In late January of 2020, I received a message from a former Peace Corps colleague asking if I could serve as a point of contact for a young Ethiopian man about to arrive in Vietnam.
“Of course,” I replied, “pass him my number.”
His name was Mezgebu. He was coming to Vietnam to study Mechanical Engineering after being denied a visa to the US, despite acceptance into the Yale Young Scholar’s Program as well as the Engineering program at Marietta College. The colleague who messaged me had helped to crowdfund his expenses that would otherwise be too much for his family to absorb.
By the time Mezgebu and I met in person, about two weeks later, the novel coronavirus had already breached Vietnam’s borders. Due to the epidemic, the start of fall classes was postponed and the majority of the Vietnamese population simply stayed put in their hometowns, where they had flocked weeks earlier in advance of the Lunar (Chinese) New Year.
“I’m not sure how much help I can be,” I told him. “It seems my time is running out.”
Toward the end of 2019, I hinted on social media, as well as on the World Baseball Project Go Fund Me page, that I would soon be sharing some “big news”. I didn’t want to share the news before everything was confirmed, so I continued to casually drop hints in the weeks that followed. As the calendar turned to 2020, details were still being hashed out, but all of the pieces were nearly in place. By early March, it looked like it was all really about to happen.
And then, of course, the world slipped into a deep state of pandemic. While there are countless accounts of plans foiled by COVID-19, this one was pretty big.
So what was it?