At last, this season of fieldwork in Falfurrias has come to a close. The time slipped by so quickly that it all seems like a haze. When I recall our time in the field I see a patchwork of new and old faces, I picture a sea of sand with an endless supply of buckets that need to be moved (think Sisyphus), and a blur of hands ready to pass a trowel or give a lift out of the hole. The heat tried to burn us down one by one, almost ending our work early by attrition. The heat didn’t stand a chance. What I remember the most was the dogged perseverance that compelled everyone in the field to finish. Instead of breaking us, the heat and pressure forged us into something great. Our work has changed us, and that is something I will never forget.
Our team is back in Indy now. We have slept in our own beds, cuddled our loved ones (look how sad Bell was without Ryan), and experienced some of the finer points of home. Home is good- it is safe, calming, and filled with the things and people we love. To use an old and tired cliché, home is where the heart is. While we consider ourselves home now, I believe that every one of us left a piece of our hearts in Falfurrias. Some part of us will always be at home in Fal.
I have mentioned to some people that I often feel like a tourist in this humanitarian crisis. I live nowhere near the border, and I travel down for two weeks in the summer to help. Once my time has passed, I have the luxury of returning to back to Indy. In Indy I don’t face the daily realities of people dying on my doorstep. I don’t see tragic news stories so often to become numb to them. I have the ability to literally distance myself from the situation, and yet I cannot. I now find myself over a thousand miles away with much of my heart left in Falfurrias.
I know now that I am not a tourist. I have made new friends and family, and became part of their community. I have lived in many places, but I have never felt as loved and welcomed as I did in south Texas. Every person in Falfurrias welcomed us with open arms (seriously, I have never gotten so many hugs in my life). It is an honor to be considered part of their community.
Though we are back in Indianapolis, our work continues. Hopefully our efforts will continue to shape policies surrounding the treatment of both the living and the dead. Ideally we would have never been in Texas- no one would have died under the scorching Texas sun and we would live comfortably as armchair anthropologists. In a perfect world people would die happy having lived a full life, not in the pursuit of happiness or in search of a better life. For now, I rest knowing that I am doing what I can to help. I will do everything in my power to ensure that each and every individual is identified and returned to their loved ones. Families will be reunited, and souls can rest in a place they consider home.