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Preparing for Falfurrias

As we continue to prepare for our trip, I start to feel more excited and anxious. It feels like time is passing so slowly since we started our weekly meetings and packing lists. Now we have everything to pack, checked all the boxes on lists, and now await our flight on January 3rd. Trying to decipher what I am most excited about is difficult. It feels almost wrong to be excited about a trip to go to a place where so many people are struggling to survive. They experience these harsh conditions everyday and yet, we only go for a week and have everything we could possibly need. I know that a positive mindset is of the utmost importance for this trip, so as I reflect, I am trying to remind myself that there will be exciting times ahead. I am excited to experience a new place and learn more about a culture other than my own. I am excited to create new relationships and grow closer with my team. I know I will learn new technical skills that I will use in my future career and create memories I will never forget. I am so thankful for this opportunity and am anxiously waiting for our arrival to Falfurrias.  

I anticipate we will face many challenges, so many I am sure I can’t even think of them all. I know there will be tasks that I don’t anticipate being a challenge, but turn out to be extremely difficult. The weather will be slightly in our favor since we are traveling in January; however, you never know what Mother Nature has in store for us. I can anticipate physical pain, soreness, blisters, cuts, and thorns. I can anticipate early mornings, long days, and exhaustion. What I cannot completely anticipate are the mental strains of this trip. I have read previous blog posts, had conversations with trip alumni, read articles, and attended our weekly preparation meetings. I know the advice and tips I have been told, but will I actually know what to expect with just that little bit of information? I do not think I will and that creates a daunting task. This trip does not feel like a step outside of my comfort zone, but more like miles outside of it. 

I hope this trip comes with lots of self reflection because it is not one of my strong suits. I know I can be self aware, but struggle to put it into words to express. I know I will be changed for the better because of this trip. As I continue to reflect, I keep the phrase “change is good” in the back of my mind. I will come back as a better version of myself. Hopefully, someone who is even more appreciative of the life I have now, someone who is open to all new possibilities, and someone who is not afraid of the challenges ahead. Our trip to Falfurrias will be the hardest challenge I have yet to face in my adult life. I am determined to squeeze out every ounce of knowledge and experience possible. The majority of this reflection is about me. Right now, it is hard for me to think about anything else because there is so much I don’t know. I know that this experience is not about me, but I don’t know exactly what it will all be about, so thinking about myself and my own anxieties is much of what I do now as I await our departure. I hope Falfurrias can teach me how to focus on the bigger picture and look past my own worries. Our goal is to help others, and learning and discovering myself is just an added bonus.


Day 6: The End

Today marked our last day of work in Falfurrias for this season.

We began early as usual, meeting at the South Texas Human Rights Center at 7:30. Our goal for today was to finish the ranch we started yesterday. It was fairly small in comparison to other ranches in the area, so we felt that if we finished the periphery, we would be able to officially clear the ranch as of right now. Our team, Arianna, Selina, Eddie, Deputy White, and Byron loaded into our various vehicles and headed to the ranch gates.

In order to reach our goal, we split up into two teams, each taking a leg of the periphery. I went along with Megan, Dr. Latham, Eddie, and Bryon and we searched the northern border.  Alba and Holley went with Deputy White, Arianna, and Selina and searched the west border.

Megan and I waiting to take off in the back of Eddie's truck.
Megan and I waiting to take off in the back of Eddie’s truck.

Different from yesterday, we were able bring vehicles onto the property, so we were able to have a place to keep our gear as we were searching. This lightened the load we had to carry on our backs as we were navigating the brush, and allowed us to more easily search for clearings or paths going off the main road.

We systematically made our way around the ranch, looking for any signs of human activity. We had no finds, not even trash, until we were almost done for the day. Dr. Latham and Megan found a rest area with shade, new trash, socks, a can opener, and more. They found their way back to the truck to tell Eddie, and then the three of us went back to take coordinates of the area.

Can opener found in the rest area.
Can opener found in the rest area.

During this excursion, Eddie was trying to get in touch with the owners of the ranch next door to try to get us on the property to search for Byron’s cousin. We met up with the other team, and decided that we were able to say with as much certainty as possible that the ranch was clear. So we headed back to the gate. Eddie was still trying to reach the ranch owners, so we all piled into the minivan to soak up as much air conditioning as possible.

Tried to take a picture then Deputy White goes "Give me a six!"
Tried to take a picture then Deputy White goes “Give me a six!”

After about a half hour, Eddie still couldn’t get ahold of the owners, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the center. There, we ate a small lunch and sat and talked for a while. Byron shared a little of his story of how he got to the US, which was incredibly eye opening for all of us.

We wrapped up our conversations, made plans for dinner, and departed. At the hotel, we all jumped in the pool for a minute (apparently ticks don’t like chlorine), then showered and started to pack.

We were lucky enough to have everyone join us for our last dinner in Falfurrias! We went to Taqueria Jalisco, which is right down the road from our hotel. We ate great food, swapped stories, and decompressed from the week we had spent together.

Dinner party!
Dinner party!

I am so thankful we were able to spend just a little more time all together, giving our trip a tiny sense of finality, even though we know the work will never be finished.


Day 11: Homeward Bound

Group photo in front of the Alamo.Today we made our way from Texas back to Indiana.  We are all tired, sore and sick with head colds. But we decided to make a detour in San Antonio before going to the airport. We stopped briefly at the Alamo and had lunch nearby.  We arrived home just before a big ice storm is set to hit the area.  Just because we are home, doesn’t mean the blog will stop! We still have a lot to tell you about our trip and will be adding posts and reflections over the next week or so. Thank you for reading about our work in Texas!