After 12 long hours of travel on Saturday, we settled in to our Albuquerque hotel and began to prepare ourselves for the week to come. We spent the evening doing some last-minute research and trying our best to settle our minds and get a restful night’s sleep. We then woke up on Sunday morning, feeling tired from the previous day’s journey but alert with nerves and excitement for the drive to Artesia. When we looked out our hotel window, we were surprised to see glistening white flakes falling slowly to the ground. At the time we thought nothing of it-we live in Maine, after all. We met up with Yona, an early 20’s paralegal from San Francisco who would be making the trek with us, grabbed a quick bite from the hotel buffet, and piled into the rental car.
Within the first 20 minutes of the what-should-have-been 4 hour drive to Artesia, we realized we would be in for an adventure. The roads quickly became covered in several inches of snow, and the 4 hour trip turned into 7 hours of slow and careful driving on roads running through farms that stretched as far as the eye could see. As the snow finally came to a halt, the sun shimmered for a brief moment right before it began to set over the flat, brush-covered fields.
Almost as if calculated, the sky began to darken just as we pulled into the town of Artesia. The three of us in the car were in awe as we watched large clouds of smoke and small flames billow out of the smokestacks in the plant across the street from our hotel. We got out of the car and looked around at the desolate, lifeless town we would be staying in for the next week. It was hard to imagine that just a couple miles from where we were standing, there was a detention center housed with hundreds of women and small children.
Tonight, we will participate in an intensive orientation, catching us up to speed on the current status of the ever changing climate here in Artesia. We will be learning how to navigate the various systems that the volunteers before us have put into place, finding out information about this week’s clients, and settling into our roles here at the facility for the next week. Tomorrow, the real work will begin.