Category Archives: Reflections

Reflections on how we feel and how the mission is changing us

Just call me Rookie

Finals are over and I have finally caught up on the sleep I desperately needed. I was so caught up in the whirlwind that is the end of the semester that I almost forgot how close we are to leaving. Six days (as I write this). Less than one week from now and we will be in Texas continuing the humanitarian work that UIndy has been a part of for five years now. I’ve been collecting the necessary equipment over the past couple of weeks and even after my snake gaiters came in the mail, it still hadn’t really sunk in what I am going to be a part of. As I started packing my bag today, it all kind of hit me how huge this trip really is.

After reading up on the previous field seasons, what I seem to notice the most is how different each season is. Even comparing seasons that had the same kinds of activities whether they were lab seasons or field seasons (or both!), each team experienced that season differently.  I am thankful to have experienced veterans like Haley and Erica who have both been on multiple trips to Texas because I can look to them for guidance. I am also thankful to have another “Rookie” on the team in Rachel because we will be able to share this experience together for the first time. I think this trip will be very different for everyone on the team though because this time we get to focus on the living. One of our main goals this season is to help build water stations to aid those who have made the dangerous trip across the border but are now caught in the Texas scrubland. This has been done once before with a different UIndy team but it will be new for everyone this time around, and in that way, we are all rookies.

This will be my first trip to Texas with the Beyond Borders team and there is so much I am looking forward to. I look forward to working with everyone while aiding a cause that is grossly misunderstood by many. I look forward to learning as much as I can in the eight days we are there and helping in any way I can. I even look forward to the physical labor and the heat, because I am just ready to be out there. I’ve got my sunscreen, my bug spray, and my snake protection. Let’s do this team, wheels up in six!


The essentials

“Before you go…”

The past month has been a flurry of activity wrapping up classes, putting on events, and teaching, which means it still hasn’t sunk in yet that we are leaving in just a few days. Up to this point, the focus has been on logistical preparation like packing lists, schedules, flights, transportation, and fundraising. As I started to pack and had the chance to catch my breath this weekend, I realized how little mental preparation I have done for the upcoming trip.

Thinking about it, I’m looking forward to the new experiences that branch outside of the contexts I’m comfortable in. In my three years at UIndy, I’ve assisted with many cases that came through our lab, both on recoveries and doing analyses. If this were a lab or an exhumation trip, I feel like I would be better prepared to tackle it as an extension of the work I already do here.

But this trip is different.

While I’m still packing the same list of things I would to work in the lab or on excavations, these will be the only familiar things with me in Texas. What we are doing is new – I think there’s only been one other team that has worked on the water stations. Where we are going is a mix of old and new – while the work is back in Brooks County, I expect we’ll spend a lot more time on the road than on previous exhumation trips here. For me, the biggest part will be the who – outside of my UIndy team members, everyone we interact with will be a new acquaintance. Although this would be the case regardless, since this is my first time with the Beyond Borders work, I think we’ll have a lot more interaction with them than on other types of trips.

I look forward to meeting all the people I’ve heard stories about when each team gets back from their trip. In some sense, I feel like I already know so much about some of them, without ever having met them. The one exception was when Sister Pam came to visit UIndy a couple years ago and we were able to talk with her over a potluck in our old lab. She was just as lively as I had heard. After that experience, I’m excited to meet all the other people I’ve been told about in just a few more days.

In the meantime, my week will be filled with the endless list of things to do before I go – organizing things from the end of the semester, making some progress on my thesis work, cleaning my apartment for the first time in four months, making sure I have everything packed that I’ll need, etc. Most importantly, I’ll be spending some time thinking about the work we’ll be doing, the people we’ll be meeting, and each of our roles in this bigger picture of the migrant death crisis. Internalizing that is the first step for me to approach it with a mind open to new experiences and learning more from them that I can incorporate into my daily life.



The Times, They Are a-Changin’

In just over a week (as I write this), I will be returning to South Texas with the UIndy team for my third humanitarian trip. It’s a crazy time of the year for me with lots of change; I recently started a new job, I will be leaving the job I have worked at for the entire time I have lived in Indianapolis, and I will be graduating from UIndy on Saturday! Amidst all this hectic and drastic change, I am also preparing myself for this upcoming trip to Texas. And once again, I find myself completely unsure of what to expect.

This trip is going to be completely unique from my previous two experiences in South Texas. Instead of our focus being on lab- or fieldwork (or both), we will be concentrating our efforts on a more holistic helping-hands approach, assisting the South Texas Human Rights center with any tasks that may arise. One of our main goals is to help build water stations for migrants crossing the harsh terrain of the Texas desert. This goal brings a whole new aspect to our work: helping the living. I have previously had a small taste of this when we spent a day volunteering at the respite center in McAllen in January 2017, but this time, a significant portion of our time will be spent helping those who are still attempting to cross the desert. I am not sure what to expect about the physical and emotional demands of this kind of work, but if my previous experiences tell me anything, it’s that our UIndy team will be able to handle anything that comes our way.

Another new aspect of this trip is the team itself. Haley and I (and, of course, Dr. Latham) are the only returning team members who have been to South Texas with UIndy. This time, we will have two “rookies,” as we always call them, Rachel and Angela. I am excited to be there to observe as they experience their first humanitarian trip with Beyond Borders and to see how their experiences differ from my own first experience in South Texas back in January 2017, especially as the goals of this trip will differ so greatly. I am also very excited that we will be returning to Brooks County, as I feel that this is “where it all began,” not only for me, but for the entire Beyond Borders project. It will be a really great experience to share Brooks County and the town of Falfurrias with our rookies!!

I am not sure what to expect on this upcoming trip, not only because our goals are so different this time, but also because I know better. As always, I will be expecting the unexpected. No matter how much planning I do, there is no way to predict what we will experience. One thing I do know, is that the experiences that this trip provides will be the perfect way to round out all of my experiences with the Beyond Borders team in South Texas and I couldn’t be more ready.