Waking up in San Diego on 7 May was…interesting.  After being gone so long, and having no intention of returning any time soon, it was surreal to be back at all, let alone so quickly and abruptly.  I’d woken up two days earlier in Puerto like any other day, and now just over 48 hours later, I was waking up in San Diego.  But my heart and mind were still in Puerto.  First of all, I had WhatsApp messages from Charlotte asking if everyone had made it home safely, so I told her yes, and thanked her again for her tireless efforts to extricate us from the island.  Second, I sent some photos from Heidi’s place – which has great views over Coronado and towards Mexico – to Sandra and my cohorts from her class, letting them know I was back in the US.

For our first lunch back in the US, we went to get Mexican food from one of our favorite spots in San Diego, La Puerta.  The food was good, but I passed on drinks, as after spending months in Puerto, I was aghast and offended at paying $14 for a margarita.  So that was a reality check.  On the flipside, the afternoon brought our initial COVID shot, which was obviously a great thing.  Also nice was visiting some of our old stomping grounds on Saturday 8 May, Polite Provisions and False Idol (where we met Heidi and Tom).  Sunday 9 May was Mother’s Day, and Crystal’s parents live just upstairs from Heidi, so it was just a short ride on the elevator for us.  But I had to excuse myself after an hour or two, as I had a bad reaction to one of the edibles I took – I guess my tolerance was shot.

Our first weekend back in San Diego I booked a flight, and a one-way flight at that, to Hawaii.  While I have nothing against San Diego (except perhaps its high cost), I just wasn’t feeling it, and didn’t want to be around other people.  I didn’t want to have the conversation, over and over again, about why we were back so soon, explaining what happened, figuring out the best response to “that sucks, I’m sorry to hear that”, etc.  I didn’t really want to be around anyone or anything.  So Tuesday I flew out to Hilo, and the Hawaii house was remarkably in pretty good shape.  Six months prior I’d put down a bunch of bifen as well as diatomaceous earth as barrier treatments, and they’d done their job, as the house was effectively barren of any insects.  The garden wasn’t in great shape, but I had to remind myself that it had been six months.  My birthday was shortly after I arrived in Hawaii, and I spent a lonely birthday in Pahoa, but it was fine.  I got a rainbow, and there was an eclipse around that time as well, and since for once there were clear skies at our house, I was able to get pretty decent photos of the eclipse. 

It took only until 18 May, less than two weeks after we returned to the US, for us to book flights back to Puerto.  We booked a two week trip around Carnaval for 2022, since we’d missed it this year because of COVID restrictions.  That was, far and away, the main thing we missed seeing during our time there.  Well, that and a normal life. And Mexican food. On that note, a Mexican restaurant named Zicatela opened in Puerto in mid-May, just weeks after we left, go figure. I'm already planning to eat there in February. Also in mid-May, there was a fire on the south of Tenerife, not far from Charlotte's home. I kept in contact with her, and thankfully it never got too close, and the winds kept the smoke away from her place. 

In June, Crystal went back to work, at the same company she left in January.  I had no such interest, not because I disliked my coworkers, but because I wanted to be retired for more than just a few months, to get an accurate gauge.  With no job, for the first time in Hawaii in the 10+ years we've had the house, I actually had unlimited time to spend in the yard, around the house, etc.  I spent a good amount of time doing yardwork, exercising, swimming in the local pool, and more.  I spent two months in Pahoa before returning to San Diego, and lost about 12 pounds (5.5 kilograms) during that stint.  The other highlight was meeting my friend Garrett, and his new wife Lalitha, during the night I coincidentally went over to Kona.  I had no clue he’d be there, and texted him out of the blue from a bar on the beach to tell him that I was the only non-sunburned person in Kona.  He laughed, but then told me he was literally boarding a flight to Kona, and would be there in an hour or two.  We had a great dinner and talked story – it was great, and especially so since it was unexpected and random. I sent the "beach" photo on the top left below to my classmates from Puerto, telling them that Kona was a pretty good stand-in for Puerto in terms of appearance. Then, shortly before going back to San Diego, I finally got to walk to Fissure 8, the volcano just down the street from our house that was erupting the summer of 2018.

I got back to San Diego mid-July, just in time for Pride Weekend, and shortly before the renters vacated our home.  Since we were supposed to be in Puerto all of 2021, we couldn’t move back into our home when we returned to San Diego, as the renters had a six month lease with a six month extension.  We, obviously, declined the extension.  Their lease was up at the end of July, but they moved out a week or so before then.  I was back at Heidi’s place for just a couple days before we were able to move back into our own place. On Pride Weekend we walked up to Hillcrest and all around, and had a great time. A few days later I had a burning sensation in my heel, and my best guess is that it was from all the walking we did. I was having a really hard time getting around, and Crystal suggested I get some new shoes. I bit my tongue, but I wanted to say "These tennis shoes are about the only memento or reminder I have from my time in Puerto, I think about that place every day, and there's no way in hell I'm going to toss the shoes that remind me of there." But I bit my tongue, and my feet eventually got better - I don't think it was the shoes.

One highlight of the time spent in Heidi's place was that Avon had gotten used to being out in public, since he had to go for walks multiple times a day, and one day he actually played with another dog, a boy dog at that, off leash, with zero issues.  It was a rare “proud papa” moment.  In San Diego, I’ve kept up playing tennis (with my tennis shoes), I've kept swimming (I still count all my pool exercises in Spanish, as in the pool at home), and I’ve also gone back to OrangeTheory, so that makes me feel less guilty about all the great food and drink I’ve been enjoying. When we moved back in, I unpacked only 10-20% of the stuff I packed in the fall.  My thought is that we don’t need it, and I know how long it took to pack it up in the first place, plus I want to get out of the US as soon as possible – whenever and wherever that may be – so why unpack things?  In a sense, I don’t want things to go back to how they were.  I want it to be easy, not difficult, to leave again.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m just passing time until we can leave again, to wherever makes the most sense.

In August we got more emails from the extranjero office. I had Carlos download the documents, and he sent them over - they denied our visa extensions. So if we hadn't left in May, we would've been forced to leave in August, and there's no way we could have arranged someone to fly the dogs. That would have been the exact worst-case scenario, and it would've come to fruition if we hadn't left, so we (I) definitely made the right decision to leave in May. The rationale for denying our visa extension was that we theoretically didn't inform the extranjero office within 30 days of our arrival that we arrived. This is rich, given that we were trying, several times a day, every day, to do exactly that, only for the extranjero website to tell us it was broken and to check back later. I'm not sure what I could've done differently with all of this, but in hindsight, I think I would have hired one of the top immigration attorneys in the country, maybe one who lived right next to the extranjero office in Santa Cruz, and had him/her take care of everything from Day 1, even if it cost a fortune. For all the problems it would have avoided, and all the stress it might have saved, I think that would've been a wise investment. But that assumes that would've worked - maybe it would have failed just as spectacularly, but at a higher price.

Later in the summer and into the fall we went to Denver for my friend Greg’s surprise birthday party, and we also went to Coronado (not exactly a long way away) for my Dad’s sort-of surprise birthday party.  We had a good time with family, including having some great tomato bread with my brother and his wife at a Spanish restaurant in downtown San Diego, which reminded me of La Tasquita de Berna in Puerto.  Since returning to San Diego, we’ve also gotten to know our neighbors in our condo a bit better, going to dinner a couple times.  And literally the day we moved back in, the asshole neighbors who lived underneath us put their place up for sale – I assume it was coincidental, but don’t actually care.  They’re gone, and no one is smoking cigars every day right underneath our living room window.

During all this time, I’ve kept in touch with Sandra and my other classmates from the language school, Charlotte, Janice, and the Facebook pages dealing with North Tenerife and Tenerife expats.  I pay way just as much attention, if not more, to Tenerife news than I do to San Diego or Hawaii. I thankfully found the Canary Relax video feed, and I'm so happy that I did. I watch videos whilst riding the exercise bike, and it makes me feel like a small part of me is still there, seeing everything with my own eyes. I'm very indebted to him, and maybe we can buy him dinner when we go in February.  Coincidentally, both the Canary Islands and Hawaii had volcanic eruptions during the fall.  In the Canaries, it was on La Palma.  In Hawaii, it was only 20 miles or so from our house, in the National Park.  In October, Crystal and I visited, and I finally got to check “see an active lava lake” off my bucket list. Combining that with checking off "living abroad," I suppose one could say that's a pretty good year. 

Normally I’m in a hurry to write up these trip reports.  This time, however, it was a grind, and almost didn’t happen.  I just had no motivation.  Also, if I had written it sooner, while my memory would have better, I would have been more raw and this probably would've read more negative. It’s probably pretty crappy, and full of holes, but it’s done now. I have to thank the Canary Relax guy for helping this be better than it would've been. Not only do all the videos help whomever is reading this have a better idea of what I'm describing, me watching the videos - and I've seen all of them up to 5 May, plus a couple more so far - helped me remember a lot of random tidbits that I might've forgotten. Sadly, I didn't know these videos existed until after we were already gone. I'm not sure how I stumbled across them the first time, but I'm very happy it happened, and it's been a big benefit to getting this done, and getting this done in a more complete way. I wanted to finish this before we leave for Europe in early December.  We’re slated to visit Christmas markets all across the continent, with differing family members accompanying us during different portions, with stops in Salzburg, Hallstatt, Bad Goisern, Brussels, Bruges, Paris, Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna.  While we weren’t able to get to Vienna for Christmas 2020, hopefully Christmas 2021 will come to fruition.

I guess the biggest thing that bums me out about all this isn't the wasted effort - I need to do something to pass the days, right? - but that everything has seemingly gone back to “normal.”  It’s not normal to me, not anymore.  It’s like in a horror movie, when someone comes back, but they’re “off,” whether because they’re a zombie or they’ve been hypnotized or any of the other common movie tropes.  I don’t feel like a zombie, and I’m not sure how I come across to other people, but I certainly don’t feel the same as I did a couple years ago.  I had a plan, I executed the plan (despite massive hurdles), the location and the lifestyle was pretty much exactly what I was hoping for, and I confirmed that I have zero desire to remain in the US.  But, for now, being back in the US is the reality in front of me.  So I’m just biding time until I can get back out. If nothing else, I learned that I can actually make a go of it abroad; we were getting by just fine, and adapting to the local lifestyle and culture. And I also learned, by watching the dogs and how they reacted to all the twists and turns, that if there's food and shelter, living in the present is the way to go, and dwelling on the past and/or fretting about the future doesn't accomplish much but high blood pressure. They had no clue what was going on for any of this, and they'd never been on an airplane, spent a night in a crate in an airport, never moved so many times in so few days, and they seemed the least stressed out of everyone. So I figure I should learn something from them.

There’s not really a good way to “end” this, particularly because as I mentioned above, I don’t view the return to the US as an end, so I guess I’ll just end this specific entry by memorializing all the restaurants we went to and food we enjoyed, as 95% of this didn’t make it into any of the other specific entries.  So, without further adieu:

In Puerto Itself

Playa Jardin/Punta Brava Area

La Ranilla Area and west of Plaza de Charco

El Centro (east of Plaza de Charco)

San Antonio area

La Paz

Outside of Puerto

La Orotava

Santa Ursula


Buenavista del Norte and Teno/Masca Area



Santa Cruz

Costa Adeje

Golf del Sur

I realize that is a lot of stuff, and looking at it now, it’s kind of amazing we did all of this in such a short period of time.  So to help narrow things, here are the highlights/winners within Puerto or walking distance of Puerto:

Best Bars

Restaurant Views

Best House Wine

Best Cocktails

Best Bread

Best Sauces and condiments

Best Steak

Best Beef

Best Lamb

Best Chicken

Best Pork

Best Goulash

Best Potatoes

Best Rice Dishes

Best Tapas

Best Courtyards for peaceful dining

Best/Friendliest Service

Best Restaurants Overall

The (not) end.  Pronto llegará, el día de mi suerte; Sé que antes de mi muerte seguro que mi suerte cambiará.

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