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Literal and emotional navigation

We just got back from our 5 day, 26 mile long trek on the Continental Divide Trail in the Chihuahuan Desert, and are now at the KOA campground. I was the navigator on this trek, meaning I was almost always at the front with my very ‘detailed’ map. On the first day of the trek it was pretty straightforward, the trail was marked by signs in a mostly open field. We set up camp 3 miles in and ate instant ramen noodles, or the gourmet food of the desert as I like to call it, for dinner. After dinner we meticulously counted how many sweets we could each get in our group before we went to bed under the open sky. The second day was a bit more difficult to navigate as the signs were replaced with a rock pile and a wooden pole on top, meanwhile the cacti and trees got taller. Now I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I would like to challenge the idea that having a wooden pole as the indicator of the trail’s direction, among a lot of tall plants which look a lot like wooden poles, was the best plan. However, we found our way, and in the preceding days the trail became clearer and easier to follow. All in all I really enjoyed being navigator, having the responsibility, and to take initiative of our hike. I also liked giving updates in the morning about how far we were going to hike and how far we were.

Now that I have described the literal navigation, I am going to move onto the emotional navigation. When we were staying with Border Perspectives I began to read Jason de Leon’s book ‘The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail’. Jason de Leon is an Anthropologist who started the Undocumented Migration Process that studies the movement from Latin America to the US. The book particularly focuses on migrants crossing the border through the Sonoran desert in Arizona. The book contains powerful stories about individual journeys through the Sonoran desert. Though I continuously tried to imagine what it would be like to cross the desert as a migrant, I also realized that I will never truly understand the trauma that comes from this experience, but I will continue to educate myself on the subject and send thoughts to those who have to make the journey. Maddie read a chapter from the book to the group that in detail described what it is like to cross through the desert. Though we shared our thoughts about the chapter afterwards, the initial reaction was a pensive and heavy silence. I don’t think any of us can forget what we have learned about the almost incomprehensible and consequential task it is to cross the border through the desert as an undocumented migrant. Though the chapter was probably the most memorable lesson, we have also had journal prompts about the effect of our privilege and race on our journey in the desert and the meaning of water in the desert. During one of our journal prompts, I wrote a poem about my experience in the beginning of the trek- keep in mind this was written at the hottest hour of the day in the desert:

Walking in the desert thirsty, tired and uncertain,

carrying a literal and emotional burden,

looking out for the next pole,

getting us through is my only goal.

However, when we stop and I use my eyes,

the burden of everything takes wings and flies.

Beside my foot five flowers stand,

I take a moment and extend my hand,

from my palm five drops fall,

I’ve answered the flower’s unheard call.

The water hits the petals who bend and sigh,

they have persevered and so can I.

Lastly, on a more serious note I would like to write a short tribute to Pastor Hugo Moya who passed away a couple of days ago. As you probably know from reading our previous yaks Pastor Hugo and his family hosted us when we were living at Border Perspectives. He was a very inspiring and persistent man whose mission to spread hope and a helping hand made him a powerful figure in his community. We were lucky enough to meet four out of his seven children, who were all equally compassionate, smart, friendly and welcoming. We are extremely privileged to have met Pastor Hugo and we send our thoughts to his family, who all have a special place in our hearts after our stay with them. To contribute to the family and community in the wake of this loss, please visit this GoFundMe for Pastor Moya.