Less than a week already! I am so thankful to have been chosen to be on this team once again. In my last blog post, I wrote about leaving Texas feeling like I was leaving with unfinished business, and I have thought about that since that day. The work done by the UIndy Beyond Borders Team is something I am so grateful to be a part of, and I am very ready to get back to work.
My last pretrip post was more about packing and food and very superficial things, simply because I didn’t have the experience or knowledge to even want to speak on what the next week would entail. Now, I am honestly worried about much different things. Of course, I still worry about packing the right elements for this trip. Texas heat in May is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been a part of many band camps in the Louisiana heat, and I am still worried about the heat. I’ve been trying to recall any advice from old coaches of how to keep cool, how to best stay hydrated, and how to fight off the swarms of mosquitos. I have not forgotten the hazards of hidden cacti and everything being sharp, but my biggest worry is rooted in the emotional perils that come with this work.
In January, we mostly encountered evidence of people passing through the areas we were searching, whether that was as recent as the night before or as long ago as us finding fully rusted cans as the evidence. We do this work to try and bring closure to the families who may have lost someone on this dangerous journey. After the trip in January, I feel as though I am so much closer to this cause than ever before. It’s very easy when working to compartmentalize the emotional and harder parts of the job, but I know this trip will impact me harder than ever before. Being more knowledgeable of the humanitarian crisis occurring at the US-Mexico border makes every step you take to find someone’s loved ones, to give help to those in need, to educate your community mean so much more than it ever had before. The more I learn about it, whether that is through reading about it, hearing someone’s personal account, or talking to those also involved in this work, the more I feel motivated to do everything in my power to help those affected by this crisis.
I’m looking forward to seeing Eddie and Don and everyone else who we worked with previously. By the end of the trip, I considered everyone a friend on top of being a teacher, a leader, and some of the most amazing people I’d ever met. Our team this May is made up of Dr. Latham, myself, Olivia, Jordan, and Austin. I am excited to see how we grow over this trip not only as teammates but friends as well.
It is currently Christmas Day, and as I am among family – laughing, eating, and opening presents – it is hard to believe that in a week and a day I will be in Texas to start this grand adventure. I still need to get some last-minute supplies before I go, and I am beginning to think more about what is to come. I am both nervous and excited. Dr. Latham has done all she can to prepare us before we leave but I am still thinking that there is an element of the unexpected which lies ahead. We have been told that there will be 10 -days of digging – but I have never had to endure something like that before. We have been told that the weather will be unpredictable – but how will we adapt? We have been told that what we see may be sad or emotional – but how will I cope? We have been told that this experience is life changing – but how will it change my life? These are things that we cannot truly prepare for – but I have always been a fan of the unexpected.
I think that a big theme of this trip for me, and something that I am prepared to learn more about, will be the immigration aspect of what we are doing and why we are doing it. I am an immigrant, having lived in the United States since I was 6 years old. My family and I still do not have US citizenship. We are currently here on green cards, which took my family 10 years of lawyers, travelling to US embassies in Canada, and upwards of $100,000 to obtain. Trying to become established in another country is not easy or cheap, especially the United States. When I think of our situation versus someone from South America seeking refuge in the United States, our situations are quite different. When we moved to the US, my dad already had a job waiting here for him. We had the money to afford the insane immigration and lawyers fees to do it legally. Obtaining Visa after Visa, until we became eligible to apply for green cards. We were not fleeing violence or corruption of our home country. We did not come here out of fear, but out of opportunity.
I am ready to see the other side of immigration in the United States. It is something that I am very passionate about, and it is something I have always wanted to get involved in. I really hope that we have a chance to visit the Humanitarian Respite Center, where Dr. Latham has said that hundreds of people filter through every day after arriving to the United States. I would love to help out as much as I can with that side of things, as well as with the forensic work that we will be doing while we are in Texas. I count myself lucky for the opportunities I have had since coming to the United States but I really want to understand that it can be so different and it can be so unfair.
Which is why I am so happy to have the opportunity to travel to Texas in the first place. This trip is special to me because I am going to get to learn more about what I love to do and what I want to make a career out of, and because I will have the opportunity to be more involved in an issue that I have always been passionate about. I am nervous as this is the first forensic archaeological field work that I will be doing. I want to do the best that I can in order to bring what little justice there is to the people who have not succeeded while crossing the border. I hope that they will all eventually be returned to their families and be laid to rest in peace. I am very excited to play a part in that.