Monday, May 2, 2016

How I Know I'm in Iowa (and Missouri)

I visited Iowa last weekend*. It was so great--but of course it was, bc Iowa. I don't have any pictures because I lost my phone in the Chicago O'Hare Airport on my way there (plot twist! I got it back a few days later!), but it sure was one nostalgic walk through the Des Moines Airport both on my way in--going down the escalator where I caught my first glimpse of my mission president and his wife almost 3 years ago--and on my way out--going back up the escalator where I cried because I had just said goodbye to some of my favorite people in the world. Anyways, while I was there I came up with a list of ways I knew that I was in Iowa (and Missouri, because much of my time was there too!). I hope this doesn't offend anyone, because I loved it all like crazy ;)

  • spotting a man in a cowboy hat just chillin on his porch
  • drivers waving as you pass by
  • seeing more cows and sheep than people
  • cowboots at church (love it)
  • "couple three"
  • nighttime thunderstorm
  • non-stop wind
  • getting stuck behind a horse and buggy
  • getting stuck behind a tractor
  • going on a walk and not seeing anything but farmland
  • a main topic of conversation being speculations about the upcoming weather
  • spotting bald eagles and turkey vultures
  • tons of Hawkeyes and Cyclones gear
  • plenty of pit stops at the best gas stations ever
  • the nicest, most wonderful people ever :)

Until next time!

*please don't be sad if I didn't get to see you! I was going for a sealing and didn't have the means or time (or energy, because I was super jet-lagged) to travel to other areas. but you know that I love you <3

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Day in Oxford

I took a trip to Oxford! And since I went by myself, I guess I'm really feeling the need to share about it or something, because let's be honest - how often do I actually update this thing. It was so great though! I went to Cambridge on my study abroad in the spring and LOVED it, so I wanted to check this one out too. I'm not going to invest myself in the Oxford-Cambridge rivalry, so I'll just say that I loved them both ;)

Saturday morning I woke up at about 6:30, and after getting ready I walked for an hour to the station where the Oxford tube (which is actually a bus...) leaves (because I was too cheap to pay for the actual tube to get to the station). It was such a good choice, because the morning was BEAUTIFUL! I love London so much. You just walk through the streets and it's one incredible building after another. Like, what is commonplace here would be a major site in the U.S. I just can't get over it!

ahhh so polite hahaha

After some time trying to find my bus, I got on and enjoyed the 1.5 hr drive to Oxford. Since I made the trip pretty last minute, I hadn't done really any planning, except some to-do's that Hayley (one of the other interns) gave me from her experiences in Oxford. So I was really happy that my cute bus driver gave me a map, and there was WiFi so I could look things up on my way!

England is amazing. You're in this incredible city one moment, and then right when you leave you're surrounding by green, beautiful countryside.
I got to Oxford at about 11:15, and ran into the exact tour that I had been hoping to join - the footprints 2 hour free walking tour. Free? That's right up my alley haha! It was perfect because I got a fantastic overview of the city, with some awesome history and cool stories, so I felt a lot more confident after that just running around and seeing more of the sites. Below are some pictures that I took (mostly from the tour), with some of what I remember from the tourguide...but some info might be off, in which case, my bad! Sometimes I forget things I learn real quick...but that just makes life more exciting, right?! #alwaysrelearning

Sheldonian Theatre, surrounded by these busts that may or may not have been put there to instill fear into the hearts of the students. I mean, look at those eyes! 

Blackwell's Bookshop. Doesn't look like much...but underground there are over three miles of shelving, and has the largest single room selling books! 
I went into Blackwell's later and had a good look around. This doesn't show a whole lot, but it was pretty amazing!

Divinity Hall - Harry Potter came here to get fixed up after fighting with Voldemort!

Bodelian library (and below). Apparently Bodley made some agreement years ago that every book that is ever published in England has to have one copy in this library...and that rule still applies today! Crazy! 

but really it's all about Harry Potter. Pretty sure the restricted section is in there somewhere...only they won't let you get into it. Because I mean, it's restricted - duh.

Radcliffe camera. Which I think is funny, seeing how Daniel Radcliffe's last name is, well, Radcliffe. Also, apparently Oxford was kept super safe during WWII because Hitler specifically told the Nazis not to bomb it because he wanted this to become the new center of the empire, or something like that! So take that for what it's worth, but at least we still have Oxford today thanks to this incredible building!

University Church of St. Mary the Virgin
I went back later and caught the end of some rehearsal in the St. Mary church! I always get super excited when I find ways to see sites without having to pay for them. 

Bridge of Sighs, aka NOT the one in Venice. But they're very proud of the fact that it's like 2 inches bigger than the one in Cambridge.
All Soul's College. I'm going to be admitted into that someday and get my PhD here. Not really, because entrance is ridiculous. And they have crazy weird rituals like dressing up like ducks while chasing ducks around once every 100 years. Gotta love weird Oxford traditions.
The Kissing Gate. Or just the gate that keeps the cattle and sheep from getting out, and barely lets the humans through.

Christ Church College. The meadows were really cool too, but it was freezing at that point and I didn't really get any good pictures. I went back later and explored some more (keep reading, folks).

Our awesome tourguide at the final finale, with the most dramatic story about a martyr being burned at the stake right where those bricks are. Seriously though, this guy was amazing. Definitely one of the best tours I've gone on!

After the tour, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Get this sweet little flea market kind of thing! I got a steamed pork bun for just over a pound, and an inarizushi for a pound. Sooo good and warm and homey (though, pretty sure both my sisters make better inarizushi!).

I needed a break from the cold and quickly walked through two (free!) museums. First was the Ashmolean Museum. Most random, disorganized museum ever...haha I was thoroughly entertained. I did what my mom and I do - got a list of the top things to see in the museum and just went around looking for those!

Powhatan's mantle. Because America.
With that beautiful face, how can I NOT be on the head of walls someday?
Van Gogh's pretty cool I guess
 Next was the science museum. Super little, but with one really cool, really nerdy thing...
Einstein's handwriting! What?! A piece of the chalkboard on which he explained his theory of relativity. I understand the whole thing. Really.
 Then I found my way through this sketchy passage to a sketchy tavern, where students have been wreaking havoc for centuries.

when this is what you're famous for

The tourguide didn't have time to take us to the lamppost that allegedly inspired C.S. Lewis to place a lamppost just inside the border of Narnia. I really wanted to find it, and I knew around where it was, but it's unmarked and I wasn't having much luck. Until I overheard someone talking about C.S. Lewis, and it just so happened that a completely different tour was headed that way right then! So I listened in, was pointed towards the sought-after lamppost, and patiently waited for them all to leave so I could have sufficient time to take pictures of the very important fixture. I was pretty pumped.

The golden fauns and door from the movie, with the lamppost in the background. For a minute, I thought I was in Narnia. So much so that here are two more pictures!

If you haven't noticed yet, I'm not the hugest fan of spending lots of money. But I decided that I was at Oxford, so if I were to spend money on something, it should probably be to see Christ Church College. I mean, we're talking Harry Potter people. It was awesome.

The Great Hall was modeled after this! It was much cooler in real life. They couldn't film here though because the college insists on feeding its students here three meals a day. I think I've found my dream home.
I found John Locke!
Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, aka writer of Alice in Wonderland. I kind of love that that ugly metal thing is there because it was really fun seeing the workers preparing to serve the students dinner. We even saw a group of students walk by in their black robes - because they eat dinner in their robes every night!
The Alice in Wonderland windows. You can see Alice in the bottom left corner of the top left window pane, and other fun creatures thoughout.
kind of fuzzy, but those little brass characters on either side are also reminiscent of Alice when her neck grows all weird...

But let's not get too off topic. Back to Harry Potter. Professor McGonagall welcomed me to Hogwarts at the top of these stairs! #ifonly
let's play some quidditch.

 The funny part of the tour was so super typical of me, it's ridiculous. I was super enthralled by everything and just enjoying it a much so, that I completely mis-read the super easy map and walked right out of it all while completely missing the entire cathedral! When I realized that, I went back and asked if I could enter again to see the cathedral, admitting that I had, um, missed it. They were about to let me, but it was too late - the doors closed 15 minutes earlier. So, I did what I usually do to get into cathedrals for free - went to Evensong! I don't have pictures from that since it was an actual service, but it was pretty neat. It was a lot more intimate than the ones at, say, Westminster Abbey (where it's mostly tourists), which was fun because I got to talk to a super cute older couple next to me whose friend was there being canonized, and I learned a lot! Plus the closing hymn was "How Great Thou Art," aka basically one of my top favorite hymns, so I just sang my little heart out in that beautiful cathedral ;)

In between getting locked out of Christ Church and being let back in for Evensong, I made a few more essential stops around the town.
For dinner, I found a cute shop in a covered marketplace. I bought a Cornish pasty for like a little over a pound, which was super filling...and not very good haha! I don't know if they are usually hot or not, but I kind of felt like I was eating a cold hot pocket. mmmmmm
My second pub of the day. Because you know, everyone knows how much I enjoy drinking (aka I definitely don't drink...just in case anyone actually is wondering). But this is totally where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein (two of my faves!!) would meet and talk about philosophy, religion, their stories, etc.! So cool! It was definitely worth pushing through people and having a good look around before leaving.
Again, not condoning the drinking or anything...but LOTR? All over that.
 All in all, a very successful trip!! It started raining literally minutes after I got back in the bus and left Oxford - another tender mercy :) I arrived in London around 9PM and still had an hour's walk back, because I was still too cheap to take the tube. Even though it was raining. But, I got to walk through Oxford Circus (ironic) and other fun, happening areas of London, so that was exciting! And there were loads of people and my flatmates were keeping tabs on me, so for any concerned parents out there, I felt very safe ;)

I had a better picture of this, but I uh accidentally erased the good one instead of the fuzzy one. Oops.
That's it! It was great! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

some happy, grateful thoughts...just because

Seeing how I hardly even really HAVE a blog anymore, I found these two little journal entries from my time at home these past couple of weeks, and thought I'd post them here. Why? I don't know, maybe just as a really quick way to actually update my blog. That and to say HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to my dad! He really is the most incredible man I know, and I honestly don't know how he does what he does. He is basically a really huge miracle in my life (well I guess technically I'm a miracle in his life, seeing how I came to him and not the other way around...but either way, he works miracles in my life all the time!). And I think there is one line in my journal entries that mentions him, so it counts for today.

Fri, May 29:

Today, I am incredibly grateful for my family and the time I've been able to spend with them these past 2 weeks. I am so grateful that all most post-travel class work was independent study and that my research assistant professor allowed me to work remotely so that I could come home for a much-needed respite. I'm grateful for a family who allowed me to come home and study, who didn't have any expectations but just let me be myself and do what I needed to do, and who don’t judge me for having forgotten most of my piano skills! I'm grateful for parents who fed me, helped me fix my car, and otherwise get my life in order! I'm constantly amazed by my incredible mom and how she studies through the evening after taking care of her family all day, and how my dad seems to make everything run so seamlessly and never doesn't have time to help us out even as he works so hard to support the family. Plus I love that he still thinks I'm 21 even though I'm almost 23. I am grateful for the time I could spend with the best little brother anyone could ask for, especially as we sat side by side doing our homework because we're both lucky enough to be in summer classes. I'm grateful for my little sister who will always be the sunshine in our family. I’m grateful for Lola and how she just follows us around all day and is the best companion. And I'm grateful that we all get to be together a little longer in Utah!

Wed June 3:
Tonight was practically perfect. After feeling very productive and accomplished from the day's work, I set the table and helped mom finish making dinner, then we all (Mom, Dad, Victor, and I) ate dinner around the table in the sunroom. While still around the dinner table, I grabbed the Book of Mormon and read half a chapter, and Victor read the other half. Then he and I went on a bike ride along the canal and through the neighborhoods in the beautiful, perfect weather. I listened to my favorite Pandora station as I cleaned the kitchen and boiled eggs so Mom will have some when she needs, and Victor finished his homework nearby. Then I ate a dark chocolate Klondike bar with my feet in the pool and Lola next to me...and I even let her lick the ice cream off my fingers. Then I went through some old piano music and had such a nice time playing and singing at the piano. I still had lots of energy, so I stayed up and finished the last two chapters of my international business textbook and quizzes, and overall had an average score of 96% for all 20 quizzes. I celebrated by eating cold cereal out of a mug and reading "Wesley the Owl" :)

...and now a picture stolen from my sister's blog, because blogposts without pictures and with this many words are boring.
see this family? yeah...they rock. and I'm eternally grateful for them.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

we're good!

today as I was leaving work, I was walking to my car in the semi-sketchy (but not really) parking garage, and I saw a young man just "chilling." I had a thought that I should give him a #becauseHelives card for Easter (apparently I still enjoy the thrill that comes from handing complete strangers cards with pictures of Jesus on them), so I walked up to him, handed it to him, wished him and his buddy a Happy Easter, and walked away. As I was pulling out, his buddy waved at me and nodded and smiled in kind of a "knowing" kind of way...and I freaked out because I remembered writing something on the back of the card the other day - my number?! Had I really just given my number to two strange young men sitting in the parking garage?! Basically I freaked out and felt super dumb and said a prayer that no creepy phone calls would be coming my way.

Until I remembered that I'm not a missionary anymore and I don't write my number on pass-along cards anymore - I just write cute, little, nonthreatening notes!

Wooh! We're goooood.

But seriously, after thinking today a little bit about how many mistakes I've made in my 22 years thus far (like almost giving my number to strange men), and how many I know I'll continue to make, I am that much more grateful for the sacrifice that my Savior Jesus Christ made for me and for all of us - that He gives us fresh starts and new beginnings, and that through Him, there is always hope. Happy Easter weekend!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

So blessed!

Well...I think it's about time I end my blogging hiatus! After a year and a half of my sweet sister updating my blog every week, it's been harder than I expected getting back into actually doing it myself haha (that said, Jenessa, if you ever feel like updating my blog my guest!). At first I was waiting for that "perfect" time to update it, with something profound or something, but of course that meant just procrastinating it further. Well folks, it's time. Hannah is back :)

That said, I was just overwhelmed this morning by how blessed I am! Coming off the mission is never easy of course, but life isn't meant to be easy, and I am so grateful for how much Heavenly Father has helped and supported me, and all the incredible opportunities He's given me and amazing people He's put in my life. It is amazing how much He loves His children!

So let's just pick up where the last post ended, almost 2 months ago to the day :)

Last week of the mish:
ok so this wasn't actually the last week, but I kept forgetting to send it home. so here you go :)
My SISTER got to come see me on my last proselyting day as a missionary! Guys, this is like, UNHEARD of. It was amazing. We got to go to a dinner appointment and teach a lesson side by side. So grateful for that she moved to Kansas and was so close so she was able to do that! Thanks Momma Jensen!

Last week = lots of goodbyes, including the sweet Ramm family

my wonderful companion, Sis Matley!

Soooo needless to say, by the time we made it to the mission home, we were exhausted! It wasn't over yet though...the evening was full of testimonies, pictures, final interviews with President Jensen, delicious food, and lots of laughs about how much we loooove Iowa.

In the airport headed to Arizona with Elder Jackson and Sister Paul
Coming many emotions :) 

 The awesome signs they were holding:

After being officially released...I'm surprised (and grateful!) that my face isn't super red from crying haha
Homecoming Sunday with my cute little sister...who apparently is taller than me now :)

In the next couple of weeks, two others we were teaching when I left got baptized! My heart was full from knowing that, of course, the work goes on :) Miracles!!



First week home: Mesa, Arizona!
The first thing I did when I got home? Tore off my black tights! I forgot how warm January in Arizona can be!

KJ's swim meet :) I was so happy that not only was I not wearing a snow coat and boots...I wasn't even wearing a SWEATER!
on the way to church with these sweet boys :)

I was so happy to finally hold a baby again haha :) Thanks to Lana and Levi, it was the cutest baby ever!
Gilbert, AZ temple

Week 2 (and on): San Jose, CA
One week to the day of coming home, my incredible mother and Kristina drove me out to San Jose - my old stomping ground! I can't get over how blessed I am here. Because I came home two weeks after BYU winter semester started, I decided to not start school until spring. I am now working as a financial analyst intern at Hedge Trackers, LLC, where I am blessed with some amazing co-workers and am learning so much! I am also incredibly blessed to be able to live with the amazing Dean family! They treat me like a daughter/sister and I couldn't be more lucky than to live with them. Being here has meant re-connecting with old friends, meeting lots of new people through the YSA ward and institute, and enjoying the beautiful sights of the Bay Area!

best babysitting job ever. And, I was a super good cheerleader. Just sayin. :)

loved seeing these boys again -
they are seriously like my brothers!

I love love love going on hikes on Saturday morning! I just can't get over how beautiful it is here.

DG! I love this girl. So glad we've stayed in touch :)

thanks to Jen working for the Shark's, she's able to hook us up with free tickets! Go Sharks!

Naomi! friends since Castlemont :)
Kaleigh Butler, at the Oakland Temple :)

FHE fun...yeah, these people have a SLIDE in their HOUSE!
it's really been amazing being able to come back to the temple I grew up going to!

view from the Oakland Temple

I LOVE hanging with the sister missionaries! They are seriously the greatest friends to have haha

more FHE fun

and, I get to hang out with these cool kats. or dogs. But I love them haha!

naturally, the Bay Area wouldn't be complete without plenty of Asian food...

and today...


Victor is graduating and we're all going out! Family reunion for the win. It's been way too long. I seriously cannot wait!

As a final note, I bought new shoes today! (I had a picture, but I can't seem to upload it for some reason...) That might seem like a weird "final note" thing to share, but there were so many tender mercies. I told the lady working there that I needed new running shoes because mine are so old that they are painful, and she was sooo nice. She tried a few on me, and they felt so good! And then I realized...the pair I liked was $160. NO WAY could I pay that! She was SO understanding and was like, oh, let me go see if I can find some marked-down shoes for you! She found some that were half the price and still felt wonderful. Plus one of my co-workers gave me a 10% off coupon. The best part, though, was while we were talking, I mentioned that I just got back from my mission. She was like, "Are you Christian?" when I responded positively, she got all excited and was like, "Me too!" and told me all about how and why she decided to get baptized a couple years ago. It was so sweet. We shared some experiences together about how good God is to each of us, and I was able to give her a #BecauseHeLives Easter card. She was so happy to take it, and I left feeling like we were meant to meet this morning.

Heavenly Father's hand is in each of our lives. That I know! He loves us and He wants us to be happy. I am so grateful for these last couple of months, as my relationship with my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ has continued to grow and deepen. I am so grateful for them!