The Siblings Barnes

I woke up Saturday, 9 January in Tenerife, but not where I wanted to be in Tenerife.  The dogs were stuck in an airport warehouse, and I was doing what I could to get them out sooner, and to keep them healthy in the meantime.  Charlotte had been allowed to come to the warehouse to feed them, and take them on short walks, inside the warehouse.  Initially, I was not allowed, perhaps because they were worried (and perhaps reasonably) I’d just snatch the dogs and run.

Charlotte confirmed that the issue was getting a hold of the government vet, and that no one had been able to find him yet.  I asked her if I could pay to fly in one of the vets from the mainland, just to get the ordeal sorted.  Charo indicated to Charlotte that the vet would be back on Monday, and I asked how she knew that, i.e., who told her.  I relayed to Chartotte “if that person knows when the vet will be back, then I would assume they have his or her cell, email, etc.”  I had gotten some decent sleep, so while I was not as emotional as the day before, my mind was sharper and I was a lot more pissed off.  “These aren’t fucking packages or cargo crates.  They’re living beings that need light, air, food, water, exercise.”  [To be clear, when I was texting Charlotte, she knew – I’m pretty sure – that I was pissed at pretty much everyone but her.]

In the afternoon, I actually got to go see them, but only because things got more screwed up, not better.  They relented to our requests because more dogs ended up in the warehouse.  The storm that I’d flown over the day before had dumped snow all over Spain, and many of the airports were closed.  Tenerife, having much warmer weather, was where a number of the planes landed instead.  So now there were several dogs waiting for that one government vet to come to the airport and release them.  And accordingly, there were more people in the same position as me, but presumably with much better Spanish and perhaps with friends in higher places.  So I met Charlotte mid-afternoon to take the dogs out of their crates, one at a time.  I walked them and fed them while Charlotte cleaned their crates, which were filthy now, especially Lola’s.  Pig had done a much better job of holding it, but went about 2 minutes after Charlotte put down the new pee pads.  So then he got even newer pee pads. 

Thereafter I sat with them, in between their crates, and quietly read Dostoyevsky whilst they slept.  Lola was sleeping comfortably, and Avon would watch the movements of the cargo vehicles every so often between sleeping.  Juan, the employee with his own Frenchie, took pity on me, and gave me a chair and some water.  I think he imagined what it’d be like if his dogs were in that situation, and could understand what I was going through.  In the end, when the warehouse was closing to the public and I had to go, I asked him if he could keep Lola and Avon away from the other dogs in case Avon started barking or getting amped up because of a nearby dog.  He agreed, and put them on complete other sides of the warehouse.

Back at the hotel, the NFL playoffs were on a German TV station.  I had more junk food, and more beverages, and watched some US football on a German telecast whilst in Spain.  Besides the names of the players, which were in English, several of the phrases were interestingly in English as well.  I was able to follow along decently. In the early evening, I also had a Zoom call for the patrons of the Amateur Traveler podcast (a travel podcast I listen to religiously, plus I was the guest on the Big Island of Hawaii episode and the Turkmenistan episode) and I filled people on as to what was going on with the dogs, and even the seasoned travelers had a reaction somewhat akin to "what the hell, that's messed up."  I fell asleep at a decent hour, but woke up after just a couple hours, but there were still NFL games going, so I was able to watch some of the late games.

Sunday was a bit like Saturday.  I was able to meet Charlotte at the warehouse again, and we were able to take the dogs out one at a time.  It was Lola's 10th birthday, but I told her we'd celebrate when we got to Puerto, not in an airport warehouse. I also walked one of the other stranded dogs, a young Doberman who was probably full grown, but who had not filled out yet.  On Sunday I couldn’t stay nearly as long, however, so after just a bit I had to go back to the hotel.  I was holding out hope that by Monday morning, I’d be leaving with the dogs.

Since I knew I wouldn’t get to go back later in the day, I decided to at least try to enjoy my Sunday a little bit.  I walked down to the promenade just to the west of the hotel, looking for restaurants that looked tasty, had a good vibe going, or both.  I ended up at Lava Beach, a pub with a good amount of Brits.  They had some burger specials that sounded good, and I got one, along with a gin and tonic.  The gin came out in a big goblet with a couple big ice cubes.  The waiter started pouring, and pouring, and then the goblet was half full.  I poured in about half the tonic, and saved the rest of the tonic for round two.  I realized about halfway through the meal that this was the first “real” meal I’d had since Tuesday – everything else was airline food or junk food.  For at least a little bit, it was like I was on vacation, and between that feeling, plus the sun, and likely the booze, I felt a little better.

I spent the afternoon futzing around with my VPN software on the computer and phone.  As I’d found out in Frankfurt, Google News is unavailable in the EU, so I needed to spoof my location to somewhere in the US.  It had been a while since I’d used the software, and didn’t remember any of the login details, so when Crystal got up I asked her, and thankfully she had it.  I watched some of the Ravens-Titans game on TV while this was going on.  In the late afternoon I walked east from the hotel, over towards an area full of restaurants and bars that I could see on Google Maps.  There were a decent amount of people, but way less than I imagined would normally be there on a Sunday in January.  I didn’t see anything that really jumped out, so I walked back towards the hotel and ended up grabbing dinner at an Irish bar just up the street.  They were playing 1980s hits on the radio, and I sent Crystal and Heidi (who were hanging out that day back in California) some screenshots from Shazam, including “Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera and “Like a Prayer” by Madonna.  I grabbed some more soda from the convenience store on the way back to the hotel, then had a couple cocktails before going to sleep.  I woke up again in the middle of the night, as was able to watch the Browns upset the Steelers, so that was an added bonus.

Monday morning, I texted Charlotte at 08:00 to see if there was any update, and at 08:45 she responded “Success!!!”  She asked that I meet her at the cargo terminal at 10:00, and that Dani would be available around 11:00 to drive me and the pups to Puerto.  It didn’t take me long to pack, as I hadn’t really unpacked anything.  I checked out of the hotel and got a cab to the cargo terminal.  I’d taken cabs on the weekend to get to and from the airport.  Cabs were right out front of the hotel, and cabs were in between the cargo terminal and passenger terminal at the airport.  I think I caught a couple of the drivers off guard at the airport, however, as I walked up from the cargo terminal, and had literally no baggage – that probably doesn’t happen very often.  Today, of course, I had my bags.  I had learned how to say “cargo terminal” in Spanish such that the driver didn’t take me to the passenger terminal out of habit.

At the airport, Lola wasn’t in great shape.  I couldn’t tell if she was sick to her stomach, dehydrated, or both.  She’d been in her crate since Wednesday, and it was now Monday morning.  Because she was still recovering from her surgery, she was going Number 2 all the time, but she wanted to keep her bedding clean, so…yeah.  It was a disaster area in her crate.  Once I finally got them outside, I was able to get them out of the crate and take them on a short walk – they were very happy to be free.  After getting some fresh water, Lola seemed to perk up a bit, so I was hopeful it was nothing too serious.  I sorted all the paperwork and final payment with Charlotte, bid her adieu, and Dani and the pups and I headed off for Puerto.

Dani came to Tenerife from Eastern Europe a decade or so ago.  Talking to him, it sounded like he did whatever sort of work he could find to ensure he had enough money to stay on the island and live comfortably.  He helps Charlotte with transport and other tasks, he does in-home dogsitting, he works at a place in the south where they do kayak tours to see the whales and dolphins, and I think there was something else as well, but I forget.  He speaks several languages fluently, which as I’d find out, is fairly common on Tenerife.  We spent most of the ride chatting about his time here and what lessons he learned after moving here that he could pass on to me.  He gave me several driving tips, which were helpful, but I didn’t plan on driving anywhere any time soon, so I hoped I’d remember them.  On Google Maps, in guessing how long it would take to get to Puerto, I noticed that Google Maps called out two speed trap cameras, which Dani confirmed were well-known and respected by the drivers.

From the south airport, we headed northeast along the coastline towards Santa Cruz, the capital.  The island is shaped like a ladle or a ramen spoon, with Santa Cruz being on the bottom near the end of the handle on the east, the south airport being near the bottom of the ladle, and Puerto being more or less where the handle (the northeast part of the island) meets the top of the ladle.  The reason we were driving northeast along the coast, rather than just heading due north, is because the center of the island consists of the slopes of Mt Teide, the highest mountain in Spain, and the third largest volcano in the world (behind Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, on the Big Island, both viewable from our hometown of Pahoa).  There are a handful of roads that go up and down the slopes, but they are steep and windy, and so it’s generally faster to just drive around the perimeter of the island to get anywhere. 

The main highway on the south is TF-1, which goes from Santa Cruz in the northeast all the way to the south and then curving up along the west coast to Santiago del Teide, where the topography and lack of population made a highway unwarranted.  The main highway on the north is TF-5, which goes from Santa Cruz into the Orotava valley, past Puerto, until about Icod.  Past Icod there are smaller roads (such as TF-42) continuing to the west, all the way to Buenavista del Norte, near the northwest tip of the island.  Between Buenavista del Norte and Santiago del Teide is a very windy, narrow road (TF-436) that is more commonly known as the road to Masca.  I had read that they have received approval to build a tunnel that will go through the mountain, connecting Santiago del Teide with Icod, at which point there will be uninterrupted highway circumnavigating the whole island.  Well, almost the whole island.  The very northeast part of the island, Anaga, is chock full of mountains, valleys, deep green forests, and very few people.  It, like Masca, is renowned for its hiking and other outdoor activities.  Both Masca and Anaga were on our radar for places to hike once we were situated in Puerto.

Speaking of which, after coming into Santa Cruz, Dani veered left (north) onto the TF-5, and I could see the central business district off to my right.  It was a warm sunny day, and visibility was quite good.  The storm that had hit mainland Spain had hit Tenerife as well, apparently right before I landed.  This dropped a lot of rain, and also snow on the upper parts of Mt Teide, and had blown out any pollution or haze in the air.  After turning onto the TF-5, I recognized the scenery a bit better, as I’d seen it on shore excursion days and also going from and coming to the airport.  The Tenerife North airport is right near the intersection of TF-1 and TF-5, and convenient to both. 

As we rounded a small bend on the TF-5 in El Sauzal, an amazing view of the Orotava Valley came into focus.  On the top left was a snow-covered Mt Teide, and heading down and to the right were the steep green hillsides of the valley, leading down to Puerto de la Cruz on the far right, one of the few “flat” areas of coastline on the north shore.  I was waiting to see this, as I’d had a visceral response the last two times I’d seen this view, and this one was equally moving.  This time even moreso, as this was now going to be home.

Once we got off the highway, I started reading Dani instructions on how to get to the Airbnb.  All of a sudden all of the lines on the map and the street names, which I’d seen on a computer for the past year, were coming to life, with bougainvillea, houses, sidewalks, small stores, restaurants, and more.  We drove past the tall stone walls of the Botanic Garden, and at that point we were in the city itself.  We drove a few blocks north through La Paz, then turned right onto Calle Aceviño.  I made a mental note of the grocery store at the corner there, as I’d need to grab provisions sometime soon.  We headed a few blocks east on Calle Aceviño, with restaurants and pubs lining both sides of the street.  The sidewalk was lined with Royal Poinciana trees (not blooming, sadly) almost the whole length of the street.  At a stop sign near a couple small cafes we turned left, and about 75 feet later we stopped at an intersection across from the front gate to the Airbnb on Camino de la Costa.

It was right at noon, and opening the car door, it was quite warm outside.  Dani helped me move all of the bags and the dog crates over to the condo complex’s front gate, and then I waited a few minutes for the Airbnb host to let me in.  I thanked Dani profusely, and told him we’d connect soon about an excursion or a hike or something else fun to do on the island.  Just outside the complex gate was a small viewpoint area and a couple benches.  I sat down with the pups on their leashes, and just took in seeing them exploring their surroundings, half a world away from where they’d been five days prior.  Lola was seemingly doing better, sniffing everything and scurrying around.  It was an odd feeling watching them, because we’ve traveled extensively for over 15 years now, but we’ve never taken the dogs anywhere.  We’d planned to take them on our 20th Anniversary roadtrip in the spring of 2020, but COVID had other plans.  We ended up taking the roadtrip in the fall instead, but put it together in a hurry, and with the limited number of things available, it was easier to do without the pups.  So seeing them smelling the flowers, with our new home and the Atlantic Ocean in the background, was jarring and disorienting.  But also enjoyable – very enjoyable.

The Airbnb host showed up after a couple minutes, and she opened up the gate to the complex.  She was surprised to see so much stuff, but then I told her we were moving here, not just visiting, and that we wanted the Airbnb for a few weeks while we looked for a long-term rental.  Crystal and I had looked at quite a few options for where to stay with Airbnb, focusing on places that had two bathrooms (just in case), and an outdoor area for the dogs.  We narrowed it down to this place and a place more in the center of town, right near the Orchid Garden.  The place near the Orchid Garden had a large “yard” with astroturf and some outdoor furniture, no real view, and was close to the main road through town, but it was very central.  This place had a great view, but was basically on the east edge of town, near the stuff on Calle Aceviño, but not much else.  It did have an upper and lower patio, however.  In the end, the view won out.

After entering the complex’s gate, we walked down a ramp towards where the elevator was, but apparently the elevator wasn’t working, so we had to go down about 10-15 stairs.  At the bottom of the stairs, we walked from Building A past Building B and the pool, arriving in Building C.  I’d estimate each building had either 4 or 6 units each.  We went in and I immediately put the dogs in the second bedroom and shut the door.  All of the crates and my bags were still upstairs, outside the complex gates.  It didn’t seem like a busy area, or an area where people might take something, but I didn’t want to find out.  The Airbnb host helped bring some of the stuff down, which couldn’t have been easy since nothing was small or lightweight, and there were stairs everywhere.  After a few trips we had everything in the unit, and she explained what keys did what, what sort of stores were in the immediate vicinity, and that she worked at one of the language schools if I wanted to take some Spanish classes.

After she left the unit, I opened up the door to the second bedroom, and the dogs had already urinated and defecated on the floor.  While not completely surprising, it was still unwelcome.  The floors were smooth glossy tile, so it was easy to clean, but I didn’t want this to become a pattern, so I took them outside so they could learn that this was the pet relief area.

The Airbnb was nice, and the view was spectacular, but there were a couple noteworthy things that I hadn’t considered, both having to do with the fact this was a north-facing coastline.  First, the prevailing wind comes from the north on Tenerife, and this afternoon it was pretty stiff.  Both the sliding glass doors facing the ocean, one in the living room and the other in the second bedroom, started whistling when the wind really picked up.  Second, the biggest natural light sources were both of those sliding glass doors, and they both face north.  Well, Tenerife is north of the Tropic of Cancer, so the sun is always going to be a little to the south, and that’s even in summer, whereas this was early January.  Point being, there was no sunlight in the unit, so between that and the wind, it was much cooler inside than outside.  Also, the main bedroom was quite dark, as it had only one window, but facing the main walkway within the complex, so I thought it best to keep the shade drawn.  There was a small space heater, so I turned that on, and the dogs immediately came over and laid right next to it.

After I’d done a little bit of unpacking and organizing, I decided to finally exhale a bit.  I turned off the heater, put Avon in his crate, and then went out for some provisions.  I walked down Calle Aceviño to the grocery store, Coviran.  The store was pretty good-sized, but noticeably smaller than what we’re used to in San Diego.  Many of the items on the shelves were familiar, albeit not the same, if that makes sense.  The labeling was different, the language was different, but the shapes and colors and packaging style were all pretty similar.  For Lola, I got wet dog food, specifically Edeke Fiene Pastete Senior, Mit Huhn & Reis.  I wasn’t sure why it was German instead of Spanish, but whatever, I hoped it would help.  Over the weekend she wasn’t eating her food, only Avon’s, but her food was good for her stomach, so I needed her to keep eating it, and maybe adding just a tiny smidge of wet dog food would help.  I got some pasta, some chips, some soda, and some rum (Diplomatico) for me.  It was nice to see that I could get quality rum just down the street.

Back at home (it’s odd seeing that in print, by the way), the pups were pretty much out, understandably worn out after several days of transit.  I gave them some food (I’d brought quite a bit for each of them, so I had sufficient time to try to find their food on the island), added Metamucil and a tiny bit of wet food to Lola’s food, and she scarfed it down, so I’d passed my first test as a single parent. :-)  I got connected on the wi-fi and let Crystal know that things had gone smoothly today and we were successfully in Puerto.  Based on that, she gave her two-weeks notice at work, and we discussed when she’d leave San Diego to join the rest of us.  She wanted to spend a week after completing work just hanging out with her family, which was understandable, but that took us past the end date for the Airbnb, so I mentioned her absence might cause some headaches trying to get a long-term rental.

Every so often I’d look over at the dogs, and they were just resting comfortably on the dog bed (the one that had been in Pig’s crate) near the heater.  I felt like Uma Thurman’s character at the end of Kill Bill 2, just wanting to happy cry on the floor.  I didn’t, mainly because the floor was freezing cold.

In the late afternoon/early evening, after the dogs were fed and had been out, I decided to head into town and do some brief exploring.  There are a handful of ways to get from La Paz (the eastern part of town where we were staying) and “downtown”, and this evening I chose to take the Agatha Christie steps.  She stayed in town in 1927, and lived in La Paz.  Near the west end of Calle Aceviño there is a walkway that heads down a slope, and there are dozens of stairs.  Several of the stairs towards the bottom of the walkway are painted in bright colors and bear the names of her books.  At the bottom of the steps, there is a different walkway (this one heading north-south instead of east-west) that goes down an even steeper slope, past some restaurants and bars, ending up by a shopping mall (Centro Comercial Martiánez) and the downtown area. 

Once down there I walked a few blocks to Playa de San Telmo, and then just walked along the shoreline until I found something appetizing.  I recognized a fair amount of what I was seeing, but it had been over a year at this point, so nothing was crystal clear.  I kept walking west, past Plaza Europa and then Playa del Muelle, a tiny rocky beach right in the center of town, near where we’d stayed in 2019.  Just a few blocks west of there was Calle del Lomo, in the La Ranilla district, which I remembered for having a lot of outdoor restaurants and some very cool urban art on some of the buildings.  I ended up grabbing a table at Ristorante Mamma Rosa, which Crystal and I had eaten at one of the nights in December 2019.  This was as good a time as any to start practicing all the Spanish I’d been learning for a year.  I asked for a table for 1, asked for a menu, asked for a glass of vino tinto de la casa, and more, all in decent enough Spanish the waitress understood me.  She asked where I was from, and I said “Estados Unidos,” and she looked surprised, presumably 1) because not many Americans come to the Canary Islands, and 2) Americans were not allowed in Europe after March 2020.  So I told her “me mudé aquí” (I moved here) to help make sense of things.  “Cuando?”  (When?)  “Hoy.”  (Today.)  I had a good dinner, spoke a little bit of Spanish with her (it was a Monday night in the middle of a pandemic, so not a ton of people out for dinner), felt proud of myself for having an entire dinner in Spanish only, and then began the walk back home.  I made a mental note of all the stores (grocery and otherwise) along the way, knowing that I’d likely be needing to use some of them sometime soon.

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