Category Archives: coronavirus

Jogo regresa de Loucity…pero se nos va a Europa de nuex

En la medida en la que la temporada de LouCity llegaba a su final, nosotros teníamos la fortuna de tener a Jogo en casa antes de lo anticipado. Fué muy placentero convivir con él (aunque de forma muy limitada) efímeramente ya que su siguiente aventura no podía demorar. De hecho, la rápida proliferación del Coronavirus aceleró algunas de las actividades que teníamos planeadas con él.

Empacar a veces es un poco estresante pero ya lo hacemos tan bien…

Entrenamientos:

Es recomfortante saber que Jogo todavía tiene deseos de entrenar conmigo. Sin embargo, era mejor que se mantuviera activo en un ambiente grupal especialmente si los rumores de que la temporada de USL-C demoraría su reanudación en el 2021 llegasen a ser ciertos. No me malinterpreten, me fascina entrenar con Jogo. Hacerlo inmediatamente me transforma en un mejor mentor y espero que él todavía se beneficie de mis enseñanzas. De hecho, una cosa es muy cierta, cuando Jogo entrena conmigo, Joana tiene una motivación extra para la práctica del fútbol y así continuar su ascenso.

Afortunadamente logramos entrenar por algunas sesiones y trabajar en unos pequeños detalles técnicos y tácticos los cuales habíamos querido pulir desde hace rato. ¡Quedaste listo hijo!

Halloween:

Jogo pasó la cantidad adecuada de tiempo con nosotros para celebrar un año más de Halloween. La verdad estuvo bastante divertido ya que fué algo muy espontáneo.

Golfeando:

Como muchos ya han observado en uno de los episodios de Chumchat, no somos una familia “Golfista”; pero eso va cambiando poco a poco. Mientras Jogo estuvo con nosotros, nos escapamos a jugar a Topgolf con la familia. De hecho, debo confesar de que quedé en último lugar pero vale la pena resaltar que lo mejor fué haber convivido con TODA la familia. Le da tanto gusto al chamacón involucrar a Kammie.

Despedidas:

Estas son lozas pesadas pero paulatinamente hemos desarrollado entereza . En realidad, Joana nunca se acostumbrará pero sabiendo que regresarás a casa nos consuela.

Te extrañamos como no tienes una idea pero sabemos que estás tratando de forjar un futuro. Nunca te des por vencido que desde acá te estamos apoyando. Se humilde, manténte sano y nos vemos cuando nos toque volver a vernos. Recuerda que el virus no discrimina. Ten mucho cuidado hijo. #theGomezway

Chumchat:

El invitado de honor de la semana pasada fue nada más ni nada menos que Paxton Pomykal. Entérense de sus razones por las que juega “el deporte de las masas“. También nos comparte el progreso de su rehabilitacion y al final del episodio selecciona a 5 de sus cuates pamboleros para una cáscara imaginaria.

Farewell Loucity and Jogo. We’ll be back soon.

Flying would have been easier (even cheaper actually) but riskier for his and our health. Driving limited our exposure and it proved to be the best decision. We traveled 885 miles to be with Jogo and we would do it again in a heartbeat.

We took every precaution necessary so that we wouldn’t compromise Jogo’s health before, during, and even after our arrival. Driving also allowed us to bring Kammie and Chuy along. We planned it well and the end result was the best evidence. This is how it went down:

Trip to Louisville:

The trip was divided in two parts. Keller to Memphis, TN (about 8 hours) and Memphis to Louisville (about 6 hours). We left Thursday around 4 PM and made it to Louisville Friday around 5 PM. Upon arrival, and as we were unloading our stuff at the hotel, Jogo surprised us silly (Life360 is nice). Coincidentally, the Sporting KC II players were staying at the same hotel.

We found a different city than the one we left back in March. But to be honest, what city is the same now? There are many reasons (social, political, health, etc.) for the change. Every aspect of the town has been impacted especially the downtown area which is where we were staying.

That evening, after a thorough restaurant search and stumbling upon a couple of protests with many restaurants closed (either due to the protests or Coronavirus), we finally found Vincenzo’s. It’s an Italian pearl downtown. The atmosphere was okay -maybe gloomy- but you could tell business was not as usual for a Friday evening. It was important for us to support local Kentuckian businesses and we did just that. Thanks to Jack Harlow (Johan) for the recommendation.

First dinner in town (Vincenzo’s):

We all had different dishes; I ended up having the famous “Ravioli con pollo, spinaci funghetti mascarpone”. Immaculate, savoring dish. Best pasta I have ever had by far. We had some time for pictures afterwards. It was a first good evening in town but we were tired…

Kammie and Jogo at Vincenzo’s 07.24.20

First game:

Saturday morning went by quick…we were jaded from driving and decided to sleep in a little. The time for you to be at the stadium arrived quick; you rode with Napo. It was so encouraging to see close to 5000 fans supporting the team in these uncertain times..a good diversion. The game was what we expected; the first 20 minutes were all LouCity’s, then conceded the next 25. The second half started with LouCity possessing the ball and the goal. You came in around the 70th minute once SKCII had the possession again and LouCity was playing counterattack. LouCity should have had a few more goals. It was so fun seeing you after the game and the fans were incredibly supportive. “Normality” had been restored at Lynn Family stadium that night.

Jogo after the first SKCII game, Lynn Family Stadium (07.25.20)

Sunday morning:

The day started late again with a stroll down the Ohio River to take Chuy for a walk. Meanwhile, the rest of you enjoyed the “Lime” scooters. It was around noon and you had insisted on going for brunch to the “Con Huevos” restaurant off of Frankfort. For a Mexican family used to cooking and eating traditional Mexican dishes. The place did not disappoint; it was better than most Tex-Mex places we have experienced. I had their Chilaquiles. Solid breakfast for the family and good LouCity atmosphere…one of the many club sponsors.

Mini-chilaquiles at Con Huevos 07.26.20

Midweek:

Monday and Tuesday went by in an uneventful manner since we made our hotel room our office for the week. The morning Starbuck’s breakfasts were priceless. It was great to be able to work remotely without a single glitch but the highlight of our day was always being able to see you every day after practice.

Ready for the work week 07.27.20

There were no plans. Lunches, dinners, and evening activities were all improvised. Our menu consisted mostly of past recommendations from LouCity staff. It didn’t matter; the most important thing was being with you.

Joana and Jogo trying to beat their PR, Humana Park (07.29.20)

Second game:

For the second game, we decided to drop you off. Well, you actually drove us all to the stadium. It was good to experience arrival to the stadium from your point of view.

It was great seeing you start this game in front of these amazing fans. Unfortunately, the game didn’t start they way we all wanted. The team played well, sometimes the ball just doesn’t want to go in. In the end, SKCII executed a counterattack and ended up winning the game. It happens. It’d be worrisome if the team didn’t generate scoring opportunities but those are present. As usual, the team statistically outplayed SKCII but it’s important to finish those chances. That will come. We have no doubts.

Mom and Joana after the 2nd game against SKCII 07.29.20
All touches clip courtesy of @watke (we owe this guy big) (07.30.20)

Farewell:

You are surrounded by your new “away-from-home” family. In our minds, there is no doubt you are in great hands. On the football side of things, you are also at the best possible place for your emotional, technical, tactical, and physical development Jogo. We have said this before but would like to reiterate it: “You are in awesome hands, make the best out of it”. The family (including fans) at LouCity are kind but passionate. You will gradually earn their respect. We were speechless how some approached you at the end of the game. #Weareinittogether

Jogo’s full family away from home, Royals Hot Chicken (07.31.20)

Return trip:

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to say hello to everyone but we’ll be back in the future. For now, here we go, we embark on 885 miles of a journey back to Texas with one less passenger but with our emotional tank full again…thank you Louisville: our second home. #theGomezway

Happy 19th Johan; Another one away from us…

The following post is the type that we’d rather avoid writing for sentimental reasons; however, we think it’s important for families to read about the nuances “young” footballers and their respective families encounter from an early age in the pursuit of a football career. The endless need to travel and be “away from the family” takes a toll. It’s the price to pay. Our advice: maximize your time with your footballer because he/she will be gone at a very early age…without further ado…

HAPPY 19th BIRTHDAY JOHAN!!!!

It’s a special day..believe it or not…more so for us than for you. It’s the commemoration of one of the three happiest days of our lives. We are unable to express our gratitude to the Lord for placing you in our lives. We are proud beyond any realistic measure. We could attempt to begin to list the many reasons why you are loved but words won’t suffice. For now, know that we miss you and also that, believe it or not, you have spent 4 out of the last 6 birthdays away from home (doing what?, footballing). Yes, we remember each one of them. Probably our most memorable was the one that didn’t involve football; we actually spent it together back in 2018 in Cancun. It’s unfortunate to celebrate most of your birthdays away from you…people say, technology makes it easier these days…but it really doesn’t.

Family vacation: Cancun 2018

We understand you are doing what you love…and yet you did it again…as most already know, your recent return to Porto was a bit rocky AND sad as well. Not only is the current pandemic depressing, seeing you depart magnified that feeling. While the family had grown accustomed to having you around, the dreaded time for you to continue pursuing your dreams finally arrived…your family must not be selfish…but yet, we are. In the end, you are our son (the oldest too). Yes, after 19 years we are still in learning mode and figuring some things out with you. Above all, you are more than a footballer and we want the best for you. Inexorably, your football career will have an end at some point and your life will continue…our goal is to help you find joy in the journey of life (not just football). We find comfort in knowing that your family will always be around and the right time will come for us to spend more time together…until then, we must wait.

On the football side of things, we are happy that you maximized your time in the US (and with us). You are well prepared for next season. We heard you have been doing well in pre-season practices (a luxury you didn’t have last year). There’s no doubt that you leave us in better all around well-being than the one you had upon your arrival. We are proud to say that we accomplished so much together and in the process our family worked on several aspects of your life that will help you become yet a better person and player:

Emotional aspect:

First, making it back from Porto safely was the initial obstacle we overcame as a family. What an odyssey!!! How can we forget the anxiety of your trip home? Once home, those days you spent quarantined in your room upon your arrival went by slowly. It made us value the most banal things in life. Now that you returned to Porto, we honestly envy you. Sure the world is wild right now but the US is undergoing some dramatic social, political, and economic changes that you can do without and luckily for you Europe doesn’t have to worry about any of it nowadays. You will be better off in Porto.

Secondly, when your brother arrived home from Louisville, your emotional tank gradually filled up. Your sparkling smile was even more remarkable…seeing your brother, to say the least, reinforced the unbreakable bond you two have. Also, spending the last “vacation” days with him was the best decision we could have made. You guys feed off of each other’s energy. We know that your emotional well being is beyond its maximum level as you traveled back. You take with you all the Louisville memories.

Jogos in Lynn-Family stadium, Louisville, KY (06.30.20)

Hanging out with your friends didn’t hurt either. Although physical interaction with the Chum Chat crew was initially limited for obvious reasons, once you met, plans for the second season came to fruition. Gradually, the quarantine cleared up for everyone and you were also able to hang out with friends from FWC and old football teams. You grew your emotional IQ significantly over the summer.

Chumchat crew getting ready for season 2

Seeing family, celebrating child’s day, mother’s day, mom’s b’day, father’s day, and dad’s b’day were the cherry on top. It filled your soul (and ours). The only major celebration we missed was your birthday but hey by now, you are so used to it. Soon we will celebrate many of them together. Thanks for spending an abundance of time with us.

Celebrating mom’s birthday, Brownsville, TX (05.25.20)

Medical:

You return to Europe is in a similar situation in which you made it home back in April…with a lot of medical uncertainty. The extreme measures against the pandemic are still rampant. However, we are glad you are escaping not just the the domestic health madness going around these days (especially here in Texas). Above all, we are glad you are healthy in Europe. While you were home, we took care of all your routine and preventive medical needs so you should be in excellent shape until the next time we see you. It’s important for families to understand the relevance of preventive medical care to avoid injuries.

Contrary to when you left last year for the European trials where you were nursing an unnecessary injury sustained due to medical negligence, you now are healthy. Super healthy. We took excellent care of your body while you were with us. Sometimes, MLS clubs, due to their staff shortages (or other reasons) can only do so much to treat players. Remember, their medical care, especially at the young ages, is very reactive rather than preventive. Be aware families.

Technical and tactical

The daily rigorous practices with Ricky, Jogo, FCD and Solar ex-teammates prepared you technically and tactically well for next season. You are good to go…and the few practices you have had at Porto so far are proof of it. Keep killing it.

Ricky (Denton Diablos), Jogo (Louisville), Freddy (FC Dallas) and Johan (FC Porto)

Honestly, what I will miss the most will be our Saturday football sessions followed by our picnics. Those were priceless.

Book

Last but not least, you found time to finish your book; we are now in a searching mode. If anybody knows of a good illustrator, recommendations are accepted. More to come on that. Glad that you are exploiting your God-given talents.

Exodus 35:10

“All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the LORD has commanded”

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Farewell Johan…and happy B’day…from mom

Saying goodbye was not what we expected, but it was definitely an unforgettable event…

We first dropped you off at the airport on Tuesday with your corresponding negative COVID-19 test result in hand. You carried a folder with copies of every possible document you may need to travel to Portugal but were we in for a surprise. We walked up to the AA counter 2 hours early ready to check in your bag, walk through security and board that flight to Madrid with ample time. We were welcomed with a bit inexperienced AA agent who was unsure what was required to be allowed to enter that country.

To be fair, we are living unprecedented times, where rules and restrictions are changing daily. After consulting with multiple colleagues, a supervisor, and an hour and a half later, she denied you check-in.  It wasn’t the end of the world, right? We could always try again the next day or wait for the travel ban to be lifted. How long was that going to take? 2 weeks? 2 months? We wanted to help you start the pre-season on-time. FC Porto was very supportive and willing to issue us another ticket as needed; however, we felt that waiting was not an option especially with the uncertainty and number of COVID cases rising in the US.

We left Terminal D calling the Portuguese Consulate offices in Houston and Washington DC and leaving voice mails. Where could we get the documentation needed to let you board that plane? What else could we do? We knew other players in your situation had recently traveled back to Europe. That made us think about another option: find a different airline. Delta had a couple of options with two layovers the next day and so we turned around and drove back to the airport to get to Terminal E.

The terminal was very quiet, no travelers in sight.  We approached the Delta counter where we found two very helpful and friendly customer service agents. We explained your situation and they immediately checked the US Embassy in Portugal website with specific requirements/restrictions to travel during this COVID-19 pandemic.  According to such website, the only requirement was to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the last 72 hours. You had such document along with an employment contract, so we decided to move forward and purchase the ticket for the next day.  We wanted to make sure everything was approved and cleared in their system so you would not encounter any issues the following day. The agents, one of them a Portugal native, confirmed you had the correct documentation, so we purchased the ticket, called the back office for approval and gave you 2 boarding passes (DFW to ATL and ATL to CDG).

We drove back home hopeful, but doubtful at the same time. The flight was not direct to Europe, you had 2 layovers before reaching your final destination. Would you get “stuck” in one of them? Would you be sent back home? At the end of the day, we were happy to have you with us one more night. We stopped to get some food (Chik-Fil-A) and got ready for movie night (as usual). You didn’t’ even unpack as we had to be at the airport at 9 AM the following morning so you got one more chance to put Chuy to sleep that night and I got one more chance to see you wake up in the morning.

One last chicken sandwich in the US

We arrived at Terminal E at 9 AM, boarding passes in hand and several additional documents (translated to English) just in case. Since you already had your boarding passes, you really only needed to check-in your bag one-hour prior to departure and head directly to the gate. With our experience the previous day, we decided to arrive early and I am glad we did because we were in for another surprise.

Chuy is going to miss you!

The lady at the counter proceeded to call the back office as we explained what transpired the previous day. Once again, they requested an official document from the consulate or an official governmental office giving you permission to enter Portugal. The call ends without the approval needed, but the customer service rep continues consulting others and talking to us. The agent who helped us the day before who was fluent in Portuguese was not working at this time. They see the ticket was purchased the previous day and a call was made for approval, but no notes were put into the system with the details of such conversations.

so we try again, we show the documents from the embassy stating that “professionals with employment contracts are allowed to travel”. We also found the ID number of the immigration application for residency submitted to the SEF (border control government agency). That along with the documents FC Porto provided us ultimately convinced them we had what we needed so they called the back office one last time. It is now 10 AM, 60 minutes before the flight to Atlanta departs.

Finally, after a lot of paper shuffling and pacing back and forth, approval to board was granted. It was 10:24 AM and the flight left was leaving at 11:05 AM, they checked in your bag, gave you a boarding pass and wished you luck. I was standing with you at the counter, dad was with Joana just behind us with your other bag. You quickly grabbed your back and rushed to security walking along side dad as he gave you some final instructions and things you might need. Joana and I are behind you, I am looking at you walking away with your folder, documents and passport in one hand your water bottle and bag in the other and I’m just praying you don’t drop or lose anything.

It all happened so fast, there was no time for any pictures this time, we just waved goodbye. I remember you looked back at us and said, “Thanks for everything, I love you guys very much” and as you’re zig-zagging through the ropes towards the TSA agent, I just wanted to run and hug you, but you made me promise not to cry so I let you go. You had enough things to worry about in the next 24 hours. Besides, I was grateful to have had you another night, or really to have had you for three full months. It was time for you to return and you were more than ready.

30 minutes prior to departure @ DFW Airport

This was definitely a learning experience for all of us. One that dad thought he should share with other families. It would have been more convenient for us to wait for the EU borders to open and have you stay home a bit longer but that was risky. As a parent, that would have been the easy choice, but at this point, we are experts at making difficult decisions that we know will ultimately benefit your long term goals. Lesson for up and coming football parents.

It’s hard to believe you have been in Portugal for a year now. You left right before your 18th birthday and today you have yet another birthday away from home. May this last teenage year get you one step closer to your dreams. Happy 19th birthday son!!! (Feliz cumpleaños mi niño)

Does your player need to travel to Europe during the pandemic? Things to know

It was about a year ago that Johan left to go on trials to Europe. What a difference a year makes. Back then, airports were packed, air fares were expensive and just having an American passport was the key to any destination in the world. Today, that is no longer the case. Airports are ghost towns, air fares are not really inexpensive per se and traveling to Europe is REALLY challenging.

With the European Union current ban on travelers from the United States (reciprocity stinks, huh?), it has become extremely difficult to travel to Europe if you are a non-essential (to my dismay, football isn’t) individual/worker. Johan recently tried to return to Portugal and we had to go through a lot (two attempts) of hurdles to be able to board a plane. It would have been nice to have all/some of this information before we showed up to the airport so figured, we’d share it with you as there is a lot of misinformation out there. At the end of the day, it is very situational; however, we know local families who are sending players abroad very soon (good luck in Denmark, Germany, Spain, Portugal, etc.). Each situation/destination is unique so take this info with a grain of salt but here is what you may need.

Note: Unless you are an essential worker (ex. doctor, nurse, diplomat, etc.) or a worker with a unique skill (footballers fall in this category but you have to prove it), you will NOT be allowed to travel to Europe. There may be other allowed classifications based on the country you are visiting but know that American tourists will not be allowed in Europe for a while.

Note II: The good news is that the travel ban is reevaluated every 2 weeks so keep checking as your visiting country may reopen their borders back to the US.

Requirements:

US Passport: As a US citizen, you must have a US passport to even have a chance to depart the US. It helps (a lot), if you are a dual citizen of the visiting country (ex. Germany, Portugal, Spain, etc.) or have a foreign passport that allows you to enter ANY country in Europe (or even better, a passport of the visiting country specifically). Having a foreign passport can waive the US passport requirement depending on the visiting country’s laws. The *challenge* is to make it to European soil. Once there, everything is much easier.

COVID-19 negative test result: Most countries (maybe all) require travelers to present proof of a negative test result taken 72 hours prior to departure. This is very important. Take into account any layovers (especially overnight) and ensure compliance all the way through the destination country.

Nice to have’s:

EU passport: Depending on your final destination, having an official document from the country you are traveling to is extremely useful. Short of a passport, maybe a residence card (analogous to a green card in the US).

Residence card: As a US citizen, this may not be very common but depending on how long you have been residing abroad, this may be a possibility. If you have access to a residence card (or proof that you are in the process of acquiring it), that documentation should be sufficient to travel to your destination. In Johan’s case, having a copy of his residency application helped a lot. Unfortunately, we didn’t have it translated into English and we were sent packing the first time.

Letter from the traveling country’s consulate/embassy: With government offices barely opening everywhere, this may be difficult to expedite. However, if you are able to obtain a letter from an official government office from the visiting country stating that you should be allowed to enter, the letter (in official letterhead) can go a long way. Make sure the letter is written in both languages (the visiting country’s and English). This document will be presented in the US (at the airline counter) to backup reasons for being allowed to travel to Europe. Having a document written in a foreign language (w/out a translator at the airport) could be detrimental and delay check-in. This is very important as you never know the type of push back you could receive from the airline person at the counter. Make sure you have all official documentation with your son’s/daughter’s name spelled out correctly AND with a current date.

Work/Player contract: If you have your work (football) contract, it should help further justify the reasons for traveling. If you have such document in a foreign language, make sure you translate it before you present it at the US airline ticket counter. In addition to the contract, if you can, have a letter from the football club (an official declaration) stating that your player is “registered” with the club and under contract. This is almost the same as the contract except that it gives more credibility to a “long”, foreign language written contract that can not be easily translated.

Layover documentation: If your footballer has any stops during his/her flight, there may be additional documentation that needs to be filled out indicating that his/her stay is transitional and not as a final destination. Johan had a layover in France and the french government had different entry requirements than the Spanish government.

In these uncertain times, there are so many imponderables that could impact your chances of a “smooth” departure to Europe. Some may include the US state your player is traveling from (restrictions out of Texas are stricter than restrictions out of Kentucky), person at the airline ticket counter (this is by far the hardest hurdle to clear), airline, travel date, number of layovers, final destination, support from the club, player agency, etc. In our case, FC Porto went above and beyond to support Johan’s return to Portugal. We can only acknowledge their relentless assistance and professionalism towards us. Both times, when Johan traveled to the US a few months back and now, they have been a class act. Thank you FC Porto: #DragõesJuntos

The key is preparation. There are many factors to describe them in any level of detail in one post but we feel like we need to get this information out to the public to serve its full purpose. The “logistics” and sequence in which you present the documentation above plays an important role. Minimize the uncertainty and be prepared. It will pay off.

At the writing of this post, info in this post has helped at least four families initially being denied plane boarding (same airline). Please reach out if you need assistance with your questions: info@thegomezway.com. We’ll be glad to assist. It’s an extremely important trip and not planning well for it could have not just a financial impact on your family but a deeper footballing impact. Be prepared for some resistance at the US airline ticket counter, once you clear this hurdle, you are pretty much good to go. COVID is changing the travel industry significantly especially for footballers.

Les deseamos mucho éxito. En horabuena. ¡¡¡Se lo merecen!!!

Helping each other, we will grow the sport in this country. Change starts at the bottom (points at self). #theGomezway

Johan in Atlanta having successfully cleared the DFW obstacle and on his way to Paris

¿Debería Johan regresar a los EE.UU?

El tan sólo pensar en tener que tomar una decisión es complicado, aún más lo es tomarla. El sábado pasado por la tarde (la mañana de nosotros ), la Federación Portuguesa de Fútbol finalmente tomó decidió dar por terminada la temporada para todos los grupos de edades sub-19 y menores.

Sin embargo, el personal técnico solicitó a Johan que se quedara en Porto durante los meses de abril y mayo. El objetivo principal de esa solicitud fue que él (y algunos compañeros de equipo) entrenaran una vez que el departamento de salud portugués levantara todas las restricciones relacionadas con el coronavirus. El club quería evitar que el descanso prolongodo no tuviera efectos adversos en los jugadores que regresan el siguiente año. No hay duda de que Johan ama a Porto (la ciudad y el equipo), pero con los números de COVID-19 subiendo exponencialmente a diario, podríamos decir que había una parte de él con la esperanza de regresar a casa. Johan acató la decisión del club con cierta incertidumbre sobre su futuro, pero estaba entusiasmado con la posibilidad de volver al campo y potencialmente practicar con el primer equipo … pero fue ahí cuando se vino una montaña rusa emocional.

Sólo unas horas más tarde (sábado por la noche, hora de Porto), y con la situación de COVID-19 empeorando por minutos en todo el mundo, los directivos de Porto decidieron cambiar de opinión y permitir que todos los ciudadanos extranjeros viajaran de regreso a casa lo antes posible.

Irónicamente, la decisión que Johan había aceptado tan titubeante unas horas antes (de permanecer en Portugal durante dos meses más) ahora se estaba diluyendo con la posibilidad repentina (ahora no tan remota) de finalmente volver a casa.

Nos llamó de inmediato con la noticia. Para ser sincero, Claudia y yo no estábamos preparados para el cambio de opinión tan rápido del club. Cuando nos preguntó si queríamos que volviera a casa, no pudimos darle una respuesta bien pensada y objetivar, de hecho, impulsivamente dijimos: “por supuesto”. Sin embargo, de repente, teníamos más preguntas que respuestas, porque queríamos hacer la debida investigación y evaluar si el viaje era incluso factible (y seguro). Y así, la montaña rusa emocional continuó.

¿Habría todavía vuelos desde Europa a EE.UU?

Tratamos de contactar por teléfono inmediatamente a un representante de servicio al cliente de American Airlines. Para sorpresa, no pudimos encontrar uno y tuvimos que esperar horas antes de recibir una llamada. La angustia de Claudia aumentaba por no encontrar vuelos disponibles. Traté de mantener la calma (estaba funcionando en realidad) pero para aumentar la angustia, una vez que recibimos una llamada, el representante de AA algo cansado (tal vez frustrado) nos informó insistentemente que AA no tenía vuelos programados a Estados Unidos (o México) hasta la primera semana de mayo. Nos integramos sin quererlo inmediatamente a la realidad en la que vive hoy el mundo. Ahora, nuestra familia estaba siendo afectada directamente. Sin embargo, no estábamos en posición de rendirnos, así que seguimos buscando otros vuelos en todas partes.

¿Podría Johan volar en otra aerolínea? en cual? Sería riesgoso?

Probamos todos los sitios de viajes conocidos (varias aerolíneas) y sólo pudimos encontrar dos vuelos en la próxima semana más o menos. Un vuelo saldría el lunes (30 de marzo) y otro el martes (31 de marzo), cada uno con 4 paradas y tomando más de 3 (sí 3) días para llegar a casa … no era el más seguro.

En cuanto al tiempo, ambos estaban lejos de ser convenientes también, pero en un aprieto, eran opciones factibles. Sin embargo, ninguno de los vuelos iba a funcionar. Johan necesitaba hacerse cargo de la mudanza regular de “verano” como parte de la lista de cosas por hacer antes de salir de Porto ya que no regresaría hasta fines del verano.

Reservar uno de los vuelos anteriores le daba un tiempo extremadamente limitado para ocuparse de esa lista. El desafío no era tanto acelerar las tareas pendientes; el principal obstáculo era que casi nadie en Porto FC estaba físicamente disponible para ayudar, por lo que se quedó solo para pensar y ejecutar decisiones creativas.

Enfrentando con poco éxito inmediato los vuelos aunado al creciente estrés que esto le estaba causando a Johan (y a nosotros), decidimos dormir para tomar una decisión final sobre su regreso a casa y luego hablar sobre eso el domingo por la mañana.

Finalmente, se tomó una decisión

L noche del sábado fue muy larga. Ninguno de nosotros pudo dormir evaluando diferentes escenarios. No hubo una decisión “correcta”. Después de un análisis cuidadoso (acompañado de oraciones), nos dividimos en una decisión el domingo por la mañana.

Mientras que Claudia y Joana insistían en traerlo a casa, Mike y yo pensamos que lo más prudente era que se esperara en Porto durante al menos un par de semanas hasta que, con suerte, la situación mejorara. Llegó el momento de compartir una decisión con Johan. La llamada telefónica fue dura, la voz se quebró con fuerza. Mientras compartía mi decisión lógica y bien pensada con él, escuchó atentamente:

Mientras articulaba mis pensamientos, estaba tratando de imaginar su decepción, lo que se me hacía más difícil ser elocuente … En mi cabeza, todo tenía mucho sentido, pero de alguna manera, no me sentía bien. Por un lado, Johan definitivamente estaba más seguro al quedarse en Porto. Vive con su compañero de cuarto y a ambos solo se les permite salir a comprar alimentos (la cafetería del club está cerrada). ¿Qué tan arriesgado puede ser? El riesgo asociado con ir a la tienda y volver a la casa era mínimo. Por otro lado, su bienestar mental al permanecer en Porto hasta cuatro meses adicionales iba a estar aprueba.

Tan pronto como terminé de darle a conocer la decisión de no ir, Johan, no dijo mucho, pero se notaba que estaba molesto, realmente molesto. Tampoco lo escondió mucho. Esta era la segunda vez que “la situación” había jugueteado con sus sentimientos en vano. Mientras colgábamos, mi ansiedad seguía de un lado a otro. ¿Acabábamos de perder la oportunidad de traerlo a casa por meses adicionales?

¿Se quedaria atorado Johan atorado en Porto hasta el comienzo de la temporada 2020-2021 (Agosto)?

Habiendo tomado esa decisión, yo personalmente dormí mejor el domingo por la noche. Ese no fue el caso de Claudia; Algo no estaba bien. Sus instintos maternos encontraron todas las razones para cuestionar la decisión. Debo decir que tenía algunas preguntas que me hicieron reflexionar. De alguna manera, encontré una justificación lógica para cada uno de ellos … hasta que se hizo la siguiente declaración: “Prefiero que se enferme aquí con nosotros, que allá“. Eso me llegó muy hondo. Por un momento, solo pude imaginar esa situación y el sentimiento de impotencia y tal vez de culpa. En ese momento, todo el razonamiento que había hecho las últimas 36 horas salió se diluyó. Johan volvía a casa a toda costa.

Una vez más, a encontrar vuelos

El FC Porto ha sido increíblemente comprensivo este año con nosotros. Y una vez más, no decepcionaron. Colaboramos y con sus recursos, encontramos una manera creativa de reservar un vuelo de 4 escalas. No me pregunten cómo lo hicimos. Las probabilidades de que la logística funcione a la perfección no están precisamente a nuestro favor; aún así, necesitábamos apresurarnos. El viaje de regreso a casa comenzó hoy (hora de Porto)…

¿Cómo te preparas para un vuelo de 2 días (que normalmente se lleva 10 horas)?

Una vez que se confirmó la reservación, Johan tuvo que actuar rápidamente. Estas son algunas de las cosas que Johan tuvo que hacer antes de viajar.

Objetos personales:

1.- Su televisor, mini-refrigerador y guardarropa tuvieron que guardarse en un lugar seguro para el verano, ya que no volverá al mismo apartamento la próxima temporada. Normalmente, el club se encargaría de esto; sin embargo, nadie está físicamente disponible en estos días, por lo que fue difícil coordinarlo. Johan guardó todas sus cosas, las aseguró y las dejó en su departamento actual. Hay un riesgo asociado con esto.

2.-Equipaje: Debido a las múltiples escalas y cambio de aviones para su vuelo; la posibilidad de perder / retrasar el equipaje en tránsito era extremadamente alta. No era aconsejable viajar con el equipaje facturado, ya que eso podría hacer que Johan perdiera los vuelos de conexión. Johan tuvo que encontrar un servicio de equipaje internacional que garantizara que sus pertenencias personales para el verano viajaran de manera segura a los EE. UU. (En aviones separados)

3.- Dinero: Viaja con una cantidad adecuada de dinero, ya que no se garantiza que los cajeros automáticos funcionen. La cantidad es suficiente para las emergencias necesarias: hotel, alquiler de autos, comida y otros gastos de viaje en caso de que esté atrapado en alguna de las ciudades de conexión.

4.- Hidratación: Dado que no habrá servicio (mínimo) de alimentos / bebidas en ninguno de los aeropuertos (e incluso a bordo del avión), se ha hidratado como loco estos últimos días.

5.- Comida: Igual que lo anterior, empacó bocadillos que le durarán varios días los de su viaje.

6.- Embajada: Llamó a la embajada para pedirle consejos de viaje casi a diario. Fueron muy útiles; pero extremadamente cautelosos (casi pesimistas) a la hora de viaja.

7.- Suministros: Desinfectante de manos, guantes, mascarilla, vitaminas etc.

A la hora de la redacción de esta publicación, Johan se encuentra en su primera escala en Zurich, Suiza (incluso más lejos que Portugal). La primera de 4 escalas. Pequeños pasos… Dios mediante, aterrizará en Dallas, mañana por la noche (tarde). Aunque es poco probable, puede que sea puesto en cuarentena en el aeropuerto dependiendo de sus síntomas. Si asi fuera, ya nos enfrentaremos a un desafío diferente pero “juntos” (como familia) al fin…

Sabemos que tenemos mucha gente creyente en nuestra audiencia. Les encargamos unas plegarias para que nuestro hijo llegue a casa sano y salvo. No nos importaría que nos tuviesemos que poner en cuarentena como familia. Simplemente, ya lo queremos en casa. Ojala y a salvo. Hasta la próxima.

Mateo 6:34
No se preocupen por el día de mañana, porque mañana habrá tiempo para preocuparse. Cada día tiene bastante con sus propios problemas.

Johan’s home, now what?

First of all, we would like to acknowledge and thank the outpouring of love and support we have received the past couple of days from folks all over. It’s been pleasantly overwhelming and much appreciated and it’s in moments like these that our bonds become stronger. We can’t thank you enough. If we haven’t gotten back to you personally, we will very soon. It’s been a physically, and emotionally draining week.

BTW, some of you have inquired about Jogo. Yes, he is away from us but doing really well (emotionally, mentally, and physically). He’s been busy wrapping up his online high school classes. LouCity has taken excellent care of him; we are in constant communication with their staff and they have been nothing short of amazing. Sure, we are not worry-free by any means but he is well-taken care of and “within” a driving distance should he need us. The time to see him again will come soon but that will have to wait…especially now. Anyway, here is where the Gómez’s are now on this Palm Sunday…

Late last night, Johan safely arrived to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) international airport after multiple stops in Europe and the US. He left Porto on Friday and made it home on Sunday (looong trip). As excited as we were to welcome him, we needed to take extreme safety measures to ensure his well-being and of those around him. Kudos to my sister-in-law who is a nurse by profession and led the way in the protocol to follow upon his arrival at the airport. The key to a successful “welcome” at the airport was preparation.

The preparation

We were always very optimistic that the flight would turn out a success. However, that was only part of the trip. There were a lot of unknowns as soon as he landed in DFW and we needed to be ready for the worst-case scenarios. We had to be certain that once he made it out to the terminal and/or home, his (and ours too) safety would be paramount.

  1. Attire: We prepared a new set of clothing (including different shoes) for Johan so that he’d change into that right away at the airport. Short of taking a shower at the airport, the point of doing that was to isolate and seal all his personal belongings ASAP (including his carry-on bag). This included providing a brand new set of gloves and mask. Johan’s only request was “just don’t make me look like a clown with your selection of clothing”. I’m not sure we achieved that but at least he was safe.
  2. Cars: We also prepared two cars to take to the airport, one car would be used by him to drive himself back from the airport and use for the next 14 days while the other would transport the rest of us safely back home.
  3. Medical attention: We found a medical facility that would see him upon his arrival to DFW. Given his flight arrival hours and his uncertain symptoms, we arranged a virtual visit for him in addition to any medical attention he would receive at the airport.
  4. His bedroom: We permanently moved Joana downstairs. Johan would remain in his room upstairs at least for 14 days regardless of his symptoms (or any state mandates). If need be, he would have access to the entire second floor gradually. Needless to say, Joana was ecstatic to move rooms closer to us.
  5. Supplies: We stocked up his room with supplies that we thought he’d need for the next 14 days including some food/water, medical and personal hygiene. That also included disposable silverware to avoid the possibility of infection. BTW, Johan and his pet turtle “Buddy” will have a lot of good conversations in the coming days. Chumchat with Buddy next?
  6. New home rules: It’s hard to tell Joana that she won’t be able to be close to Johan for the next 14 days so we basically told her that we are all in separate quarantines. Johan stays upstairs and we stay downstairs. New house rules effective immediately. Only one person delivers food to Johan: Mom.
  7. Family: We had “surprise” plans to go visit family next weekend. Those plans will now take second priority.

With all the precautions above, the time came for him to land in DFW and we made our trek out to the airport.

The arrival:

Johan was exhausted from a flight that literally lasted 36 hours. The initial welcome was somewhat strange. In fact, what I’m about to describe is very unorthodox and in some ways comical. Pick up the bits and pieces that are useful especially if you need to travel soon.

Johan right after his 36 hour trek with quarantine paperwork he was handed at the airport

First of all, even though all of us made the trip to the airport, I was the only one who got off the car(s) to “welcome” him at the terminal. Yes, as soon as I saw him, I wanted to hug him but that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, the welcome consisted of a set of delineated instructions for him to follow before going home. Apparently, he had been given a similar set of instructions (6 pages) after landing by DFW airport personnel. See below:

State of Texas Mandatory Terms of Self-quarantine (page 1/6)

I took three 13 gallon trash bags with me to the terminal. Since we asked him to change clothing at the airport, the first empty bag was to put his current garment. The second empty bag was to put his carry-on bag. The third bag had a slew of clean/new things. Clean clothes, shoes, new mask, gloves, car keys, money, etc. (a la Chapo Guzman).

Johan after changing clothes at the DFW airport 040420

Transportation:

Johan had some initial concerns about driving back home because he was so tired, jet-lagged, it was late at night, cold, dark; and let’s be honest, he doesn’t really drive in Porto. However, it was imperative that he drove home by himself. We led the way home at a speed of 50 mph and since it’s a ghost town out there, 25 minutes after we took off from terminal E’s garage, we were home. As soon as he arrived home, he put away the trash bags in the garage and everything was ready for his medical consultation.

Adhering to social distancing in a cold, empty parking garage

Medical consultation and feast back home

He proceeded to his room and his medical consultation lasted about 30 minutes. He was only asked a few questions regarding his trip. In Atlanta, he was medically screened meticulously because of his trip origination (and layovers); he was asked about his whereabouts for the last 2 weeks. However, since he was experiencing no symptoms, they said there was no need to test him at this point. They emphasized that we need to monitor him closely for the next 5 days.

As soon as that finished, he took a prolonged, relaxing (accompanied by Drake’s music) bath. After that, we then had “food” (dinner/breakfast) ready. He had requested a home-cooked meal so Claudia went all out and made him Mexican street tacos. He devoured 10 delicious ones. As he wrapped up the food up in his room, we finished watching Season 4 of “Money Heist/La Casa de Papel” and went to sleep right after that. We were all very exhausted but happy, really happy.

Condiments not pictured here

This morning we all woke up very late to face day #1 of our quarantine. So far, we are all symptom-free but it’s only been a few hours post exposure. We had a healthy and delicious omelette each.

First breakfast: Omelette

As we are getting ready for our “Palm Sunday” virtual service, I remembered that my sister (avid church goer), who has always shown an unconditional support for the boys, had interviewed Johan just the day before he left Porto. At the time, she didn’t really know that Johan would be traveling back home. We sometimes limit that type of information to try to shield family members from stressing out about our uncertain football related adventures (Jogo also found out last minute…thank you Mike). J/K

The pre-flight interview:

Below, you will find an interview that my sister Blanca, journalist by profession, did with Johan. Kudos to her, who worries sick about our boys, when honestly she has bigger fish to fry. Credit where where credit is due; she is the master-mind of this website. We love you sis. BTW, happy birthday tomorrow. You are a special kiddo. I don’t tell you that enough. As for the short interview below, beware, the interview is in Spanish.

Johan’s interview prior to his trek across the pond

The promise

In our culture, it’s very customary to make promises (mandas); they a type of religious offerings. When making a manda, an individual calls on a saint to bring his or her case to God so that he can intervene and solve a problem. Mine was a bit different but I did make a promise to myself that if Johan made it home safely, I would shave my head, so that’s coming up later today…..thanks again for all the love an support; we hope you continue to find value in reading us. Until next time #theGomezway

Should Johan return to (the) US?

Making the decision was emotionally draining but executing it is proving to be full of suspense and uncertainty; this is how it all went down…

Last Saturday afternoon (our morning), the Federação Portuguesa de Futebol (Portuguese football federation) finally made the decision to end its season for all age groups U19s and under. However, Porto’s technical staff requested Johan to stay put for the months of April and May. The main objective behind that request was to have him train once the Portuguese health department lifted all restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The club wants to prevent adverse effects from having a longer “off season” for the returning players. Johan loves OPorto the city, Porto the club, and football but with the COVID-19 numbers climbing exponentially daily, it was obvious there was a part of him hoping to come home early. Inevitably, he accepted the club’s decision with some hesitation but excited at the chance of getting back on the field and potentially practice with the first team…and this is when the emotional roller-coaster began.

Just a few hours later (Saturday evening Porto time), and with the COVID-19 situation worsening by the minute, FC Porto’s ownership decided to change their mind and advised ALL foreign nationals to travel back home ASAP. Ironically, the decision Johan had so hesitantly accepted a few hours prior (to stay put in Portugal for two additional months) was now being reversed with the resurrected (now not so remote) possibility to come home at last. He called us immediately with the news. To be honest, Claudia and I were not prepared for the quick change of heart by the club. When Johan asked us if we wanted him to come home, we couldn’t give him a rational, well-thought out, objective answer; instead, we impulsively said “of course”. Suddenly, we had more questions than answers but we owed it to him to do our due diligence and assess whether the trip back home was even feasible (and safe). And so, the emotional roller-coaster continued.

Were there flights even coming to the US from Europe anymore?

As soon as we hung up with Johan, we immediately called an American Airlines (AA) customer service representative. To nobody’s surprise, we couldn’t get a hold of one and had to wait hours before receiving a call back. Meanwhile, Claudia’s anxiety was increasing by the second as we couldn’t locate flights. I tried to keep my cool (was occupied working actually) but to our dismay, once we received a call back, a somewhat jaded (maybe frustrated AA rep) vehemently informed us that AA had NO scheduled flights back to the US (or Mexico) until the first week of May. We were quickly integrated into the reality the world is living in. Now, it was impacting our family directly. However, we were not about to give up so we kept searching everywhere for other flights.

Could Johan fly in another airline? if so, what would that entail? Was it safe?

We tried all known travel sites (multiple airlines) and could only come up with two flights in the next week or so. One flight would leave Monday (March 30th) and another one on Tuesday (March 31st) each with 4 stops and taking over 3 (yes 3) days to make it home…not the safest. Time-wise, both were far from convenient too but in a bind, they were doable options. However, neither flight was going to work; see, Johan needed to take care of the regular “summer” move to do’s list prior to leaving Porto since he wouldn’t be back until late in the summer. Booking one of the flights above, gave him extremely limited time to take care of that list. The challenge wasn’t so much expediting the to do’s; the main obstacle was that hardly anybody from FC Porto was physically available to assist so he was left alone to master mind and execute creative decisions. Faced with little immediate success for flights and the mounting stress this was causing on Johan (and us), we decided to sleep on making a final decision concerning his return home and then talk about it Sunday morning.

At last…a travel decision was made

Saturday night was really long. Neither one of us could sleep assessing different scenarios. There wasn’t a “right” decision. After careful analysis (accompanied by prayers), we were split on a decision Sunday morning. While Claudia and Joana were adamant about bringing him home, Mike and myself thought the most prudent thing was to have him wait in Porto for at least a couple of weeks until hopefully the situation improved. The time to share a decision with Johan came around. The phone call was hard, voice-cracking hard. As I was sharing my logical, well-thought out decision with him, he listened attentively,

As I articulated my thoughts, I was trying to imagine his disappointment which made it more difficult for me to be eloquent.. In my head, everything made perfect sense but somehow, it did not feel right. In one hand, Johan was definitely safer staying in Porto. He lives with his roommate and both are only allowed to go out to get groceries (club cafeteria is closed). How risky can that be? The risk associated with going to the store and back to the house was minimal. On the other hand, his mental well-being by potentially staying in Porto up to four additional months was going to be tested. As soon I finished relaying the no-go travel decision to Johan, he said little but was upset, really upset. He didn’t hide it either. This was the second time “the situation” had fiddled with his feelings to no avail. As we hung up, my anxiety continued to be rampant. Had we now just lost a chance to bring him home for additional months?

Would he be stuck in Porto until the beginning of the 2020-2021 season (August)?

Having made that decision, I personally slept better Sunday night. That wasn’t the case for Claudia; something was not right. Her maternal instincts found every reason to question the decision; I must say, she had some thought provoking questions. Somehow, I found a logical justification for every one of them…until the following statement was made: “I’d rather have him get sick here with us, than over there“. That hit me really hard. For a moment, I could only picture that situation and the feeling of helplessness and perhaps guilt. At that point, all the reasoning I had done the past 36 hours went out the door. Johan was returning home at any cost.

Claudia kept playing the beginning of this song when we were split on a decision

Back at it finding flights

FC Porto has been amazingly supportive this year with us. They did not disappoint this time. We collaborated and with their resources, we found a creative way to book a 4 layover flight. Don’t ask me how we did it. The chances of the logistics working seamlessly are not in our favor; even so, we needed to make a run for it. The journey back home began earlier today (Porto time)…

How do you prepare for a 2-day (potentially longer) flight? (that normally takes 10 hours)

Once the booking was confirmed, Johan had to act quickly. Here are a few of the things Johan had to take care prior to traveling.

  1. Personal belongings: His TV, mini-fridge, wardrobe had to be stored in a safe place for the summer as he will not be back in the same apartment next season. Normally, the club would take care of this; however, nobody is physically available these days so it was hard to coordinate. Johan boxed up all his stuff, secured it and left it in his current apartment. There’s a risk associated with this.
  2. Luggage: Due to the multiple layovers and change of planes for his flight; the possibility of losing/delaying the luggage in transit was extremely high. It was not wise to travel with checked-in luggage as that could cause Johan to miss connection flights. Johan had to find an international luggage service that will ensure his personal belongings for the summer travel safely to the US (on separate planes)
  3. Money: He is traveling with an adequate amount of money as ATM’s are not guaranteed to be functional. The amount is enough for needed emergencies: hotel, car rental, food, and other travel expenses in case he’s stuck in any one of the connection cities.
  4. Hydration: Since there will be no (minimal) food/beverage service at any of the airports (and even onboard the plane), he hydrated like crazy these past few days.
  5. Food: Similar to above, he packed up snacks that will last him for multiple days of his journey
  6. Embassy: He called the embassy for travel advice almost daily. They were very helpful; but extremely cautious (almost pessimistic) about traveling nonetheless
  7. Supplies: Hand sanitizer, gloves, mask, vitamins, medicine, etc.

As I write this, he’s in his first stop in Zurich, Switzerland (even farther than Portugal). The first of 4 stops. Baby steps….God willing, he will land in Dallas, tomorrow night (late). Although unlikely, he may be quarantined at the airport depending on his symptoms. At that point, we will be facing a different challenge but “together” (as a family) at last…

We know we have a lot of prayer warriors in our audience. Please pray that our boy makes it home safely. We don’t care if we have to quarantine ourselves for a while. We want him home. Preferably safe. Until next time.

Matthew 6:34
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own
Little Johan – 18 months old