Your brand new Jenessa has just gotten off the plane. After the hugs, the laughing, and the tears, one question reigns supreme–“What do I do with her now?” She is probably very different than the person you remember and you might have some misconceptions about who and what she is. So here are some helpful tips on things that you might experience and should therefore expect.
1) Your new Jenessa probably doesn’t know her name and is likely to not respond to it. She has been referred to as “Ma-keuh-raen-deuh” (Markland) for a year and half and doesn’t really have any connection to her first name.
2) Your new Jenessa smells. Bad. And the best part is that she is completely oblivious to it. It’s not just her, but also everything she owns that has a certain…odor about it. She has been living in a country where they eat fermented vegetables, spicy food, whole onions, and (here’s the kicker) whole cloves of plain garlic for almost a year and a half! Yes, she most certainly smells. But she can’t smell it herself . (Though, rest assured that she still uses deoderant!)
3) Your new Jenessa is overly affectionate with females. She has spent the past six weeks with a Korean girl. They have held hands almost anytime they were outside. She does not find this weird, awkward, or in any way indicative of same-gender attraction. However, you might.
4) Your new Jenessa is weirded out at the thought of physical contact with men. She hasn’t had any for a long time. In Korea, men and women don’t even shake hands or give high-fives. So she is even more squicked out at the thought of touching, let alone hugging, a guy.
5) Your new Jenessa is just all-in-all awkward around guys, actually. Male/female relationships in Korea are different than in America. Eye contact might be a struggle. Talking, too, will probably be difficult.
6) Your new Jenessa doesn’t really know English. She speaks English as if she were teaching an English class to a bunch of Koreans. Which means that she might feel the need to act out certain words…that you already know. She also sometimes speaks English as if it were Korean. Or as if she were a Korean. And then she sometimes isn’t aware that she isn’t speaking English at all.
7) Your new Jenessa wants to eat American food, but probably won’t be able to handle it. Be prepared for her to be sick. A lot.
8) Your new Jenessa will want to go up to strangers and start a conversation with them. And then get their phone number and offer her number in return. Just let her do this. Unless you fear for her safety.
9) Your new Jenessa is not aware of many safety concerns. Korean women don’t have many of the same concerns as American women do when it comes to late nights/men/their safety/etc. Be on the lookout for her engaging in activities that might not be so safe in America.
10) Your new Jenessa is terrified of white people. Particularly en masse. Or anyone who is not Korean, really. Korea is a very homogenous society. People who aren’t Korean stick out. And they make her terrified, extra awkward, and uncomfortable. It will probably not be too uncommon for her to refer to anyone who is not Korean as “foreigner.”
11) Your new Jenessa might seem a bit racist. For the aforementioned reasons. But there will probably be especially strong negative feelings for the Japanese. Do not let her express these feelings impolitely. Help her see that the Japanese are not just pillaging invaders. But above all, don’t argue with her about Dokdo.
12) Your new Jenessa will cry at random times and for random reasons. She misses Korean, Koreans, and Korea. She will go through withdrawals and feel many frustrations as she tries to reassimilate. Don’t rush her. Let her express these thoughts and emotions. Encourage her to talk about Korea. Ask her questions. Engage her in conversation about Korea.
13) Your new Jenessa will not want to ever be alone. She hasn’t been for a long time, and being alone might induce momentary panic.
14) Your new Jenessa will only ever want to watch church movies. But don’t worry, because she is bringing back a nice selection with her. Seriously, some of he ones made just for Korea are real tear-jerkers.
15) Your new Jenessa won’t understand American politics, fashion, music, or pop-culture. But she can, of course, share with you the Korean counterparts.
16) Your new Jenessa will think that things that aren’t funny are funny. She has a missionary sense of humor.
17) Your new Jenessa will want everything planned and will be opposed to spontanaeity unless you can assure her that the change in plans has been “guided by the Spirit.” She feels that we have schedules for a reason and must maximize our time.
18) Your new Jenessa will want to roller skate. Yeah, she still has dreams of being a roller derby star.
19) Your new Jenessa will start talking about the gospel at strange times and will try and relate everything back to it. Let her bear testimony. Share yours with her. Let her try and commit you to share it with your non-member friends.
20) Your new Jenessa will love you even more than she did before she left. Love her back and you will get along fine.
Wow, can you believe that the time is finally here? That I finish my mission next week? That is so, so sad and crazy to me. SO many thoughts and emotions that I have to sort out. But no time now.
So just a couple of other things really quickly.
This past week in our Book of Mormon stories English class, one of the Korean sisters made a translation error that was hilarious. Especially since she didn’t realize it. What happens is they read one of the pictures from the Book of Mormon stories book in English and then translate it into Korean. Well, the word she wanted (“land”) and the word she used just have a tiny vowel sound difference in Korean. She just mis-spoke, but what she said was, “The Lord promised to lead the people of Jared to the promised poop.” AH, it was so funny!
In other funny news, last week, I was really happy, so I was doing this funny kind of walking thing down the street. I don’t really know how to describe it. I’ll show you when I get home. So Sister Kim started trying to do it, too. And then, this middle-aged woman across the street who was talking on the phone was watching us. And then she started doing it, too!!!!! It made me so happy!!
Other things that make me happy include the fact that one of our investigators commited to be baptized next month!!! Yay!!!! The gospel is so true and happy! It has blessed my life so much!!!! I’m so excited for her!!!!!!
And I’m excited, albeit saddened, to come home. But I love you all and am eager to be back in Zion (see “Legacy” for the reference–oh, that’s something else. Your new Jenessa can quote church movies like nobody’s business). See you in ten!