gorgeous!! It's nominated for one of the 7 new wonders of the world. We went on a speedboat right up to the falls; that was definitely the highlight!

*I in no way condone the Fort Hood shooting…but think about this for a sec. Who was the brilliant person in charge who was sending the guy to Iraq? I can't imagine sending a Muslim to go kill other Muslims. It would be like giving me a gun and sending me to attack Utah. They're family, you know? The best thing about Islam is its sense of brotherhood. There must be other US soldiers out there who are Muslim and fighting other Muslims but I wonder if they were as blatantly religious as this guy.

*Since the LDS Church had to go all out about passing Prop. 8, I'm very pleased they've at least come out in support of anti­­‑gay discrimination laws to balance things out. Yea for extending a hand of friendship to gay people.

*I had an idea. Instead of sending billions of dollars in aid from taxpayers to poverty-stricken countries, what if the government provided travel vouchers instead? You can visit Niger, Uganda, or Sierra Leone for free. Then what would happen, is that people would visit those countries, and the country would respond by building its infrastructure. New tourist businesses would open, like Sierra Leonean handmade crafts, and people would become economically self-sufficient. Everyone would benefit.

I read a blog about an expat in Columbia who says the natives are angry that Americans keep sending "aid" money because it goes straight to fueling the drug problem in their country. Sending money is not the answer!!! Education and business promoting activities are. is my new favorite charity for that reason. You can loan interest-free to enterprising people in poor countries, you get your money back, and you've helped a family become self-sufficient.

*Did you know around 72 percent of Afghan people are illiterate? Or that only 12 percent of Afghan women can read? How about educating these people instead of killing them? What a novel idea…
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