Category Archives: Snapshots

Random things about us

Traveling to Falfurrias

We’ve made it to Texas!  Starting with an early morning wake up, we all made it through security in Indianapolis with only two of our bags being checked (TSA questioned my bag full of quarters for laundry but after a quick check we were good to go). The rest of the trip went off without a hitch.  We flew from Indianapolis to Dallas, and then from there to San Antonio.  

The team in the Indianapolis Airport ready to head to Texas.  In the front row is Hannah, and behind her from left to right is Ella, Claire, Dr. Latham, and Chastidy.
In the airport ready to go!

For some of us this is our first time traveling to Texas, while others have been before and can give a little more insight into what we can look forward to in the next week.  I can tell we’re all excited to finally be on our way. After several weeks of discussing and reading about what we’ll be doing we’re all anxious to begin, and our cross-country journey was the first obstacle in our way.  We landed in San Antonio and after a very delicious lunch at Torchy’s Tacos took the 2 and a half hour drive to Falfurrias.  Honestly the hardest part of our drive was playing tetris to fit all of our luggage into the minivan.  We began our drive through San Antonio and into the countryside, passing Mexican restaurants, ranches, and oil refineries.  

Hannah, Claire, and Chastidy smile as they wait for their lunch in San Antonio
Just landed in Texas and ready for tacos!

As much as I’m struck by how different Texas is, it still feels eerily similar to my own home thousands of miles away.  Large expanses of trees, with tiny little towns sprinkled throughout and populated by family-owned restaurants, churches, and the occasional gas station.  The food the restaurants serve is different and the trees are a lot different here, but it still has the same feeling of small town America that is surprisingly similar to how I grew up.  My hometown is even about the same size as Falfurrias, it’s been really interesting to really see first person just how much variety can exist in one country.  Driving into Falfurrias felt climactic.  We’ve been preparing so much and it feels surreal that we are actually here now.  Deputy Don White joined us for a preliminary meeting and dinner at Whataburger, where we talked a little more about the structure of Falfurrias and the work we’ll be doing this week.  

Deputy Don White, Hannah, Ella, Chastidy, and Claire sit in a circle discussing what they should expect out in the field.
Deputy Don White explains to the team what they should expect and what to look out for

It was at this point that I realized that we begin working tomorrow, and while that excites me it also scares me a little bit.  So, after a late night run to the grocery store for food and supplies, and then another tour of Falfurrias as we searched different gas stations for a Styrofoam cooler, we’ve settled down for the night to prep for our first day.  Prepping for our first day includes double checking the batteries in the camera, making sure the walkie talkies work, and triple checking our field bags to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything that could be important out in the field.  I think the worst part of a new experience is the anticipation beforehand, so I’m ready to start the day tomorrow.


Preparing for a New Experience

I packed my bags last week, and I felt the need to repack them again yesterday. I keep wondering if I am missing something or if there is something I did not anticipate. I am looking forward to the heat, but I also know the heat might be a challenge for me too. I spent three years living in Palm Desert, California when I was little. In the desert, the temperature could easily reach a hundred degrees. Then for the rest of my childhood, I lived in Southern California near the ocean which was tended to be warm most days. After being in Indiana for over a year, I do miss the heat. I might regret saying so because the Texas heat is so different. Texas weather may be milder this time of year, but with the high humidity, this heat will be vastly different from the dry heat of the desert.

With my uncertainty of the Texas weather, I wonder if I am packing the right clothes. Honestly, I am struggling more with overpacking. Differentiating what is needed versus what is unnecessary has never been my strong suit. I am the type of person to pack too much because of a “just in case” mentality. Then again, as I talk to the team about what their suitcases looks like, I find myself adding to my already mile long packing list. I will overpack my field bag. I can almost guarantee it. I originally thought I would use a small field pack, but yesterday I decided to pack my field pack to see how everything fits. I realized quickly that my pack was barely able to hold everything, leaving extraordinarily little room for anything else. I should be grateful that I always carry too much because my field pack feels light in comparison to my school bag. Yet, after multiple hours of walking through the unforgiving Texas landscape, I am not sure if I will feel the same way.

Packing considerations aside, I am excited to truly experience South Texas. I have spent a grand total of 3 days in the state of Texas before this trip. All three days were spent close to Dallas, which is quite different from the area that the team will experience. Growing up in a big state, I understand how different areas can have so much to offer culturally. The ability to experience the unique aspects of the area the team will be working in will be extremely influential. I will be exposed to many new perspectives and experiences that will provide an irreplaceable learning experience. Not only can I learn about the firsthand experiences of those that are working in South Texas, but I can learn from those that have been affected by this crisis. Our team will be able to contribute to the work being done in South Texas and, in the process, we can learn about how approaches to a humanitarian crisis differ. Understanding the nuances of humanitarian work, is one of the most important educational opportunities I will encounter on this trip.


When Moments Become Memories

My son was assigned a book to read in his English class and asked me to read it with him. It was called “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. What started as an effort to bond and find conversation with my son ended as a reflective experience, with many connections to the Beyond Borders Team and our work in the Texas borderlands. A major theme of the book focuses on memories. The characters in the book have none. There is no memory of the past, of other places or other experiences. Each person lives and believes there is only now. Memories are essential for growth and understanding. Our memories allow us to do well in school, to get everything we need at the grocery store, to drive a car, care for ourselves, and so much more. Our memories allow us to grow as humans and our memories allow us to avoid mistakes. These trips create core memories for the team that benefit them professionally and emotionally. With each trip I see how the team members mature in so many ways.

Team member Justin helping Dr. Latham dig
My memory from our first mission to Brooks County in 2013. Teamwork exemplified as Justin held my arm so I didn’t fall into the area I was excavating.

Our memories also hold our emotions. The Giver tells us that life is not complete without the good and the bad experiences. That is the irony of these trips. The team is purposely put in a terrible experience. It’s one in which death, despair, struggle and questioning is all around us. “He knew that there was no quick comfort for emotions like those. They were deeper and they did not need to be told. They were felt.” This blog is a way for the team to communicate their experiences and their emotions, but in reality, readers will never feel what we feel. And we will never feel what it feels like to be someone forced to cross into the US through clandestine paths. Yet, through these bad emotions and experiences, the memories are good. Team members leave with a sense of confidence in their abilities and in what they accomplished.

Dr. Latham analyzing skeletal remains
photo by the Houston Chronicle — My memory from our first lab mission to TX State University in 2015. We worked directly on skeletal analysis to aid in identification efforts.

That is because we tend to think of memories as absolute records of the past. But in fact, our memories evolve as we grow and change. They are colored by the reflection of who we are today. Often our memories are not what actually happened, but what we need to remember to support who we are today. That means our memories and experiences allow us to change our minds and our perspectives. Not because we were wrong, but because we are evolving and growing. In The Giver, Jonas longed for choice. Living in the now means accepting everything as it is. With memory comes choices and decisions. The decision facing Beyond Borders Team members is what they will do with the memories and experiences from their trip.

Team members paint AGUA on barrels
My memory from our first mission working with The South Texas Human Rights Center in 2015. Team members Justin and Amanda prep water barrels for us to place on migrant routes.

I saw a quote by another author that seems fitting here in talking about decisions in how you approach situations. “Sympathy is easy because it comes from a position of power. Empathy is getting down on your knees and looking someone else in the eye, and realizing that you could be them, and that all that separates you is luck.” -Dennis Lahane 

Team members with Deputy White on a search
My memory from our first search & recovery mission working with Deputy White in 2018. Team members are planning how to proceed with search the area.

Thank you for following us and sharing our journey.