#1 Packing for Morocco
- May 16, 2023
- Posted by: dshefs
- Category: Uncategorized
It is hard to believe that the date has finally come to leave for Morocco after the program was postponed for over a year due to the pandemic. This is my first international trip since the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, I had traveled internationally relatively frequently including to Morocco five times before when I was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow (STPF) at Millennium Challenge Corporation as well as Tunisia and to Mali for my dissertation research and Peace Corps Service (2009-2012). The pandemic disrupted and continues to disrupt so much of our lives and something I’m still processing as we return to more normal activities like international travel.
I’m feeling a mix of excitement and extreme nervousness. On the one hand, I’m extremely grateful that Dr. Tara Deubel and I were awarded the grant from the National Science Foundation for this project. It was a goal of mine to apply to this call in my research statement when I applied to the University of California Merced. Dr. Deubel had been on my dissertation committee when I was a graduate student at the University of South Florida (USF). My dissertation involved similar Life Cycle Assessment, Geographic Information System, and ethnographic research that we plan for this project but on women’s shea butter production in sub-Saharan Africa. I’m really excited for the group of students we selected and to meet the USF students in person and have them meet each other.
On the other hand, I’m very nervous and stressed. Packing always is challenging for me and I tend to overpack. I’m also a bit out of practice. It is also much different leading a program for other students than traveling individually. I love organizing and project management but it is also a challenge to balance with my other research programs, COVID-19 wastewater research and a second summer program in California. This is the first year of the program so there was a lot of learning to set up the international transfer to pay our hosting Moroccan partner, Dar Si Hmad, and set the program, get the students stipends, purchase flights, get travel approval, etc. Also there is the challenging and ever changing COVID-19 guidance. Though PCR tests are supposedly not required to go to France (lay over) or Morocco for vaccinated travelers, myself and the students still got tested to ensure we were not bringing COVID-19 on the plane or to Morocco and in case the airport workers were not up to date on the new guidance and still asked for it (as we had been warned). Scheduling a PCR test to get results in time for the 48 hour prior to arrival was challenging. We ended up each scheduling two, hoping at least one would come in time. Despite this nervousness and stress, I’m trying to stay in the moment and be grateful for this amazing opportunity. I’m sure it will be better once we arrive in country though there will be other challenges. More to come from me and the students in the next posts.