• 2022.03.02
  • Hit by omicron (Part II)
Everything I told you about in my last post still wasn’t the end of our battle with omicron.

Despite everything that was going on, we decided to make a hasty trip back to Japan. This was before the omicron variant was announced.
The problem was, my visa had already expired.
Thinking back on it now, that was probably when this whole wave of negativity started.
Portugal had a special system in place where you got an automatic extension if your ID or other personal documentation expired during the Emergency Declaration, but even with the extension, my visa still would have expired while I was back in Japan. It would be like returning to Portugal without a valid ID, threatening my ability to get into the EU. I needed to reach out to schedule extension procedures, but nobody had any availability and the phones were always busy. I tried multiple different ways to request expedited procedures, but all were turned down, and in the end, I couldn’t get a hold of the immigration office at all.
I asked around and learned that everyone was having problems—to the point that you were lucky if you could get an appointment anywhere in the country (you can submit your application to any of them).
I think one of the reasons was that the UK had left the European Union, meaning that the many British citizens living in Portugal now had to apply for visas. Another reason was that the immigration office had been shuttered following an incident where Portuguese border officials had left a Ukrainian man to die at the airport. The Ukrainian man had caused an uproar when he was denied entry at the airport, so the immigration officers called him into the back, tied him up, and beat him. He ended up dying from his injuries, and the incident became a huge problem for the Portuguese government.

My beat-up, falling-apart visa… made of cheap paper and rough, so it looks fake every time I try to use it to get through another EU country

At first, our plan to go to Japan involved me and my son going back to Japan early and then my husband Momo and our daughter following a week later.

But the Africa incident prevented Momo from coming back to Portugal before the date I and my son were scheduled to leave for Japan—not to mention that he would be forced to quarantine for a week, so even he wouldn’t have been able to make his flight to Japan with our daughter.

The first thing Momo did was switch to an open ticket, while the rest of us decided to reschedule our flights. But because the Japanese government was restricting entry into the country, every single flight was full.
I spent hours on the phone and in chats with the airlines and travel agents each day, but it seemed like there were virtually no solutions.
Everything seemed hopeless, so two days before my son and I were scheduled to leave, I changed the kids’ tickets to open tickets as well and kept just my own plans to return. But that would mean leaving them alone for nearly two days while they waited for Momo to get back (at this point, the schedule for his Portuguese charter had been decided). Our kids were used to being left alone from the time they were young, but they’d never spent a whole night just the two of them. I was most worried about them fighting and forgetting to take care of the animals on time, so I arranged for them to each stay at a friend’s house and asked the next-door neighbor to look after the animals. They then said that it would be ok to leave them. I believed them and started rushing around like crazy to pack and look around for some place to get a PCR test without an appointment.
In the midst of all this, the Japanese government eased their entry restrictions somewhat—so all the airlines began opening up seats on flights that had previously been full. In a frenzy I contacted my husband in Mozambique and my family in Japan to tell them that I would be coming home with my two kids in tow.
I had them change my ticket to an open ticket and purchased new tickets for the three of us. It was a little later than we had originally planned to go, but I was at least able to secure a little time when the four of us could be there together.


  • 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.

View a list of Megumi Ota's

What's New


What's New