The relationship between before a trip and after a trip is interesting. You want to think into the future, and think about what you will be like after a trip is over. You want to think about all of the things you have gained from the trip and how much you have changed, for the better, you hope. But you are still at the beginning of the trip, at the beginning of the story. You have no idea what will happen in the middle. So this relationship between beginning and end can be an anxiety inducing one- filled with what ifs, and sleepless nights. What will happen in the middle? Will I succeed, will I fail? Will I make it successfully across the divide between before and after?

The relationship between Texas and Mexico looms large in McAllen. What happens in Reynosa, Mexico affects what happens in McAllen, Harlingen and Brownsville. When the Rio Grande river has pollution, regardless of who has put it there and regardless of borders, everyone feels its effects. If there is illness or poverty or violence, regardless of country or language spoken, it affects everyone.  Despite the boundary of the international border, there is still a relationship. Our health and well being doesn’t care about international borders.  The people we love and care about can be across the border or thousands of miles away, but if they are sick or unhappy, we will feel that no matter where we are.

Barriers don’t have to be difficult. People living in Europe pass in and out of countries, sometimes multiple times in the same day. In Michigan we pass in and out of Canada with some regularity. But our relationship with our borders is tense. In some places barriers still make things difficult. It’s become a fraught and complicated relationship.  I think that the people of McAllen have a lot to teach me about negotiating a complicated relationship like this. One where someone else has created a division, but you still have to live across it. How do we live between two places, between here and now? How do we live between countries? How do we live beyond our boundaries of “us” and “them”? How do we do the work we came to do, above and beyond the notions we have of our personal “before” and “after”?

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