All posts by Olivia Messenger

Footprints in the Sand, Grass, and Dirt

Being back home is great but weird. I love being back with my dog and in my own bed, but I wish I was still in Texas. Being in Falfurrias, I felt like I had a purpose every day. I woke up with a goal and pushed myself mentally, physically, and emotionally to try to achieve that goal. Back in Indy, I haven’t had the same feelings. The sense of community in Falfurrias is peaceful and close-knit, whereas it’s very easy to get lost in the hubbub of everyday life in a city as big as Indianapolis.

Beyond Borders May 2022 Team at the border wall

Even though this was my second trip with the Beyond Borders team, I still learned and grew so much over the week. I learned more about myself and what I want to devote my life to. I learned how I can push past physical and mental barriers. I learned a lot about my teammates and formed lifelong memories and stronger friendships. I grew as an individual. My perspective on the world has changed yet again. I want to work towards a future where people can live in peace and be reunited with their loved ones, and I want to help as many people as possible.

Me and Jordan

Being in classes and on campus every day, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. We tend to get so caught up in our own lives that we don’t always realize the privilege we have. I have a home to go back to, food to eat, and the ability to further my education. Unfortunately, this is not true for so many people in the world. I know that a world without conflict will never happen, but I wish innocent lives were not being dragged into disagreements between the more privileged. Everyone should feel safe in their home, not be forced to risk their lives in order to survive.

Don and Ray

I wish we lived in a world where the Beyond Borders team didn’t need to exist, and that people like Don, Eddie, and the Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery Team didn’t have to do the work that they do. But, seeing the passion they have for what they do gives me hope that there are more people like them out there, and it is only a matter of time until their voices are heard. Working with Don and Ray on this trip was amazing. They have so much knowledge that they are more than willing to share, and they are truly inspirational individuals. I wish we had gotten to work with Eddie, too, but hopefully, the future Beyond Borders teams will get to catch up with him and everything he does.

Don doing some Don stuff

I wouldn’t have changed anything about this trip. The team was amazing, and we’ve formed a bond that cannot be broken. Being with people you can have fun with is great, but it’s the ones you can show vulnerability in front of that really matter, and that’s what we found on this trip. No one likes to be weak, but with a team of strong individuals behind you, anything is possible. I’m excited to see where the future takes my fellow teammates, as I know they will go on to do amazing things.

I am forever grateful to Dr. Latham for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of the Beyond Borders team. The memories I make, experiences I have, and knowledge I gain with the team will stay with me for a lifetime. I hope I will get to see Don, Ray, Eddie, and the rest of the guys on the Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery Team in the future. I know I will follow along with them as they continue with the incredible work that they do.

One of my favorite photos
The team before our very first search day. Still bright-eyed and full of energy

~ Olivia

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Bittersweet

Izzy and her new Whataburger bag

The day started even earlier than normal. We wanted to get on the road early, so we had some time to explore San Antonio and get used to city living again before our flights. We had one last breakfast at Whataburger before the last leg of our journey began.

Everyone slept in some interesting and painful positions in the minivan. Like any true friend, I made sure to take lots of embarrassing pictures for future blackmail. Unfortunately, I was threatened with revenge if I posted any here, but just know exhaustion and minivans are not conducive to comfortable nap positions.

Dr. Latham showing off her selfie skills at the Alamo

Once we got to San Antonio, we explored the Alamo for a couple of minutes. There were many more people and activities compared to our visit in January. I really enjoyed seeing all of the plants, and I’ve decided I need to grow a palm tree in Indiana. Wish me luck!

Once we were finished with the Alamo, we walked along the Riverwalk to do some shopping and exploring. We spent way too much money on souvenirs, but how could we resist so many cool things? We watched some baby ducklings for a minute and realized that we are Dr. Latham’s ducklings. We follow her just like the ducklings follow their mother duck.

Finally, we had to get to the airport. We got through security relatively unscathed, and no snacks had to be investigated this time! After a final Tex-Mex meal at Rosario’s, we got on our first flight to Dallas, where we had to speedwalk through the airport to make our connecting flight. I’m sure we were a sight to see with Izzy, Jordan, and I wearing huge matching crewnecks and Austin wearing a bright red, white, and blue hoodie. But, we made it just in time!

Three super cool girls in their matching crewnecks

Our last flight was a little bumpy (Jordan was not a fan), but it was nothing compared to the jostling we experienced when offroading in Sandy. Luckily, everything smoothed out for the landing, and after a long wait for our bags, we were finally done.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to end; it’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’m glad to be home, but, on the other, I’m sad the trip is over, and I want to go back. After one final team hug, another Beyond Borders trip has come to a close.

One last selfie with Don

~ Olivia

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Purposefully Wandering

Day Three Photo (with Ray)
Morning scratches for Dusty

Day three started with a whimper. Or, more like whimpers. Getting out of bed was a challenge. Exhaustion and soreness have sunk in. Dr. Latham wasn’t kidding when she said day three is always the hardest. Although, I have to say this trip’s day three was more challenging than the trip in January. After some mental pep talks and lots of groans and moans from everyone, we went to breakfast to meet up with Don and Ray(!). Dr. Latham, Izzy, and I met Ray on the previous trip, but this was the first meeting for Jordan and Austin. He’s just at sassy as ever, and still a crucial team member of Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery.

Jordan and Austin searching the brush

We headed back to the same area we searched yesterday to continue searching for the missing migrant. We wanted to do our due diligence to cover as much land as possible to try to find him. Not only for our own peace of mind but to be able to tell the family that we’ve done as much as we can to try to find their missing loved one.

Luckily, Ray had his truck, so we didn’t have to test Sandy’s off-road capabilities again (even though she did amazing yesterday). Once we got to our location, we geared up and started our line search. We made sure to carry even more water than yesterday. Not even 30 feet in, I almost stepped on a very angry rattlesnake. Not the way I wanted my day to start, but it could only get better. I think.

Don and Ray taking a break

During our search, we found some evidence of migrant activity in the area like trash, water bottles, and old clothes. There is no way of knowing if it belongs to our missing person or exactly what time frame it comes from, but it does indicate a possible route migrants are taking. Atypically, the path didn’t follow a direct north/south direction or a landmark like a road, pipeline or powerlines but jumped between the MOTs in a general north(ish) direction.

We covered a lot of ground today (even more than yesterday), but eventually, the heat caught up with us. I was sweating in places I didn’t know I could sweat. Jordan had to cut a chunk of hair that wouldn’t come unstuck from her shirt button. We were constantly eating Jolly Ranchers to try to get a little pep in our step and walking through what I like to call “spiky danger grass” that really liked to stab you. Izzy and Austin ran into a herd of javelinas in a MOT (they very nicely ran away). The physical challanges we faced while only walking part of the day with the proper safety equipment really brings persepctive to what the migrants face on their journey and why so many end up in a distressed situation in the brush.

Izzy driving the Uber to pick everyone up

On the final stretch, Izzy, Jordan, and I made it back to the vehicles first and drove Ray’s ginormous truck to pick everyone else up. After a final bumpy ride, we were reunited with Sandy and ready to get back to the hotel. While it is unfortunate and upsetting that we didn’t find who and what we were looking for, I know we did as much as we could. All we can hope is that he recovered and was able to keep moving to safety.

Olivia

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