Sunday, January 12, 2014

What I Learned In Prague by Shelli Jenkins

Hi!  This is Laurel's sister Shelli.  I hacked into her blog so I could put up a post about my visit to Prague for a week last November.  Read if you wish!

What I learned in Prague:
- It's handy when you can borrow your clothes from your niece and sister when you are in Prague and your luggage is in Seattle.
- McConkies house is bigger than I imagined.  There seems to be enough space for what they need, including all the company they have over all the time and it stays pretty clean even with four kids.
- McConkies are staying in shape by climbing two flights of stairs to their house several times a day.  There is an elevator, but it's mostly only used to send a large load of groceries up, to be met by the family on the top floor.
- Hyrum can have a great time at a friend's birthday party even when he's the only one there who speaks English (this is when non-speaking activities like ping pong come in handy).
- Jet lag is real.  Don't sit down.  Ever.  You'll be out in a matter of seconds.
- I already knew this, but now I really know... Those McConkie kids are amazing.  Truly and for reals incredible.  Their normal is so not normal.  And their normal is so not easy.  But they are handling their normal so well.  They just do it.  Church an hour away at 9am?  Up and out the door they are, eating some breakfast on the way, happy faces when they get there.  Sitting for three hours listening to Czech.  Meeting new people all the time.  Waiting for their dad to interview missionaries and set apart a new branch presidency.  Practicing for the primary program in Czech with a primary they've never been to before.  They just do it.
- James' Czech is so impressive.  It comes in real handy when the rest of the family needs help communicating with the people around them.  He gave a great talk in church; I had no idea what he was saying (partly because it was in Czech and partly because I was not conscious...see jet lag comment above).  But I knew that he felt strongly about what he was saying to the people there.
- The International School of Prague is such a bright, happy place!  If you have to go to school in a foreign country, this is a great one to go to.
- I'm not sure what’s more intriguing:  The intricate architecture on every building in that beautiful city, or the incredible cobblestone designs all over the streets and sidewalks.
- It's possible to feel the spirit even on the metro escalator... as a dozen Elders and Sisters sing beautiful hymns for those around them to hear their message through music.
- If I ever go on a mission with my husband, I want to be the secretary to the Mission President.  What a fun job!
- Laurel and James are still so normal.  Not that I expected them to NOT be normal, but they have been thrown into such a different life with different roles than they've ever known before. They are great at their new responsibilities, and they are still them.
- Wilson is a great cake decorator.
- The missionaries LOVE the McConkies.  Love.  They hug those kids and give high fives every time they see them like it has been weeks, when it has only been a day.
- Laurel and James are really good at making a birthday party a big deal when they are so far away from home.  It wasn't easy to find a time that all the family and Prague missionaries could come to Hyrum's party, but they made it happen.
- The AP's are way better at foosball than Laurel and me.
- Evie is taller than me, and more beautiful than ever.

- You don’t need to speak the same language to be able to understand.  I learned this as I sat with two darling 7 year-old girls in Primary as they enthusiastically shared with me pictures they drew of different scriptures they had read.  I didn’t know a thing they were saying but felt of their faith and enthusiasm for the gospel.
- George is good at explaining Harry Potter to me as I read it to him.
- Wenseslas Square is a great place to buy little treats and toys and people watch while you sit and eat a kabob.
- It felt just like old times being with my sister.  Even though we've only been apart for 5 months, it has felt like a year at least.  She was so nice to take time to walk around the beautiful city with me when she is the busiest person I know.
- McConkies are very patient, helping me understand how the money and metro work (started to catch on by the time I left).
- As much as I want my kids to see their cousins that they miss so much, I loved being there without them.  I got to really spend time with my niece and nephews in ways I wouldn't have if my own kids were there.
- Old Town Square is magical at night.
- We ran into missionaries everywhere.  Going out, coming in, on the street, at the metro.  They are such happy faces to see in a city full of foreign strangers.
- It's not hard to fall in love with the missionaries immediately.  They are the most positive part of the day, every day, for the McConkies.
- The kids miss American cereal so bad and loved every bite of the ones I brought them.
- The view from Charles Bridge is unbeatable.
- The Senior Couples are like a bunch of grandparents to the McConkie kids.  They
adore them (goes both ways).
- McConkies are getting more and more used to their new life, recognizing the good among the hard.  And the hard parts are still really hard.
- Don't stop to take a picture at the castle entrance.  You might almost get hit by a speedy car entering in.
- I can't imagine anyone more perfect for the job of Mission President than James.  He is a natural leader, he loves these countries and the people in them, he knows the language, and everything he has done in his life has prepared him for this.
- Wilson makes a great roommate!
- Laurel switches roles beautifully.  She can be 100% involved in missionary work and then one minute later her attention is 100% focused on her kids.  She is amazing.
- James' phone doesn't stop ringing.  When I commented on this to him, he said "Really?  I thought it was a quiet night."  He explained that he likes it this way.  He enjoys being involved in what and how the missionaries are doing.
- My husband is awesome.  I learned that a long time ago, but it was reinforced as he recognized that two sisters who are missing each other terribly really really needed to be together for a little bit, and got me over there.
- I can hardly wait for my kids to go to a foreign place and to see their cousins.
- It's honestly like Laurel and James have 100? kids.  That's how much they care for the missionaries.  They worry about them, rejoice with them, help them.  They are concerned about them and want only the best for them.
- The assistants to the President really are crucial.  They help James and the whole family so much, with whatever they need, even giving the kids rides to school if needed.
- I love seeing different people in a different culture.  Their lives seem so different than mine but we are all pretty much the same.

- The Czech/Slovak Missionaries are the luckiest in the world.  I truly believe this.  They have been given the incredible gift of a mission president and his wife that are so amazing at this calling.  Not only that, but they get four awesome kids too, and they get to see them be a happy family which hopefully they will get to have one day too.

- I am so blessed to be able to visit.  It helped me so much to understand why McConkies were asked to leave their comfortable life in Salt Lake City.  They are an inspiration to me and I am so grateful that even though we can’t be near each other for these three years, they are my family forever.


  1. That was awesome. The McConkies really are the best.

  2. Shelli, I loved reading all the details you remembered about your trip, and how great it was. You are fortunate to have such a wonderful relationship with Laurel and her family. What great memories you made to hold on to until you see one another again. :] Hope you and your family are well.

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  4. (Oops, I accidentally commented while signed in as Jane.)
    I was just saying: Thank you, Shelli! - Joanne

  5. Hooray Shell! Loved reading this update. Just the kind of stuff I wanted to hear and read! So glad you got a chance to go over and be with them.