The first part of our journey today began with a four-hour drive to Falfurrias (with the bad weather it actually took closer to five). While I’ve heard about how hot and dry this part of the state can be, it was instead overcast and rainy most of our drive south. Once we arrived to our hotel, we stopped for lunch at an unlikely place for tacos, a gas station. While I was nervous at first, the tacos were actually delicious and the tortillas there were hand made, exceeding my gas station expectations.
After lunch we made our way to Sister Pam’s apartment. It was wonderful to get to see her again and catch-up on what she’s been up to. After working at the South Texas Human Rights Center for a year and a half, she’s now been focusing on helping at the Humanitarian Respite Center at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Another way in which she’s been helping with this humanitarian endeavor is by creating bags made out of T-shirts. Before we left Indianapolis, our program had donated over 20 shirts for this project. Today we were able to help Sister Pam make the bags while chatting about what was new with each of us. These bags are created by tying the ends of the shirts together and cutting off the sleeves and neckline to create the handles of the bag. The purpose of these bags is for families to be able to store clothes, personal items, food, and water as they continue on their path after their time at the respite center. While they’re usually given plastic bags, these bags made from T-shirts are much sturdier and hold more items. I was happy to be able to help make the journey for these individuals a little easier by making a few bags. Hopefully, we’ll be able to create more bags and donate them in the future.
Once we finished making the T-shirt bags, we watched a documentary that was made 2 years ago called, The Real Death Valley. It’s a really great documentary highlighting some of the issues surrounding this humanitarian crisis and shows some of the excavations that the team from UIndy has participated in. After discussing the film for a bit, we said our good byes and headed to Stickland’s for dinner. We had some delicious Southern and Mexican food, as well as some tasty pie. While most our day consisted of traveling, it was really rewarding being able to create bags that will be helpful to migrants on their journey, as well as re-connect with Sister Pam. Hopefully, the rain ceases by tomorrow and doesn’t inhibit our next adventure to map the cemeteries tomorrow.
Today was our last full day at Texas State University. We powered through today and finished three whole skeletal analyses. At this point, our team and the Texas State Team have collectively met our goal for the week and tomorrow we will surpass it. We’re feeling pretty accomplished right now. Our success was mostly due to our amazing teamwork. We had a good routine that we had perfected throughout the week. On days when we did not have any other events planned, we were able to do about three cases a day. To give you some perspective, back at the Archeology and Forensics Laboratory, it takes several weeks to finish one forensic case. Of course, the students have classes, TAing and other responsibilities to do in between working on cases. The professors have even more to do on a daily basis, so doing this many cases at once is amazing. Our days here at Texas State have been both exhilarating and tiring.
Tomorrow we only have a half day at the Osteological Research and Processing Laboratory. We will probably be doing another case or two if we can. In the afternoon, we will pack up and head to Houston where we will be participating in Missing Harris County Day on Saturday as volunteers. We will be helping enter information into missing persons databases, taking family reference DNA samples, and possibly helping to collect information from family members with missing loved ones. I am excited to be participating in this event and helping with this effort.
Tonight we went over to Dr. Kate Spradley’s house for a small party. We got a chance to hang out with all our Texas State friends, which was nice. When we’re in the lab, we are focused on our work and don’t have a lot of time to just chit-chat. At the party, we had the most amazing tacos and really great pineapple salsa. I have had so many tacos since I’ve been here. We probably have tacos at least twice a day, but they’ve been a different type every time. Texas is definitely the place for good tacos.
Now that we’re at the end of this leg of our journey, I’m looking forward to Houston and Falfurrias, but I know I’m going to miss Texas State. Everyone at Texas State has been so friendly and welcoming. They are motivated and hard workers and I had a great time collaborating with them. Luckily, Dr. Spradley and Dr. Gocha, will also be volunteering at Missing Harris County Day, so I’ll get to see our friends again. I can’t wait to continue on our adventure tomorrow.
We are not rock stars. Sometimes, though, the long hours of lab work and lack of sleep make us feel like we are. There are a few things that keep us going every day; passion, coffee, and sometimes a good song. We have been working hard at Texas State University for the last few days creating biological profiles. Let me give you a little glimpse into how we kick off every day.