After We Are Home

I’ve been home now for a little while, and everything seems out of place.  I was only gone for a week, but coming home to my apartment and seeing everything exactly how I left it before I headed to the airport felt very weird.  While the week went by fast it was so full of activity and new experiences that it felt more like a month than a week.  Before heading to Texas I had a lot of hopes and wants, but I don’t think I fully knew what I was in for.  I hoped that we would find someone and be able to do a recovery, I hoped that I would be able to handle the tough days full of walking in rough terrain, and I hoped that I would gain something from the trip that I wouldn’t be able to in other places.  Luckily all of my hopes came true, though not necessarily in the ways I expected.  We were able to make three recoveries, I definitely made it through all of our search days (though I was quite sore after a few of them), and I’ve learned so much from all of our experiences.  

Two women with backpacks walking in grass covered area
Claire and Ella in Line Search Formation
Hannah, Claire, Chastidy, and Ella clear dirt with trowels from an area
The team working to clear dirt from the search area

Going in I knew it was going to be tough, but I figured most of the difficulties would come from the physical work we would be doing.  Dr. Latham warned us about the emotional toll this work can have on people and while I was cognizant of this, I thought I would be able to deal with it more efficiently than I did.  While we were in Texas there isn’t much time to process what you are doing.  We wake up, go to breakfast, finish packing our field bags and then we’re out the door heading to our next location.  When we get done its shower time, dinner, a debrief with Dr. Latham and then looking through the pictures from the day and we’re off to bed.  It wasn’t until I got home and could finally lay down in my own bed that I really thought about what we had done this past week.  Three families will now have more closure, and be able to bury more of their relatives, even though we didn’t find every skeletal element we found more and impacted those three families in a positive way.  

The unity team walking through grass back to the truck and jeep
Heading back to the cars after a long day in the field
Ray and Don lean against a tree branch
Don and Ray supervising our work

Before I went to Texas I was thinking very selfishly.  I was hoping I would find something more so because then I could say I found something, and I wasn’t thinking about the impact it would have on others.  I was thinking it would be cool to go to a different state and get to see parts of their culture that I haven’t experienced.  Now that I’ve returned home, I think back to our trip to the Don Pedro Jaramillo shrine and reading the heartbreaking letters left for him, and finding socks out in the middle of the brush with little hearts on them or seeing your favorite snack wrappers littering the ground around a tree out in the middle of nowhere.  There are so many aspects of the trip that will stick with me forever, reminding me of how other people live and why we make the trip down to help.  I never would have guessed just how much work we would be able to accomplish in a week, and as tired as I am I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I’m so proud of my teammates and I for using our knowledge to do something good and productive, and I’m incredibly grateful to have gotten to work with Ray and Don who taught us so much, not only about the work we were doing but about how to be a good person and to use your skills to help others.  I’ll never forget our hotel breakfast meetings, flying an infrared drone on the side of the road, playing with Socks during our water breaks and getting teased by Ray and Don.  Most of all, I’ll always remember the work we did and what we were able to accomplish together.  

Taking a break to give some pets to Socks.
Taking a break to give some pets to Socks.
Five women stand next to each other in a field
2024 UIndy Beyond Borders team