The ride home in our van was quiet (and by quiet I mean I was asleep for most of the ride and probably couldn’t tell you whether it was noisy or not). But during the moments I was awake and even the ones where I wasn’t, the camaraderie between everyone was unmistakable. As we sat at Dr. Zuegner’s friend’s house, we told jokes and laughed with one another like we’d known each other for years instead of just a few weeks.
For better or for worse our shared experience on this trip was a bonding agent and I like to think it was for the better. Over the two weeks in Arizona we saw each other through some good times and some hard times. We cried and laughed, we talked about the afterlife and Dr. O’Keefe’s love of Taylor Swift. We’ve practiced meditation beside a lake and learned about some of the terrifying situations migrants face.
In my experience bonds like the one our class has aren’t built by casual interactions. They are built on the foundation of something arduous. In our case it was immigration. Watching the dehumanization on both sides of the border is difficult to say the least and yet our group handled it by being there for one another. At night we sang and danced. We played mafia and tenzi. We bonded by being vulnerable with one another whether in games or reflections or even just discussing what we had seen and heard that day.
That bond is what makes the trip home so bittersweet. When we get home we’ll be pulled back into our routine. We’ll continue to meet and sing the coyote song until our rough cut is finished and then we will go our separate ways.
There is no walking away from a trip like this without feeling some sadness at the prospect of it ending. When we get home there will be no playing mafia together in the evening or dancing to Dr. Zuegner’s excellent playlists. There will be only the knowledge that we are tied together by an experience inexplicable to those who have never built friendships in rough terrain, so to speak.
I feel close to each and every person in our group. I am glad to have shared the hard times and the good times over those two weeks with this specific group of people. I know that each of them will carry a place in my heart for a long time to come.