Mortar and Memories: How My Journey to the Yucatan Peninsula Changed My Life - My Family Travels

The mortar glistened in the sunlight, gray and viscous. I leaned against my shovel, pausing to wipe the sweat from my forehead. My arms ached after completing three minutes of my three-hour mixing duty.


The mortar had to be constantly shoveled to remain moist. I forced myself to remain focused on the task at had. Shovel.

Shovel. Pour mortar into buckets. Take bucket across the yard to the wall.

Shovel. Shovel. If mixing mortar is so hard, why in the world am I doing it? On August 6, 2005, I flew to Mexico with twenty-three of my fellow church members.

We had only a vague idea of where we were going– two villages in the middle of a jungle on the Yucatan Peninsula– and an even vaguer idea of what we were to be doing during our stay in Mexico. It was only after we arrived in the steamy town of Leona Vicarrio that I learned that we would be building a cinderblock wall around a vast churchyard in the town of Kantunilkin. In actuality, we constructed not only a lengthy eight-foot high wall, but also mixed mortar to use in the construction of the wall, leveled ground, and sorted goods to be donated to villagers.

Those tasks resulted in hours of hard work, more sweat than I have ever known, and a great sense of pride and accomplishment. After a week in the Yucatan, I felt that the Mexican locals had given me more than I had given them. I have rarely encountered such hospitality, enthusiasm, and sincerity.

Everywhere my fellow mission trip members and I traveled, we were bombarded with ‘holas’ and smiles. This mission trip and the people involved with it changed my life, causing me to want to do more community service. As my high school career has progressed, I have made community service a priority.

Whether I am building houses in California’s San Joaquin Valley or rebuilding the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged community of D’Iberville, Mississippi, I always look back upon my Mexican adventure, knowing that that experience will continue to influence my work, travels, and life for years to come.

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