By Emmi Kurosawa
I had been working on my research in the Centre for Coastal Biogeography (CCB), Southern Cross University, Lismore (SCU or Uni), NSW, in Australia through the LOREX program since Jan 22, 2020, with my cohort companions, Keiko, Angelique, and Rachel.
As it got towards the end of our internship, the COVID-19 pandemic became much more serious than I anticipated. On March 10th, one of the staff at SCU was announced to be infected. This, I believe, was the first case in the University. And the school decided to close for the day to disinfect all the facilities. Missing one day of work in the lab was devastating for me as I had planned out my daily workload until my last day on March 18th. I was quite sure that they would announce soon that the school wouldn’t be accessible until further notice. Well, it is what it is. I decided to indulge myself and did what I had not been able to do: workout, and get a facial, pedicure, and manicure. So the day wasn’t a total waste after all. I was pleasantly surprised that the University opened the next day. They did all the disinfecting as they promised within a day which I thought was pretty impressive!
When Delta canceled our flight back to the US, I was in Tasmania visiting my friends. I felt uneasy about this but I knew I was in good hands under my friend’s care. But Keiko and Angelique were still in the house whose lease would end soon. Adina, one of our responsible LOREX PIs reached out to us immediately and found a temporary home for them. She worked long extended hours negotiating with Delta, and finally managed to get us a flight back to the US on March 21. I would have liked to stay in Tasmania a little longer, but she convinced me that it was of dire necessity to take the flight because all the international flights were being grounded as we speak. It turned out that the flight we took was the last flight back to the US. Thanks to Adina we all made it back home!
The flight we took was from Sydney to Honolulu, Honolulu to Atlanta, then to Boston for me, and to Florida for Angelique. Poor Keiko for some reason did not have the flight booked after Honolulu, plus Angelique and I had a 7-hour layover there. So Keiko rented a car, and decided that we should take a quick tour of Honolulu together! We went to Laneakea beach where we saw many green sea turtles swimming right at the shoreline on the shallow beach. We even saw a turtle coming out of water for a nice bask in the sun!
It was quite an experience for all of us. But all in all, we made the best out of the situation, and everything worked out in the end. I thank my family, Kent, Taiga, Kuga, and Beverly, my parents in Japan, and all my friends in the world, my thesis advisor, Prof. Rick Kesseli of UMass Boston, and all the staff at CCB who supported me during these uncertain times. I also thank especially Dr. Naomi Wells, my supervisor at CCB who had helped not only myself but also Keiko and Angelique moving in and out of the new housings. I thank my friend Darren of Tasmania who offered me a place to stay and ensured that I’d be taken care of. Lastly but most importantly, I thank Adina for working hard to get us back home safe!