• 2022.02.02
  • Hit by omicron (Part I)
As the new Omicron variant disrupts the world, our personal lives are suffering tremendously as well.

1. Momo (my husband) couldn’t come home
My husband, who was in Mozambique doing research, had his return flight canceled.
You probably remember this from my last post, but all flights between Europe and southern Africa were grounded on November 27 due to Omicron—so my husband’s November 29 ticket from Maputo was of course canceled.
My brother-in-law, who was in Maputo on a different research assignment, got a travel agent to put him on an afternoon flight to Lisbon on the 27th instead, so he made it home. He couldn’t use his travel insurance, though, so he had to pay another thousand euros for it.
It was officially the last return flight from Mozambique to Portugal, via South Africa.
Momo rushed to buy a local flight to Lisbon via Angola, but he couldn’t get on it.
Over the next several days, my husband went to the Portuguese embassy, the Spanish embassy (he’s Spanish), and the airport. He decided to spend the rest of the time at his hotel so he could stay healthy—since all that running around among people would come to nothing if he caught the virus.
The Spanish embassy was the first to act. They collected contact information from everyone who showed up at the embassy and created a chat group, where they reported the progress of government negotiations and a flight they had chartered to get their citizens home.
The Portuguese embassy just took the contact information of the people who showed up there and never reached out to them, leaving them worried and in the dark. So the Portuguese citizens just headed to the airport and gathered there to share information with each other.
This all happened on a weekend, so the government officials might not have been at work, but it was impossible not to notice the difference between the Portuguese and the Spanish, who sprang into action for their citizens even on a holiday.

By Monday the Portuguese embassy gradually started to move, though by then Spain had already arranged a return charter, created a passenger list, and sent out the payment information on the group chat.
That same day, all Portugal did was notify us that they had begun negotiating a charter. The only other piece of information Momo got was that his email requesting a return didn’t reach the Portuguese embassy. He resent the email, and they were able to get him on the list.
The next day, there was no word from Portugal about the schedule for the charter flight. Nor was there any information about what had happened. So everyone just stayed worried.
It’s hard to believe that given Portugal’s many fine, intelligent leaders, the people that work for them are this incompetent. Even if they’re intelligent as individuals, it’s sad that they can’t get anything done.

As the date of Portuguese flight remained undecided, Momo was faced with the problem that the date of the chartered flight arranged by the Spanish government was soon approaching. The Spanish charter, naturally, was bound for Madrid—which meant that he would have to arrange another flight to Lisbon. And because Spain requires a fourteen-day quarantine once you enter the country, the flight to Portugal would have to leave the same day he arrived in Spain, or he’d obviously just be stuck there.
Momo couldn’t get a flight between Madrid and Lisbon, but he took a chance and paid for the charter to Madrid, setting up a PCR test that would give him results just in time (a negative PCR test was required to get on the plane). The results are only good for 72 hours, and getting them back itself takes 24 hours. They’re also expensive, so he only wanted to take it once.

His luck finally turned around, and Portugal arranged for a charter that would leave in two days. Momo got ready to leave on that flight.
Once he arrived in Lisbon, there were six more hours of difficulty before he could get out of the airport, but eventually he returned home safe and sound.

Momo’s flight

Reporters waiting in the Lisbon airport


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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