Monday, October 26, 2009

Buenos Aires True Stories


As much as I dished on Morocco, I'll give you one thing: it was exotic. No place like it. I'm really glad, looking back, that we were able to go there, although the side effects (food poisoning, no air conditioning, roaches etc) were distracting, the atmosphere was unique. The desert, the clothes, tagines and couscous, Berbers and Arabs.


That level of cultural depth is not clear here. But we are enjoying ourselves a lot. It's been nice to finally be somewhere longer than a few days, and we've been able to get back to work again. Jacob has a gym with 10 floors, and I've had my best restaurants list.

But we've been surprised because Buenos Aires is like a beaten up Madrid, basically. It's Spain on a budget. It's younger than America, the first residents were European immigrants, and while the richest city in South America, it can't hide the fact that every night there are mounds of trash with people digging through them on every corner, and mounds of dog poo on the sidewalks (no one picks up after their dogs). But the buildings have a European feel, and you can drink the water.

The food is mostly Italian, with a lot, a lot of meat. They are super proud of their steaks. Jacob enjoyed his tonight, and he doesn't normally go for steaks. He let me try a bite...and I spit it out. Not a beef fan.

The Buenos Aires residents, called portenos, unabashedly admit to being arrogant. Nevertheless, they've been friendly enough. Here are some stories from the past couple of weeks:

#1. We had an awesome 13 hour flight from Dallas to Buenos Aires.

The entertainment system was broken. They'd come on the intercom, say, "We're rebooting. No one touch the screen until we say you can, or we'll have to start all over." Then, 5 minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I see people poking their screens even though we'd been warned. Half the people on the plane only spoke Spanish. It was a lost cause.

We sat in the direct middle of the row. The worst spot, because rather than ask people to get out all the time, you have to wait until they get up to go. If you're polite. Which Jacob was, I wasn't. I just ended up holding it.

It was a long flight.

#2  We stayed in a sweet hotel, not hostel, while deciding on an apartment.

I'll admit, I thought prices would be a little lower here. It's pretty much similar to the US. After the euro, though, we're faring well. We got an apartment from an agency, for $600. It's a studio. Lorena led us there. It's right in downtown. It was 11 am on a Saturday morning. We had our luggage, and were waiting at the door of the building for the landlord when a chubby early 20's dude approached us. Jacob had just returned from an ATM to get cash to pay for the apartment. First the guy asked politely for money. Then, he got more aggressive.

Jacob decided to walk away, since he was carrying 3000 pesos in cash.

There were people everywhere, and this is a main street. He only spoke Spanish, so I didn't know completely what was going on. Nevertheless, I could tell that he was acting like he had a weapon under his sweatshirt, and Lorena was trying to appease him with pesos. He wanted euros. She told him I didn't have any. He wanted my camera. (We'd been told not to carry the camera in sight. But I'd figured since we were at the door of the apartment, it was ok.) I refused. In fact, I got mad and pointed at the sign which said "security cameras." Finally, the door opened as our landlord finally showed up and the guy and his pal, who was waiting for him, decided to scram.

Definitely influenced my opinion of the city from the start.

From then on, I haven't carried the camera around on my wrist, and have to take pictures very discreetly. We only take money out of ATMs that have security guards nearby, and we cross the street when there are shady-looking characters. Which there are many, single men leaning casually against the side of grungy buildings. If people talk to you at night, asking for money, a cigarette, anything, you just keep walking and don't let them get close. And this is supposed to be the safest country in South America?

No, it's safe, but you just don't want to look rich. 

#3. Got my hair cut. I LOVE it! It's finally what I've been asking for but this guy seemed to get the vision (although he didn't speak a word of English.) Every time I get my hair cut, the hairdresser always says, "You have a LOT of hair." Every time. Well, this guy actually did something with it. He cut layers from the very top. So those are about an inch long, and then it just piles on my head and the front pieces are very long.

#4. I'd thought I would maybe go to a Spanish school. But I found the idea of having anything scheduled, where I had to be at a certain place every time, too difficult to handle. That's how spoiled I am. So I'm learning it on my own, and I. love. Spanish. It's soooo easy compared to German, all the rules make sense, and I'm using Jacob's method of learning a language, which as we all know must be a good way since he speaks 4 languages.

That is, focus totally on the verbs. Nothing else. I have a verb workbook and a verb conjugating book, and I can already read uncomplicated stuff pretty comfortably. Speak? Erm, I don't get the opportunity much. I try to avoid talking to people, actually. But I feel confident that if I had a few months in a Spanish-speaking country I'd be able to communicate. Me gusta!

#5. Buenos Aires is loud. LOUD! The city has a sort of franticness to it, a pulse that reminds me more of NYC than NYC actually does. It's what I'll remember most about the city. The buses drive by and you plug your ears they're so loud, but somehow you tune them out when you're riding on them. Protests, daily. Protests of the mothers against the 30,000 missing people from the Falkland Islands War. Protests of one faction of the government against another. Parades, street bombs, explosions, marches, banners, drums. The squeaks of the buses when breaking which sound like the shrieks of a girl. Music pounding from the Latin music stores.

It's pretty loud right inside our little apartment, actually. Good thing Jacob and I are deep sleepers.

#6. Shopping abroad is so overrated.

I know I should be buying stuff, but I hate shopping while traveling. One, shopping is a girl bonding experience. When you shop with a friend, it's kind of two against one, y'all against the storekeeper. I feel pressured when the saleskeeper is there, telling me it looks good, alone. And I like having someone around to tell me what they think.

Two, there's the whole language barrier thing. Makes it really difficult to get across what you want.

I ended up buying a 150 pesos pair of shoes that were uncomfortable albeit cute and trying to return them within 10 minutes and being unable to do it because of these factors.

That's it, I'm waiting to shop in America. What a pleasant experience. Plenty of options, girlfriends, laidback storekeepers, and you can always find a steal of a deal.

Although the street markets here are pretty cool. Authentic, handmade crafts. I'll probably stock up on those, although the idea of bargaining once again doesn't bode well with me. Any requests? Seriously, if you want jewelry, clothes, musical instruments, scarves, paintings, or small carved objects, let me know.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Date Anniversary

Three years ago today, Jacob and I went on our first date.

Here's our story.

I wish we had more pictures during our dating/engagement/wedding/early marriage, but we didn't start getting camera happy until we traveled. 

In September, a little over three years ago, I announced to Jacob I had decided I was going on a mission. He was the first person I told, even though I didn't know him. This was because he was the ward executive leader, which means he set up appointments with the bishop. My first impression of him was a bell going off in my head thinking "He's cute!" but I didn't dwell on it, as I was planning on a mission and all. Jacob says his first impression was that I was feisty. I did announce "I've decided to go on a mission!" very dramatically, I think...

Anyways, we interacted on a completely interview-related basis for about a month. I didn't think twice about it, although his name was written all over our white board (call Jacob Hiller) because I was POSITIVE I was going on a mission. Totally focused.

I did find it irksome because he would speak in French to me on the phone, which I didn't understand, and because he told the Bishop I had missed my bishop's appointment one night due to carelessness on my part (which wasn't true). I started shouting up at Jacob, who was standing on a balcony above me, telling him it was HIS fault. Bro. Horne, who would later officiate at our wedding luncheon, looked on in amusement. It turned out Jacob was only talking to a friend, and he drove me to the appointment himself (on his motorcycle, which wasn't easy in a skirt, even though he had a car). "Does it make you mad to know," he asked as we drove on the motorcycle out of the parking lot, "that I have a car?"

It was my first, but certainly not my last, ride on a motorcycle. I burned my leg getting off. When Jacob heard this, he said, "Well, I have scratch marks in my side from your fingernails!"

I had a white sweater with pompom balls on strings that I used to twirl while waiting to talk to the Bishop. Jacob used to watch me do it, I guess, and thought it was cute, but I was oblivious, ha.

Well, the week leading up to Jacob asking me out included me passing him on campus (the only time I ever saw him at school) and feeling unaccountably happy for the rest of the day, just because I saw him; and going over to his apartment, getting shocked at his teasing, and leaving in a huff.

Jacob came over to ask me out a few days later. He said, "Listen. I know you're pre-mish, but this is definitely a date. Are you still interested?"

Intrigued, I agreed. As he left, he stopped before exiting and asked, "Is that chain mail?" It was a silvery glittery shirt. I still laugh thinking about that.

We went on a large group date with people from our apartments, the foreign language housing. In a role reversal, Jacob asked to borrow my sweatshirt because he was cold. All of a sudden, I felt embarrassed. I realized I was wearing my "Jacob Lake" sweatshirt. I was so not nervous about the date, so casual about trying to impress, that I hadn't thought about the fact I was wearing the guy's name on my sweatshirt. Ha.
 My old workplace, Jacob Lake Inn

Jacob picked me up in his business partner's Porsche. Unfortunately, the effort was wasted. I can't tell a Porsche from a Pinto. He asked me if I liked the car. I replied, "'s, um, it's very shiny!"

We went to a corn maze. The man at the booth instructed us before we went in, "Now, please don't throw any corn tonight. We've had a couple of babies hit, and you've got to promise it's not going to happen again." We found that hilariously random.

In the maze, Jacob announced, "Give me your hand." I've always appreciated how direct and confident Jacob is. I accepted.

We went together to return the car to Dan Todd, then played a board game as a team against another dating couple. Neither of us remember the game, but we do remember that despite the fact they'd been dating longer than us, we still completely destroyed them.

The date was a complete success, despite the fact that it broke the first date rule on length--it was super long! We were together right away from then on. True, we had some bumps as I decided about my mission and Jacob decided whether or not he could keep me from serving one, but it all worked out, he proposed exactly one year, one month, and 5 days later, we were married five months minus a day later, and we are living happily ever after!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Back in the States

Whoa. I can't believe we were in the US for two weeks, because we rushed through it so quickly.


Times Square

World Trade Center Site

Almost got my Mom this card

Jacob's first time, my second. You've got to love this city. We stayed in Queens at a YMCA. Jacob could play basketball just by walking out the front door. We were in Asiatown with an amazing grocery store with a million things you've never seen before imported from Asia, and excellent Japanese restaurants.

We went to go visit my college roommates Lana and Andrea. I had never seen Andrea's William or Lana's Dallin. They were born within a couple weeks of each other.

Lana and Andrea are the kind of friends for me that know my worst habits, weirdest traits, and still are always there for me no matter what! It was great to see them again—I don't think I'd seen Lana since my wedding, and Andrea since we decided to up and move to Missouri.

Lana and Andrea are both married to future heroes. Well, future healers of sorts, which to me is like being a hero. Lana's married to Scott, who will heal people's teeth. Andrea's married to Jordon, who will heal people's bodies. They're both in school. Unfortunately Scott couldn't make it up but he lent his family for a couple of days which was very nice.

Andrea's grandma from Bolivia was there. She only spoke Spanish, but you could tell what a sweetheart she was by her soft voice and cooing over her great grandson.

William is a little sweetie, with huge eyes and looong eyelashes. He is really good at playing and focusing on his own activity. He seemed to take a real liking to Jacob, and played with him right away without being shy.

Dallin is a little guy with a sudden, huge smile that equals his sudden, loud yells :) He is snuggly and cheerful.

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Jared, who is 3, I have met a couple of times now. He and I enjoyed going on the round and around, where we pretended he was a fireman. He is a sharp, adventurous fellow. And he called Jacob "Jacob the Basher" after his friend from church who hits a lot. He seemed to like Jacob despite the nickname though and wanted to ride the airplane with him.

Crazy to be around kids again. But fun!

I was really looking forward to Andrea's cooking and I wasn't disappointed. Together, we all made grilled salmon, asparagus, and pineapple. And I was introduced to Pinera. Great stuff!


My mom and dad have sure been busy arranging flights for us. We really appreciate all of their help. When we arrived Dad took us on a tour of his workplace. He has a lot of pride in what he does. He's been working for American Airlines almost as long as he's been married to Mom.

It's been so strange to be home after all the places we've been. I get really bad allergies at home. Here is the supposed culprit:

Mellie has allergies herself, however, and crawls around on her belly to itch herself. This is why she wears a dress. Maybe we have allergies to another source altogether, who knows?

Jack had the flu, unfortunately. So he was pretty much zonked the whole time we were there. He is such a super busy guy. He's in early morning seminary, choir, and marching band. He just made All-Region choir which as a freshman is very exciting.

We bought the Sony ebook reader and returned it the next day because the software is not compatible with most computers. Yet we have greatly reduced our load and are traveling much more lightly even though we are still carrying around heavy books.

We went to Olive Garden (instead of The Spaghetti House which got vetoed). The unlimited salad and breadsticks were definitely missed while we were abroad.

We went to the Texas State Fair. Randomly, I ran into my friend Kendall, who lives in Utah, but has a sister in Dallas. We were on the Vienna study abroad together. She was fun to have around because she would mother us while away from home. She always had medicine for sick people, etc.

We went to the Keller Homecoming Parade! Jacob says he has never seen so much candy at the parade. We each had our own way of getting candy. Jacob encouraged me quietly from the sidelines: "Look, Sue. A Tootsie Roll. Go get it!" He didn't want to chase after it being such a big guy among kids and all. But he would hold his hands out beseechingly and people would literally walk out of the parade and give him a whole handful. One little girl was very aggressive in her candy acquiring. She had enough candy for Halloween. I thought her mom was a little defensive. "She won't eat it all," she told us. "She's going to share it with the rest of the family. Probably she'll only get 1 or 2 pieces."

We went to The Mikado, which is an operetta written by Simon and Garfunkel. No, by Gilbert and Sullivan. I think BYU did it a few years back. I was surprised by the quality of the voices, costumes, and make up. It's just a little home theater, started by a BYU graduate.But, it was almost 3 hours long. That is a long time to hold my attention.

Biggest culture shock:

Definitely the amount of water in the toilets. America has at least 4 times the amount of water than any other country we've been. I ask you, is it really necessary? I vote for some water conservation. New York was the worst. It was filled three quarters of the way. When you flushed it splashed angrily up and got the seat all wet.

It's strange to have been with friends and family for the last month or so, and to return to going to a strange land…my first time in the Southern Hemisphere and for both of us the first time to South America. Buenos Aires! Anyone ever been?
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