Walk It Off

On 23 April, we went to San Diego - sort of. One of the restaurants that kept showing up in various searches, and on Google Maps, was Restaurante San Diego, which was a little east of La Paz, past the fincas, across the ravine and back up the hill. It wasn't too far from Bollullo Beach, but a slightly different direction. It was a nice sunny day, we didn't have anything else to do, a big steak sounded good, so we just decided to go for it. It was a nice walk, but with the sun and the uphill walk towards the end, we were both a little hot by arriving at the restaurant. We were the first ones there, and they gave us a choice of tables on their outdoor terrace overlooking the small neighborhood near Bollullo and, of course, the ocean itself. We ordered up some wine, some bread (which was grilled, and excellent), Crystal got a burger, and I got a steak. We spent about half of the lunch trying to figure out what some random object in the ocean was. We couldn't really tell, but it was heading for Puerto, and we assumed it was either a really strong swimmer or a really small boat. Lunch was very good, but I was more interested in traveling to the city of San Diego, not the restaurant.

The morning of 26 April was the day before I was slated to go back to San Diego for my COVID shot.  The US had lifted the “pause” on the J&J shot the Friday before, so everything was falling into place.  I had arranged with Heidi to stay at her place for a couple days, then come right back to Tenerife.  There were buses to the south airport, albeit with a transfer in Santa Cruz, so all I needed was a small backpack, about half full with paperwork for whatever crap I might need to deal with (hopefully none) coming back into Spain.  All I had to do today was get a COVID test, and I’d found a spot in town that was recommended by several of the people from Spanish class.

Mid-morning, I received two emails from the extranjería office, indicating for Crystal and me separately, that we had new documents.  It didn’t give any contextual information what the documents related to, however, and they weren’t attached, they required logging in to the system that Carlos had signed us up for a few weeks prior.  I was really excited to see what the notices were, but I had to wait for Carlos to pull them up and send them to me.  He couldn’t pull it up right away, however, as he needed a digital signature that was stored in his office, and he wasn’t there at the moment.

So I just tried to work off all my nervous energy.  We walked down into town for my COVID test.  I was hoping that if Carlos had bad news, I’d find out before having to take (and pay for) the COVID test.  But he was radio silent.  The medical office was right at Punta del Viento, at the western edge of San Telmo.  Interestingly, the doctor had an American accent, as he originally was from Utah, but had lived in Spain for a couple decades now.  The test was easy, and I was in and out in about 5-10 minutes.

After wrapping up the test, we walked home, and then went to lunch.  Because we were going to be separated for a little bit, and Crystal hadn’t yet been to Tito’s Bodeguita, we decided to have a nice long lunch there.  So we walked up the mountain towards the TF-5 and finally went into Tito’s, after walking past it at least a dozen times on our various walks to La Orotava.  I’d been there in January, before Crystal arrived, but we hadn’t yet been together.  The interior courtyard was just as picturesque in the daylight as it had been at dinner the night I went.  We had a seat in the south corner of the courtyard, away from others.  We both got steaks, which were very tasty and worth their higher-than-normal (for Puerto) prices.  It was now mid-afternoon, and we still hadn’t heard anything from Carlos, and we had nothing better to do, so we got a second half-liter of wine.  It was a nice last meal together for a week or so.

On the walk back, just as we were getting into El Durazno, a huge group of goats passed by us on the street, with the farmer and some dogs herding them down the street.  There were a couple cars that had to wait, but they seemed non-plussed, perhaps they were used to things like this.  We found it pretty humorous, and made sure to send Heidi (who loves goats) some photos and video.  Back at the house, it was now late afternoon, and there was still no word from Carlos, so I was getting anxious.  I tried to pass the time by doing Duolingo lessons.

A little before 18:00, Carlos pinged me on WhatsApp.  He said “They denied your authorization to return.  They said you didn’t apply for the extension of your non lucrative residency.  Madness.  I already checked everything, and everything was submitted.  I am calling them already.  And I will continue calling till tomorrow.  I will submit also a script claiming and adding everything again.  Cause everything is ok, and well submitted, you can even check it on internet with the security codes.  Madness…I am fed up of them.  They do not even care of people like you, but they take very well care of other…Let me stop now.” 

While he was venting, I was more or less in shock.  On the one hand, I wasn’t really surprised, but it was still very surprising to actually have my worst fears realized.  For close to a year, I had this gnawing feeling that things weren’t going to work out, somehow, but I wasn’t sure how or why.  But somehow, I knew.  When I landed in Tenerife, but the dogs couldn’t get released, I figured that was it.  But then the dogs got released, and after a dicey couple weeks for Lola, they seemed fine.  Crystal arrived without any issues.  We got our padron, we got our phone lines, we got our bank account, and after a ton of delays, we finally got our extensions filed.  The extensions had QR codes, they were tied to our NIE numbers, and scanning the QR codes pulled up the application, and the accompanying paperwork.  The “authorization to return” was also tied to our NIE numbers, also had a QR code, and the accompanying paperwork was literally a copy of our visa extension paperwork.  But somehow the bureaucrats processing the authorization to return didn’t think we’d filed our paperwork.  Of all the stupid shit to lose my dream over, this took the cake.

I told Carlos “If they don’t want us, our money spent at stores and restaurants, and our taxes, that’s fine.  There are 100+ other countries that I’m sure would love to have us.  If they don’t get you something tonight, I’m canceling my flight and we’re leaving [the country for good.]  So hopefully they respond quickly.”  Carlos was empathetic, and very worked up, but I got the gist that his rage wasn’t going to do anything to allow me to fly out the next day.  Within the hour he sent over a bunch of stuff that was effectively an appeal of their denial.  He asked if it was okay to submit them, and I said sure (I'm not sure I even reviewed it), but I was 100% positive that it was all pointless.

I stopped my Duolingo lesson before finishing, not caring that it would break my streak of over a year straight of at least one lesson a day.  I went to United Airlines and canceled my flights to and from the US.  I pinged Heidi and Tom on our group thread and let them know I wouldn’t be coming the next day, so no need to prepare for my arrival: “Good part (for everyone but me) is we’ll likely [all] be back in SD soon.  Bad part is I wasted over a year of my life.  So fuck this place.  Back to the land of racism, school shootings, police murder, and healthcare bankruptcies – hooray.”

I was angry at pretty much everything and everybody.  It seemed like I was the only person who wanted me to be enjoying myself in Tenerife.  Deep down, I wasn’t 100% sure if this was correct, but in the moment that’s what was in my mind.  My thinking was that all friends and family, including Crystal, were secretly happy that we’d have to leave Tenerife and return to the US.  This made me even more angry.  I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream, I just went into the second bedroom and beat the living shit out of the mattress with my fists, then picked up one of the pillows and proceeded to swing it down onto the bed over and over and over again until I was out of breath and my abs and obliques were sore. 

Then I grabbed my phone, grabbed my headphones, and went for a walk.  The sun was starting to go down at this point, but it was still light outside.  I walked through the west side of La Paz, headed down towards the Carretera, then headed back up Calle Belgica and into Parque Sortija and Parque Taoro.  I was listening to a Rewatchables podcast about Predator, and that did a decent job of orienting my head - not killing aliens in the middle of the rainforest, just getting my mind off of the visa issue.  The video below was taken by the Canary Relax guy on 29 April (three days later) in Parque Taoro and Parque Sortija, so pretty accurately depicts what I was seeing on 26 April; between the relaxing views and the podcast, I was able to calm down and get my mind together a bit.

I was trying to process everything that had transpired, and determine what needed to happen next.  From what everyone had been telling me since we’d arrived, our extension was just a matter of when, not a matter of if.  Well, now I had zero confidence that was the case.  I didn’t want to make a rash decision, particularly when angry, so I tried to put on my litigator cap and go through all the permutations of what might happen, when it might happen, what we could do if X happened, what we could do if Y happened, and come up with the best solution that wouldn’t leave us completely screwed in a worst-case scenario.

Putting all the variables together, there wasn’t any rational decision other than to leave, as painful as that was.  It was late April, and from communications I’d been having with Charlotte already (out of due diligence, just in case), I knew the dogs couldn’t fly after the end of May.  I was now very dubious, if not outright hostile, to the idea that the extranjero office could get everything fixed by then.  So I pinged Charlotte and gave her an update “They screwed us on our visa, so we need to leave.  We need out of this godforsaken country ASAP…Well, you reap what you sow, and this island reaps incompetence.  I feel awful for you and all the others trying to make a go of it.”  She asked if we could appeal, but I told her “I’m sure I can, but I’m done with this shit.”

So the new plan was to leave the country ASAP, as soon as we could find a way – any way – to get the dogs out.  Because COVID was on the increase, flights between Tenerife and the mainland were few and far between, so Charlotte and I discussed maybe putting the dogs on a ferry to Cadiz, where we could then fly them out from the mainland.  But we’d need something soon.  We also discussed perhaps getting the dogs registered as emotional support animals, as that might incrementally help the odds of getting them on flights we couldn’t otherwise access.  Eventually I meandered back home, ready to go to sleep and hopefully wake up the next day feeling a little more hopeful about the world.

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