Sunday, March 4, 2018

Victor's Travels

Hello Everyone!
We have made it back to Gannon safely and we would like to thank you for reading about our journey this past week! We all had an amazing experience and we will cherish the memories made on this trip for years to come. 

While on the trip, we were able to visit numerous places and interact with many wonderful people. Along with us, our mascot (Victor E. Knight) was able to experience Mérida. Here are some highlights of his experience in Mexico:

Friday, March 2, 2018

Loteria, Bailamos, Pola...¡Adios, Mérida!

It’s 10:30 on Friday night and we are finishing the final touches of wrapping up our Mérida experience. Our day was filled with relationship building within the community, which started at the nursing home. We played “Loteria” (bingo) with the residents, and it was a hit. Everyone was happy to help with reading cards and celebrating the winners with prizes. After saying goodbye to our new friends, we traveled to the medical dispensary, another branch of the Mission. It was very insightful to ask questions to Dr. Silvia, who has been an active member of the mission for 30 years. We learned that it is very hard to pay for medications and appointments in Mérida, and the dispensary offers a low cost alternative. We were grateful to return to our girls at the Nueva Vida program, and were welcomed with excitement. From playing tag to braiding hair, everyone was engaged. A very special part of the day was playing games inspired by Jessica’s Club Fit program, to get the girls out of their shell. Two members of the Gannon Dance Team taught the girls a dance, and they did extremely well listening and performing. We said goodbyes to everyone who made this experience possible, again with muchos abrazos. It was sad to say goodbye, but felt amazing to complete such an event filled week. We might have got ice cream for a third has turned into an obsession.  After dinner we watched a final slideshow of all the pictures made by Tricia. She has done everything and beyond for us this week and we are eternally grateful. Mérida was definitely a week to remember and reflect on for years to come.

Thank you everyone for the prayers and thoughts as we travel home bright and early! We can’t wait to return to our families and friends, to continue sharing  the spirit of Mérida even in the snow.

Muchos Amor

Thursday was filled with kisses, dancing, and bubbles, so what could be better than that? Everyone had a day full of smiles which started at the Los Amiguitos daycare program. The children range from ages three months to three years and we spent the morning drawing with chalk and blowing/spilling bubbles. After some hard play, we left to pick up girls from school that are members of the Nueva Vida program. The program offers an after school learning opportunity for girls from 6-12. It was incredible to see how well behaved and attentive the girls were. We were welcomed with muchos abrazos (lots of hugs) and we instantly felt the excitement. We played games, ate lunch, and sang with them. Throughout the day it was very apparent just how well the program is run since  they were able to speak clear common English and had excellent manners. To help give back, we painted and cleaned the facilities after playtime. Our long day ended with a delicious Italian dinner and ice cream from our favorite shop Pola.

Today we will finish our tours of the Mission of Friendship programs and spend our last full day in Mérida surrounded with love and acceptance of the community.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

¡Estamos Viviendo Nuestros Mejores Vidas!

Hola, friends and family! We are back at the mission after an enjoyable three days in Yaxcabá, a small village located about two hours outside of the city of Merida. We are delighted to be able to finally share our wonderful experiences.

On Monday, we were welcomed with open arms by Padre Felix, a priest of Yaxcabá who graciously welcomed us to the village. Other parishioners were also kind enough to greet us, cook traditional meals for us, and share their knowledge of Mayan history and culture. After settling in, we had the privilege of riding in motorcycle-powered carriages to explore the rest of the village. While on this journey, our group admired the kindness and positivity of the entire community.

Tuesday began with a work day at the church. Lewis, Tricia, and the Gannon ABST group painted the interior of a guest space at the church. This experience strengthened the bonds of the group by allowing us to play games and share stories as we worked. In the afternoon, we cooled down with a visit to a local cenote, an underground stream that we courageously swam in. I say 'courageously' because many of us felt outside of our comfort zones while swimming in a dark cave while bats flew just over the top of our heads. The fear surpassed as we let go of our hesitations and simply enjoyed living in the moment. When we returned to the village, Padre Felix had organized a gathering for us to meet some people in the community on a more personal level. With the help of Tricia and Lewis translating our words, the entire group was able to learn about each other's lives. We discovered that a particular woman in the village made and sold hammocks, so several of us visited her home after the gathering to see one that Sydney ended up purchasing.

We said our goodbyes to the lovely people of Yaxcabá on Wednesday as we left to venture to Mayapan, a site of ancient Mayan ruins. Despite a few members feeling carsick from the bumpy ride to what felt like the middle of nowhere, the group enjoyed being the only people at this less commercialized location where we could explore the fascinating history and architecture of the Mayans. The views were breathtaking and well worth the journey to that location. Later on Wednesday, we ate a late lunch at the Hacienda Taya Restaurante where we recovered from the heat with delicious Mexican food and drinks, topped off with some refreshing ice cream.

Now that we are back in Merida, we are eagerly awaiting our next adventure at Nueva Vida on Thursday. The group has been excited all week to meet the girls, so stay tuned for our next update when we can share that experience with you. ¡Hasta luego!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hola from Merida!

Greetings from the heart of Mérida, México, everyone! As this message is being written, our group is heading off to bed after a long, yet wonderfully fulfilling two days of action here at the Mission of Friendship. Although our group only departed from Erie two days ago, our group dynamic is so strong and we are very excited to see where our energy takes us as we embark on new projects and experiences throughout this week.

Our trip began Saturday at 7am, when we met under Gannon’s infamous arch. Over the span of 10 hours, we drove to Cleveland, flew to Houston, played many games and got to know each other during a four hour layover, and eventually arrived safely in Mérida. We were immediately met by Lewis and Tricia, our gracious and wise hosts from the mission. As we cherished the warm weather (which is a stark contrast from Erie’s most recent temperatures) and the new environment, Tricia and Lewis welcomed us to Mérida and prepared us for our next experience, which included spending a night in downtown Mérida. To round out an exhausting day of traveling, we watched folkloric dance and tried “Marquesitas,” delicious snacks made from cheese, Nutella/caramel, and a waffle-like cone. Our group definitely wants to bring those home!! In addition to the marquesitas, highlights of the day include Ryan flying for the first time and a few other group members traveling out of the country for the first time! Unfortunately, one of our group members, Emma, had a circumstance that prevented her from continuing the full experience with us this year, but we are still grateful that we got to spend time during day one with her. She will be greatly missed and in our prayers.

Waking up feeling refreshed and eager to learn, we spent another day in downtown exploring and learning. With the support of Valentina, Steve, Jose, and Lewis (others associated with the Mission), we attended mass at the first cathedral built in north and South America,visited El Palacio del Gobierno and Casa Montejo, and ate lunch at La Chaya Maya. Many members of our group stepped out of their comfort zones today by immersing themselves in the Yucatecan culture, and specifically demonstrated their willingness to learn by trying new foods (like shark) and speaking Spanish with local vendors at Mérida’s Sunday Market. Overall, the day was full of positive vibes, laughter (mostly because a bird decided to use the bathroom on my shirt, which Mackenzie was wearing), and deep conversations about life. We completed the day and built our bond even more with  a two hour reflection session at the mission. We would once again like to thank everyone for their support and eagerness to engage with us as we continue to grow during our ABST experience. We can’t wait to share the rest of our adventure soon!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Meet the 2018 Merida Group!

Hello everyone! We are less than a month out from our trip to Merida and are busy making last minute preparations for what is sure to be an amazing trip. We thought now would be the perfect time for you to get to know our team.


Emma Hesch
Junior Social Work major
Hometown: Lockport, New York
"I am super excited about my upcoming trip to Mexico! I look forward to learning about a community different than my own. I can’t wait to immerse myself in my travel experience and make a difference in the lives of others! I especially look forward to spending the week with other Gannon students and making memories that will last a lifetime!"

Mackenzie Wenrick
Public Health major, class of 2019 
Hometown: Woodward, PA
"I am most looking forward to expanding my 
worldview and immersing myself in a new culture." 

Kate DuCarmeSophomore Physician Assistant major
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
"I am looking forward to interacting and learning from a new environment. I am excited to push myself and explore beyond my comfort zone."

Ryan Young
Freshman Biology, Pre-Med major
Hometown: Punxsutawney, PA
"I am most looking forward to living among those in the Merida community and experiencing the different culture."

Dorian Tamburlin
Freshman Psychology major
Hometown: Kersey, PA
"I'm looking forward to helping/meeting new people, giving back to a community, and having a chance to travel with a purpose."

Sydney Khreis
Freshman Biology, Pre-Med major (Psychology minor)
Hometown: Grand Island, NY
"I'm most looking forward to experiencing how Mexico's culture differs from ours and trying new foods."

Student Leaders

Noah Repko
Biology, Pre-PT major
Hometown: Erie, PA
"I'm really looking forward to spending time getting to know the people from the Mission of Friendship as well as their culture! We are very blessed to have the group that we do this year and we all bring something special to share with the people of the Yucatan."

Lydia Fennessy
Junior Physician Assistant major
Hometown: Monroeville, PA
"I am most looking forward to returning to the country I fell in love with last year on my ABST! I am excited to share in my love with a wonderful group of students we have this year." 

Adult Accompaniers

Sarah Ewing
Dean, Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences
Hometown: Linesville, PA
Education: B.S. Biology (2001), Ph.D. Comparative Biomedical Sciences (2007)
"[I am] most looking forward to the opportunity to learn and work with Gannon students as we support and interact with our friends and partners in Merida."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hello readers and welcome to the Merida 2018 ABST blog!

We are currently busy preparing for our trip in February through group meetings where we have learned a little about the Mission of Friendship, Mexico and each other. We are looking forward to learning even more about the Yucatan peninsula and the people who call Merida home.

Our group includes seven students, two student leaders and two adult accompaniers, all of whom have different strengths to bring to the Merida team. Look for an update in early January to learn more about the individuals making the trip to Merida this spring.

Thanks for reading!

Merida ABST 2018