Before embarking on this trip to South Texas I’ve been asked countless times why I’m going and what I’ll be doing. While I have prepared answers for these inquiries, I’m also acutely aware that they do not truly reflect the variety and depth of work and emotions I will be facing. It’s simple to tell people I will be assisting the UIndy forensics team at Sacred Heart Cemetery in the exhumation of unidentified migrants, it will be quite another thing when I’m there experiencing the heat, smells, sore muscles, and high emotions. I can tell people I will be helping at the South Texas Humans Right Center, but once I’m there in the thick of the crisis and tensions I will have a new perspective of and connection to the situation at our border. If I’m talking to families who have missing loved ones or those who may soon be reunited, I cannot imagine the flood of emotions I will experience. I believe this is not a trip I can truly prepare for, because the actuality will be far different than any expectations I can form. For me, this is both incredibly exciting and terrifying. I look forward to the flexible, anything-can-happen nature of this work but also worry about my in-the-moment reactions. For these reasons I have focused on the practicalities of making sure I have what I need and not worrying about all the things I cannot control.
I am traveling with the team as an undergraduate cultural anthropology student. Although I have traveled abroad and been immersed in other cultures before, it has never been in the context of field work and active participant observation. Nor have I ever been involved with crisis response. This is a unique opportunity that I am so thankful to have been offered. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out and what people and situations we encounter. Taking jottings through the day and typing up field notes in the evening will also be a new experience that I will have to learn to balance with our demanding schedule. However, I look forward to the reflection and insight I can gain through an observant, focused directive.
Amidst all the emotion and trials I will face I am thankful to be apart of such an amazing, dedicated, and experienced team. It’s exciting to be apart of an important effort and have the chance to offer whatever assistance and insight I may be able to. I can only go in with an open heart and mind to embrace whatever happens, offer help when I can, and observe and record my experiences in the hope that my effort can make some small difference.