When you’re part of a global industry, you have to travel the globe to get closer to your sources and your customers. But travel in the COVID-19 world requires persistence, patience and sometimes just pure luck.
Dubai is an exotic destination, especially from the frozen reaches of the U.S. in January. But that’s where the World of Coffee was happening, and I was determined to get there. There were customers to meet and new markets to explore.
Traveling with COVID-19 protocols is no easy task. And the rules keep changing. You must have a negative test result before you board your plane. And again when you change planes. And again after you land.
My flight was scheduled for 7 p.m. on a Monday out of Boston, Massachusetts. I needed a negative test result within 72 hours of my departure, so I wanted to schedule a test at a nearby pharmacy for some time the previous Saturday. The one available appointment, however, was in New Hampshire, nearly two hours’ drive from my home. I was sure I could do better.
Little did I know I would spend more than nine hours criss-crossing Massachusetts, driving from one urgent care center to another, plus several emergency rooms, only to find that they only tested those with symptoms, couldn’t give me a test, or with staff shortages, would need five to seven days to produce a result. I thought I’d never be allowed to board!
I even went to the airport, as I had heard they had an on-site testing facility there. But short-staffed as well, they were booking appointments three days in advance. At last, I succeeded in securing a test for 8:30 p.m. Saturday, about 38 miles from home. I would have the results in 24 to 48 hours. My flight was leaving in less than 48 hours. The odds were not in my favor.
I was getting desperate. And suddenly New Hampshire didn’t seem so far. I found that if I could travel to a specialty clinic by 9 a.m. Monday, I could have the result of my test in two hours. For a hefty fee.
Negative test in hand, I started packing and got to the airport in time. But with a transfer in Amsterdam, would I be able to enter the United Arab Emirates? Thankfully my results passed that test as well. I made it to my hotel at 4 a.m. Wednesday. The World of Coffee opened at 10.
A Worthwhile World
Despite all the pre-flight drama, I am so glad I persisted. The coffee exposition was a small but focused area within Expo 2020 Dubai, the first World Expo in the Middle East. Delayed from its planned 2020 launch, the Expo and its 192 country pavilions added a large dose of excitement to the World of Coffee.
I felt like I was at a crossroads of the world. People wore traditional dress and Western clothing. Head coverings from many cultures. And the café booths were busy creating the sounds and smells of coffees sourced from everywhere.
While most conference participants had heard of Burundi, they hadn’t known how sweet Burundi’s coffees could be. The World of Coffee show area was easy to navigate, and people were easy to meet. Many were interested in learning about experimental formation processes, especially since naturals are standard in a region with so little water.
As a new board member of the SCA, I also took time to connect over dinner with other board members who were there. One member from Dubai hosted nine of us at his home for our first board meeting together. The other half of the board attended via Zoom. I am so excited to be a part of this global group. Together we are going to strengthen the industry for people at every stage of the coffee supply chain.
For more updates and images from my journey to the Middle East, be sure to check out our posts on social media. And if you’re ready to experience the sweetness of Burundi coffee for yourself, fully washed or natural, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for samples.