Conectados

If the people walking around the streets of Tucson right now weren’t bundled up in jackets and close-toed shoes, I’m not sure I would remember that three months had passed since I arrived in August. The Border Studies Program Fall 2012 semester kicked off during the monsoon season here in southern Arizona when daily highs were still upwards of 100 degrees and sunsets were often accompanied by heat lightening.

When we received a schedule of the semester on one of our first few days here, I remember being told to prepare for how quickly the next 14 weeks would pass. I tried my best, but even so, I’m not sure anything could have adequately prepared me for the strangeness of finding myself faced with the reality that in less than a week, my peers and I will be saying adiós to this semester and to one another. El tiempo ya se fue rapido, pero rapidíssimo!

For the past week or so, I’ve been expecting to be hit by the wave of sadness that usually engulfs me at around this point when I’m preparing to say a big goodbye. And there have been moments when I’ve felt that sadness creep in, but it’s hardly been anything unbearable. And I’m starting to suspect that there’s a reason for this. Here is how I see it: this semester may be coming to an end, but the fact that this is happening is hardly an ending. I suppose maybe I’m just parroting that old cliche about endings-as-beginnings, but this time, I think there’s something to it. Here’s why.

In the first place, I no longer believe that endings exist, gracias a the way that the Border Studies Program has exploded my understandings of time and space. One of the primary modes of learning we have engaged in this semester, as I understand it, is a process that I’ve come to know as “naming the world.” To me, that means listening deeply and looking closely, both inwardly and outwardly; it means telling a story about how things are and why they are that way. It means searching for history in the present and imagining the future. In other words, it means connecting all senses of “time” together, seeing past, present, and future as a whole, not disparate parts of a timeline. In this sense, this semester is much more than a semester. My experience here in the borderlands was shaped by every experience that had come before it in my life, and everything that is to come will bear its marks. I believe that every moment is this way.

This BSP’s tagline is “a semester in the US/Mexico borderlands.” I know that this semester is not really ending because I know that even after I leave Arizona, I won’t have left the border. The world we live in, the world that we create and that creates us, is a border world. And as it stands, those borders represent a cruel and inhumane logic that determines who can move, who cannot, and who is forced to move. No matter who you are or where you are, you are implicated in that grand system of controlled movement. In this moment, that fact is heavy in my mind and in my heart. And one of my greatest hopes for myself moving out of the semester is to continue feeling that way: to be conscious of borders and the unfreedoms that they create for the rest of my life––and to act in solidarity with those are demanding that those borders come down, so that we may all begin to heal from the ill-logic that made them possible.

Finally, I know that this semester is a beginning rather than an ending because the friendships that I have formed over the course of the past three months are ones that I hope will continue for a long, long time. I know that any learning I did this semester is owed to all of the incredible people I interacted with: my ten fellow students, our four classroom instructors, the family I stayed with here in Tucson, and all of the people who so generously shared their time, stories and knowledge with me and my peers. I believe that as we students transition into life after the Border Studies Program, we will be able to turn to one another for support of all kinds; we are in this lucha together now and we still can be in spite of physical distance.

And so as I think about what it will feel like next Tuesday when the Border Studies Program semester is officially over, when we students begin to go our own ways, I feel strong, not sad. It’s true that the world now seems a whole lot more tangled-up to me than when I first stepped foot in Tucson in August, and I feel despair about that in a more real way than ever before. And it’s equally true that I now feel better prepared than to act in that world, and do so in a way that’s in accordance with the convictions that I’ve come to name this semester. I am looking forward to seeing how our stories spiral out from this point, far but near, apart but connected. Siempre estamos juntos, todos nosotros en este mundo. Conectados. We’re always together, all of us in this world. Connected. I leave the semester with that knowledge guiding my feet, my hands, and my heart.

– submitted by Roxanne Rapaport

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