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What the River Has Taught Me

Last week, our group finished a five day canoe float through the Boquillas Canyons in Big Bend National Park. After the eight-mile-a-day treks in the State Park with our heavy backpacks and blisters, these five days paddling on the river felt surprisingly like a breeze. Our aching feet and backs were grateful for the break as we strengthened our shoulders and arms to move us through the water. Our trek prompted such powerful, shared, physical experiences with hours of conversation on the trails ranging from the meaning of God, or if the big bang was actually “the beginning” to how badly we smelled and how our last trail poop went. However, on the river, I found myself taking more moments to be introspective and reflective on what it meant to be physically on a border that is so fluid with such rigid ideals. We were lucky enough to be in such an astoundingly beautiful section of the border that was seemingly untouched by humans except for recreation, while having a drastically different experience to the hundreds of immigrants crossing daily in a very different context.

As a group of 12 Gen-Z’ers who just experienced a semester of electronic learning because of COVID, you could say that we’re experts in the field of technology and sharing our lives online. While this Dragons semester is different from the last in so many ways, the biggest that I have felt is is how much the lack of technology has impacted me, specifically how it absence has left space for very personal, contemplative moments that are not necessarily meant to be shared or posted, but experienced individually, often inspiring more meaning.

For example, on the 3rd night of our river trip, I laid on the banks of the river, wrapped tightly in my sleeping bag with only my eyes and nose exposed to the cold breeze. Thousands of stars revealed themselves in clusters and constellations above our campsite. As I laid up awake, gazing at the vastness above me, I saw a shooting star streak across the length of the entire night sky. My first instinct was to sit up and point, to wake my sleeping friends and shout, “Did you just see that?!?” Considering the moans and groans that I would be faced with after waking up my slumbering peers to tell them about something they had not been awake to witness… I thought again. I stayed tucked in my sleeping bag, nose exposed to the cold, and realized that maybe this moment was meant for just me; that I didn’t need to share it to make the experience real or important, but that actually taking the time to appreciate the shooting star and be present with it gave me much more joy than sharing it ever could.

With this absence of technology that Dragons has brought this semester, the presence of caring friends, and the force of an incredibly fierce river, I have been learning to practice more moments of patience and contemplation. As we transition into our time working with Border Perspectives in McAllen, I’m taking this introspective power and wisdom that the river has taught me to engage more meaningfully in our activities and conversations to come.