Being a grandma and being retired offers many perks. There’s extra time to attend my grandkids’ events, be a TeamMate, go to movies during the day and sleep late if I want. This past month, however, I challenged myself to take on an opportunity I’d thought about doing for some time: a mission trip.

Building Homes in Guatemala

Our mission was to build four homes in five days in the town of Xepatan, Guatemala. I had an incredible experience of working on a church mission/service project. When I say we were building homes, I really mean a 14x10 room made of cement block with one door and one window. Not quite what you’d see in the Lincoln realty listings.

Xepatan is a very poor community. The only paved road is the highway that runs through the town. All other roads and paths in town are dirt. Homes are made of dried mud blocks similar to the sod homes built in the early Nebraska territory. There’s no running water, but if you’re fortunate, you might have a well on your property. The other water source is a spring in the center of town. There’s electricity available for radios and lights, but not all families can afford this luxury.

I was amazed at the new skills I acquired during my stay in Guatemala. Although I’m not at the apprentice level, I now know how to dig footings, mix and pour cement, chip concrete block and wire rebar together. The local mason we worked with was very patient when teaching us these new skills. His patience was especially remarkable since he didn’t speak any English and the rest of us spoke little-to-no Spanish.

Building homes in Guatemala. Photo by Nancy Becker.

Building homes in Guatemala. Photo by Nancy Becker.

Helpful Travel Tips from My Grandkids

When my grandkids first heard of my mission plans, they were concerned about me going. They wondered what I was getting myself into by signing up for the trip. At the same time, they were very proud and excited. They set out to make my mission easier by researching the area, climate, language, culture; and their tips proved to be valuable— they actually made my week easier! Here’s what they told me…

Be Aware of the Roads

Streets in the cities were cobblestone, and highways between cities could be primitive. There would be a stretch of road that would be very rough, so I should take lots of Ibuprofen. They were right. There was a part of the road between Xepatan and Panajachel that jarred my fillings.

The Climate Is Perfect

Morning temperatures in the 50s and afternoon temps in the 70s. There are several volcanoes in the area, but only one was active. The grandkids said it wasn’t really “active”, so I shouldn’t worry about a lava spill. Whew!

Important Words to Know in Spanish

The grandkids knew I studied French in high school, and they’re all taking Spanish, so they knew I was doomed. Once again, they pitied me and took me on as a challenge. They gave me a cheat sheet of words and phrases I would need to survive: bathroom, water, hello, thank you, please, etc. The kids even held practice sessions with me, and it helped! While in Guatemala, however, I let some French words slip in (i.e., Pardon?) How could I let that happen?

Don’t Drink the Water

How right they were. A couple of fellow workers forgot the message and brushed their teeth with the local water. They certainly regretted it for several days.

Kids in Guatemala. Photo by Nancy Becker.

Nancy with family in Guatemala. Photo by Nancy Becker.

With the tips supplied by my grandkids, I found myself prepared and ready to go. Their research and support of my travels were greatly appreciated, and I survived. Upon return, I told each grandchild I would love to help them accompany me on another mission trip. They appreciated my offer, and I will be interested if any of them accept. Maybe their research and viewing my pictures (with accompanying descriptions) may help them make their decision. Who knows! But the offer is out there.

Once again, I wonder what I would do without my grandkids. They’re always there to support me!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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