This heat is real.
The weather was good to us yesterday in the field. Clouds blocked the sun for most of the day, and so we were able to work until noon without the heat slowing us down. We weren’t so lucky today.
We arrive at the site every day around 5:45am to get a head start before the sun comes up. The humidity and accompanying mosquitoes are always around, but these factors don’t slow us down. Today, however, the clouds were scarce and the sun was fierce by 10:30am. Spending most of our time with our knees on the ground and our heads near the dirt, our immobile positions left us extremely vulnerable to the sun and it wasn’t long until our backs and arms began to cook. We quickly moved the tents we had over our quadrants to protect ourselves as we tediously troweled our trenches. With the tents overhead and our water bottles nearby, we were able to work efficiently and carefully in the rough environment. I moved from group to group to monitor and assist different teams of students. Sometimes I ended up helping for over half an hour without a break. It’s easy to lose track of time at the field, and I learned quickly after lunch that my carelessness had gotten the best of me.
After lunch, I started working on our quadrant again, shoveling and carrying buckets full of dirt as we continued our excavation. But I was only able to carry about two buckets before I knew that I wasn’t feeling quite right. I stepped off to the shade, chugged half of my bottle of water, and sat with some Baylor students under the tent. I knew I was likely sunburned and that I had worked a little too long. But I knew when to stop working to avoid heat exhaustion, and as I rested up, my brain began to work again and I really started thinking about this heat.
I looked at my water bottle and thought about how fortunate I was that I could refill it at will.
I looked up at the canopy over my head and thought about how fortunate I was that I could easily escape the sun’s brutality.
I looked towards our rental van and thought about how fortunate I was that I could go back to our hotel and take a cold shower after our work today.
This heat is real, and every day migrants are making the extremely real decision to brave the sun and fight their way through this environment for a better life, either for themselves or for their family. Many who have perished are found with only a small water bottle. I can’t imagine walking for more than half an hour in this environment with only that much water and without a constant source of shade. As we continue to work, I will make sure to let the environment constantly remind me of the bravery of these people that we are trying to identify. Every time I refill my bottle or step in the shade, I will remind myself of how lucky and thankful I am for my accessible family, for my safety, and for my good health. And I will never underestimate the danger of this environment or the courage of the migrants who fight this danger.