Friday, March 6, 2020

Hola from this Beautiful City!

I feel as though today was a special day full of challenging, yet fulfilling experiences. We started off the day bright and early, traveling to the daycare once again. However this time was not filled with hugs and kisses, but with blood, sweat, and maybe a few tears. Today was a physical work day where we partook in some gardening, where some of us planted some bushes and the rest cut down plants and trees surrounding the daycare. The sun was hot today, and you could see plain as day that the labor exhausted us all. We were drenched in sweat from head to toe and a little bit dirty too. Yet, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Performing these small acts of service humbles us when we get a little bit comfortable and start cruisin down easy street. Being able to be here and to utilize our presence gives an overwhelming sense of fulfillment, knowing that we are listening and responding to the requests of the community. Though it was super hot and pretty uncomfortable, we made it and are still alive and well (probably better than we were before). 

After we left the daycare, José and Katia took us to get refreshments from a little convenience store. It was definitely needed with the heat and a little bit of exhaustion we were feeing before we headed back to Nueva Vida. We were able to eat lunch with the girls and seeing how excited they were to hang out with us again really warmed my heart. I can say that I am not fluent in Spanish by any means. I can hardly say hello, let alone hold a conversation, but even though there was that slightly uncomfortable language barrier holding some of us back (me especially), the connections we made are truly unforgettable. The emotion in these girls’ faces when we show up, eat with them , play with them, and sing with, is really special. I can see it in myself, and all of the other women in this group, that this sense of service of learning and service of presence ( along with some manual labor) displays the most incredible feeling joy, gratitude, accomplishment, relationship, community, and refreshing vulnerability. Leaving the girls today, and soon México, is a hard pill to swallow. We’ve been here for a short period of time, but the intimate connections we have made with all of the people we have come in contact with has been the most life changing experience in some of the most simplistic of ways. It’s hard to put into words the way that I feel right now and the way I have felt on this entire trip, but I truly hope that everyone gets to experience the essence of beauty in this feeling at some point in their life. I’m lucky that I am experiencing this so young and I’m lucky that I am experiencing this with some of the most amazing and authentic individuals I have ever met in my life.

P.s. we also had the opportunity to visit the Mission of Friendship’s medical dispensary today! 

Mucho amor, 
Mérida chicas 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

More Pictures from Tinum and Uayma!!


Our Visit to Uayma and Tinum!

The past two days have overwhelmed me with beauty both in Mexico and in humanity. The people of the Yucatán have been so extremely kind and welcoming to us. We took a small trip to the village of Tinum on Tuesday where we helped paint their local church and had an amazing lunch made for us by the village people. We then drove to Uayma where we spent the night in a breathtaking cathedral offered to us by the people. They made us another incredible meal before leaving us to sleep. All of the girls of our group were so excited to experience the Mayan culture of the villages especially their practice of sleeping in hammocks. After our nightly reflection we all slung up our hammocks in the hallways of this beautiful cathedral and got some much needed rest. The next morning we were woken up by the amazing village people preparing us breakfast that consisted of sweet breads, fresh fruits, eggs, hot cakes, and some traditional Mexican fruit drinks. It was so humbling to see the extent to which the people of the village cared for a group of strangers like us.

The Yucatán is teaching me more and more everyday that value and joy are not things one can accomplish on their own. No one in the Yucatán faces anything alone. They stand in solidarity without question and live out their unconditional love for everyone everyday. These people find happiness and peace in community and human connection alone and it has been a privilege to witness. 

Mucho amor,
Mérida chicas 

Monday, March 2, 2020

Nueva Vida After-school Program!

Today we were blessed with the opportunity to visit the Daycare Center and the Nueva Vida after-school program. We were in awe walking into the daycare center as we were greeted with all the young children lined up saying (screaming)¡Hola! It was such an uplifting experience to play with the children even though we did not speak the same language. Everyone knew how to communicate through body language which allowed us all to experience the basic levels of humanity. The children in the daycare ranged from 3 months to 4 years old. We all had such a blast playing, dancing, and helping the children during our visit. It was incredible to see how different the daycares are in Merida versus in the US. 

After the daycare visit, we headed to Nueva Vida where we were greeted with girls from the range of kindergarten to 6th grade. The girls were all so beyond excited to meet us and use their English skills to communicate as well as us attempting to use our Spanish skills. The girls had so much energy and wanted to play games like tag or hide and seek. They were so accepting of our language barrier and worked with us to help us understand their culture. It was amazing to see how kind and genuine the people of Merida were through their children. It speaks volumes to how their family’s values are reflected in their children at such young ages. Today, we all realized how important it is to let go of the bias that we grow up learning and expand our perspective to treating everyone as human beings. 

For dinner, we prepared a spaghetti dinner and it was fabulous!!! We spent time talking about our dinner and reflecting on our experiences at the daycare and Nueva Vida. It was great to hear what everyone enjoyed the most out of their day. Then, we went to a “park” (not the playground type of park). This park was a historical location and was embedded with culture. It was absolutely beautiful and we got some great pictures we can’t wait to share with you! Overall, we had a day full of personal growth that allowed us all to see the good in people. 

Mucho amor,
Mérida chicas
Maddie and Hayley

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Hola amigos!! 

Today we got to truly immerse ourselves in the Yucatan culture. The weather was gorgeous! It was about 90 degrees with clear skies...which is a drastic change from Erie weather lol! We went downtown to Merida en Domingo which seemed to be the heart of the community. Even though it was Sunday, the community was lively with vendors, dancers, and music! It was amazing to see how much community means to them. We got to experience a traditional Yucatan catholic mass. It was so cool to know what was going on during some parts of the mass even though it was in a different language. Then we went to lunch at a restaurant that truly embodied all of the Yucatán cuisine and heritage. Before we ate we were able to walk around outside and see past and present techniques on how they prepared the food. We saw two Yucatán women making our tortillas right in front of us over a fire pit. Our food was delicious! Next, we went back downtown to shop. We got to practice our Spanish skills with some vendors, which was so fun trying to talk with all of the community members. We all bought hand-made items like bags, clothes, hammocks, and jewelries. Everything was absolutely beautiful! Merida is an amazing place, and we are so excited to continue to explore the culture and meet all of the wonderful people! We love and miss all of our friends and family, and cannot wait to share all of these memorable experiences! 

Mucho amor, 
Mérida chicas 
Kaitlyn and Mel 

We made it!

After a long (long) day of traveling, we have made it safely to Merida, Mexico! We were warmly greeted at the airport by Pati and Jose then we drove to see a Mexican show with singing and dancing! Safe to say the group was dancing along with the performers (lol). We tried a traditional Yucatean sweet and street corn. We ended the night with some tacos and refrescos (fruit and water, blended). We cannot wait for tomorrow and we will be updating everyone about our fun adventures soon. 
Mérida chicas

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Melanie Bertges 

Major:Freshman Physician Assistant Major
Hometown:Pittsburgh, PA
One thing you are excited about for Merida:"I am excited to widen my horizons and be immersed in a new culture (and the Mexican food of course).
A fun fact about yourself:I love running and new adventures!