Category Archives: Snapshots

Random things about us

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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A Busy “Rest Day”

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Our team at the wall

Today, we got to sleep in for 30 extra minutes… and we still left the lights off for longer than usual. A slugglish morning was quickly halted by a change of plans. Today emphasized the team motto of “expect the unexpected” as our plans changed within 15 minutes of departure. Instead of our original plan to assist the South Texas Human Rights Center with water stations, we loaded into Sandy and headed for the border. We are sad we won’t be able to see Eddie this trip, but know we will see him the next time the team is in town. Surprisingly, it’s a bout 1.5 hours from Falfurrias to the actual border. A nice long car ride for team bonding and the Texas playlist motivating us through it all. The landscape slowly changed from ranch land to urban civilization. I do have to include that I heard Dr. Latham’s first evil laugh because for the first time in my life, I said the words “I like Texas”.

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Border wall

As billboards and shops changed from English to Spanish, we pulled off the main road to avoid accidentally going into Mexico (if only we brought our passports!). We walked up close and personal to the wall, where we could see ladders and personal effects of those who crossed. In some areas, handprints and slide marks were visible on the metal. The areas where the fencing seems shorter was accompanied by a steep drop on the opposite side and layers of barbed wire. Buildings in Mexico were clearly visible in the distance. We prepared to be interrogated by border patrol as you are not supposed to be that close, so we prepared to play our “tourist students” card as we saw a border patrol vehicle speeding towards us. I think it was the matching outfits, strategically placed cameras, and lighter than average skin tone that signaled to border patrol that we “weren’t a threat”. They sped past us and gave the cordial Texas wave. Not being questioned and chased away was a first for Dr. Latham in her ten years of trips here!

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Before
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After!
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Agua fresca de piña

We returned to Sandy to head back to Falfurrias. On the way, we stopped for some lunch. I wish I could send tamales to you as you read this blog because they were absolutely fantastic. My teammates were introduced to aguas frescas and horchata that went right to your heart. I described my pineapple agua fresca as “taking one sip will make you feel like there’s nothing wrong in the world”. Once back in Falfurrias and buried under the weight of our food babies, we were able to relax for a bit to wait for an updated plan. [and by wait, I mean we all took a nap to ease our tamales] We awoke to Don and Dr. Latham at our door ready to bring us for more adventuring.

We visited the Brooks County Department of Corrections to view their newly updated mobile morgue. Don taught us about the impound lot where the morgue was found and said that the vehicles found there were usually a result of drug or human trafficking.

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Brooks County mobile morgue
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The girls on the confidence course

We returned to the hotel and passed the time until we met with Don, Ray, and some friends from Texas State to enjoy a cook out together. Don took us on a tour of the ranch and of course, taught us more along the way. This man knows SO much! We are all very thankful to hear any and every piece of knowledge he gives us, even if he gives us some *smart* remarks along the way. On our tour, we spotted a “confidence” course that we decided we had to try. Once we had climbed most of the way, the realization of how high up we were hit hard. I rolled into the net just to have the experience, but we all climbed down. My confidence was less than built up! It was very, very fun though. We continued our tour and learned how migrants may use pipelines and powerlines to guide them on their journeys. Many spots we stopped Don stepped out to look for possible tracks and check if there was any waters left in the water stations from migrants.

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The only picture I could take of my meal

We returned to their homebase, and Ray started up the grill. It is always fun to get to unwind and talk to others who have such different experiences from your own. The meal was SO GOOD!!!!! Many laughs and good conversations were shared.

Tomorrow, we plan to get right back to searching. A “day off” was good, but can really make you feel guilty at times because you feel you’re not making any strides towards your goals. It has been a lot of hard work, and we have learned so much. Yet, the differences in the hours we work now versus my last trip in January are prominent and are very much in the back of my mind each day. It is important to keep perspective, though. We are battling Texas heat, attempting to stay as hydrated as possible, and trying to keep everyone safe and healthy. Texas is a more than fair opponent to face. We strive to stay positive and do as much as we can while we are able. All in all, it was a great day with even better people.

Izzy

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Ladders on a fence line to prevent damage to the fence
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What was left after we ate pounds of tamales
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Don giving us the ride along tour of the ranch
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Ladders on the US side of the border wall
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A shooting range on the ranch
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Austin takes on the confidence course
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Me in the net of the confidence course
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Jordan leaving Olivia and I at a more reasonable height
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Powerlines used as guides
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Don examining a water jug left behind in the water station
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Our trusty steed, Sandy
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Jordan contemplating pushing Olivia into the pond
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Austin’s new friend that I did not get anywhere close to
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Don leading us to a new learning experience
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The impound lot in Brooks Co
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Austin playing his role as “student tourist” as border patrol sped to check us out
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The entrance into Mexico (green)
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Barbed wire on the Mexico side of the border wall
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Elements left at the border wall
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