Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Category: Canary Islands

Keeping Spanish Traditions Alive | The North of Tenerife

You mean “Gua Gua.”

“Huh”

“That’s what we call a bus…”

Living in the Canary Islands, I’m repeatedly told by the locals what is Spanish and what is Canarian. Light hearted differences to set them apart from the rest of the Spanish speaking regions. Spain, like America, has many unique areas with their own heritage. Based on what I’ve seen so far, San Andrés, the Spanish Canarian Holiday, is the ultimate demonstration of their beautiful culture.

San Andrés Holiday – Wednesday November 29 2017

Starting in the fall, my school starts to collect all the chestnuts from the chestnut trees around the campus.

In the last week of November, the north of Tenerife holiday spirit comes alive. San Andrés time! Posters around the north make note of the upcoming celebrations in Icod and La Orotava.

Roasting Areas are set up in the city central plazas. Large metal smoker bins in the corner of sunny hot coastal plazas. Some days I walk by with a tank top, shorts and flip flops with a disbelief that people would be roasting anything in this heat.

Cacharros y Castananas – Tins and Chestnuts

What are Cacharros? Somewhat reminding me of the tin cans strung on a “Just Married” car, the Northern Tenerifian residents create these loud tin strings for their kids.

CLINK & CLANK!

The louder the better.

In the past times, it wasn’t uncommon to see people pulling old washers and bathtubs through the street.

CLINK & CLANK!

Icod, La Orotava, and Puerto Del Cruz -The North of Tenerife

Even more unique to the North, are the traditions within each city.

La Orotava – cacharros. A noise maker you can run with. Tins + String.

Icod, las tablas.  Flat wooden boards waxed for kids to slide down cobblestone streets. The North echos loud sounds of tins and boards.

Parents pass down the wooden tables from their youth to their children. Or, they help build faster ones.

Dangerous? Yes. Exciting? Very.

Mouth Open in disbelief. Its striking to see children doing dangerous activities in the streets while parents casually relax nearby.  At one point I see a blind kid go down a table with a someone sitting behind him slowing down the cart towards the bottom of the street. Anyone and everyone gets a turn for glee.

The one safety measure is a pyramid of tires to catch the out of control, fast and furious table sliders.  Sporadically, I see tires bouncing up into the air.

Chestnuts Roasting

During the day of San Andrés, our school cancels afternoon classes and instead roasts chestnuts for 3 hours. All the children make cones to hold the hot and smokey chestnuts.  I spend an hour peeling chestnuts for 3-4 year olds. In the background, older children run around with their cacharros.

In the evening in La Orotava, families take it to the streets. Adults and children all tow their loud noises makers through the cobblestone streets.

Louder than a recycling center.

Clinking and clanking.

3 year old with a string of coca cola cans almost trips over herself. Another family walks together with a large wooden bar followed by oil drums bouncing loudly. Every person in the town is smiling.

Where Does it all come from?

I am not a historian or have any real knowledge of San Andres. My Canarian friends each tell me similar, yet different stories of San Andrés for La Orotava.

Version 1 of the story – Pots and Pans

When harvest season came around people wanted to celebrate. Wine makers would roll the large wine barrels throughout the street and the metal rims would hit the cobblestones and make these loud noises we replicate today. Kids would run around with pots and pans banging around to signal to others it’s time to party.

Version 2 of the story – Corre la Cacharros

In prep of new wine, winemakers would need to clean the barrels. So they would take the old barrels out and roll them down the hills all the way to Puerto De La Cruz for a good washing.  All the barrels would go through the entire town and make the loud noises we hear today with the cacharros.

Version 3 of the story of San Andrés Cacharros

This is the version I was most confused about. When asked what San Andres had to do with chestnuts and wine… I got many different answers. One person said its just because he’s the patron Saint of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.  Another stated that this  Another said that San Andres came to the island got drunk and kids tied pots and pans to him.

My theory is that the harvest coincided with All Saints Day – so San Andres was the lucky one to receive this tradition.

Do you need another Reason to Visit La Orotava, Tenerife?

Besides the weather. Besides the views. Besides Me… I encourage everyone to visit this island to witness unique culture and traditions. Come now before its too late.

It’s sad, but this tradition is fading. Older folks are quick to tell me that decades ago, you would see sinks, tubs, washers, all day banging around the town. Now its only in schools and then about 2 hours in the evening.

Thinking of somewhere to go next Thanksgiving?

Come to the Canary Islands for the warm weather, and stay to eat chestnuts while kids run around with loud cacharros and slide down the streets and crash into tires.

Last but not least, here’s another video of the homemade table a kid brought to school. As you can tell, I am newbie scardy cat. Please let me off of this thing!

The Dark Side of being a Digital Nomad – The Best and Worst

From Thailand to Seattle. Another great stay in the books. Summer is over in Seattle and it’s my queue to find a new home. I sell everything in my studio apartment and pack my belongings into 2 duffel bags, 1 carry on suitcase, and a couple of ikea bags.  The fun exciting part of working online, is being able to explore new cities while working. It’s always fun to tell a story about going to Austin, Texas on a whim or deciding to move to the Canary Islands.

The Biggest Downers of Nomadic Life

Work anywhere. Anytime. Freedom. No one tells you about the downers of being a digital nomad. You only hear about all the different cities you can live in and the flexibility in schedule. Over the year I have appreciated all the benefits of being a nomad, but I have yet to acclimate to the downside.

My Top 4 Annoyances in being a Wanderer

Traveling Light

Each time I go to the mall, I resist the urge to shop. To buy something fun. Fashionable. If I pick a shirt, it has to have a specific purpose. Does it last? Will it go with multiple seasons? Can I fit it into my luggage? Is it wearable 50 + times in a year? Wouldn’t it be nice to just buy something nice for myself once in a while? The answer is: no. There is no where to place it.

Forget about cute houseware items. Bedsheets. Towels. Only essentials travel to the next location.

Falling out of a Routine

That favorite bar. A beloved restaurant. A muay thai gym. Finding my favorite ice cream shop. Each place I grow to love will eventually turn into a memory.  I try to not to ache for the past when I move to a new location. My routine will change and so will all my “go to” spots around the neighborhood. I’m constantly packing and unpacking.

Anxiety

Once I decide to leave a city, anxiety starts to settle in. Finding a new place to live. A place to work out. Is there Wifi? Meeting new people. Will I make new friends?

As the departure date nears, I am filled with both excitement and fear. Excited to explore, but fearful that I will be lonely and without friends. Did I earn enough money monthly to keep a comfortable lifestyle? I make long checklists of all the items I need to complete before moving.

Saying Goodbye to people

Perhaps the worst feeling about being a nomad is missing people. Friends and family.

After living in Seattle for 6 months, I really had to think hard about whether or not stay. I really loved all my Seattle friends. I got into the groove. Sunday Brunches. Bar Hopping. Chilling at a Park. What if I stayed and made this my home? I tell myself not to do this, because the entire reason I left my engineering job in Santa Monica was to explore. Being a nomad means trying new things. Thinking about friends will only make it harder to move.

The Best Part of Being a Traveler?

New places. New faces. Each time I move to a new location, I am realizing how fortunate I am to have a job that allows me to move anywhere. Sure, there are days where I am lonely and anxious. But that’s a feeling I am willing to have in trade of adding a new experience in life. It’s rare to have the opportunity in my 30’s to be unattached. No Stressful Job. No kids. There’s never going to be a better time to travel.

The reality of moving

First week. New scenery, new places. I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world. Instagram is on point.

The second week I find myself calling home and FaceTiming my close friends and family. It’s great explaining the new home, new job, new friends. In the back of my heart there is a small pain. I miss them. I miss having that camaraderie. I push the feelings away and replace it with busy work. Each day is filled to the brim with activities. I find a scuba diving shop. I find a new gym. One needs to keep moving to keep from drowning. I know if I stay at home I will miss Seattle. I realize there’s no turning back now.

I’m not going to lie… being a nomad is hard. There are days where I wonder if I made the right choice. Why would I move to a city where I don’t have family or friends?

Is it worth it? 

Without inserting a cliche quote about life… I will say this. I chose to leave engineering and Santa Monica for a reason. I can either embrace it or not.  Right now, I’m embracing it. What’s not to like about living on an Island with great weather, food and people?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Emergencies And Trip Interruptions

Departure

Saturday 23rd of September The itinerary is  OAK -> OSLO -> Tenerife, Canary Islands.

On the first leg from Oakland to Oslo, the flight attendants announced:

“Attention Ladies and Gentlemen, please ring your call button if you are a medical professional.”

Like Little gophers, heads pop up around the plane to see if someone around the area was sick. Nothing out of the ordinary in the Economy Section.
A few hours later, the captain announces:

“Attention Ladies and Gentlemen as you know we have a medical emergency. At this time, we have determined that this a serious issue and will make a diversion and land in Edinburgh. Flight attendants prepare for arrival. We apologize for this inconvenience. We ask that everyone stay seated until the paramedics have left the airplane.”

Within forty minutes, we landed and taxied over to a gate where an ambulance and a police car stood waiting. The next moment, the siren and lights turn on. The ambulance and the police escort take off.

What Happens if your flight has a Medical Emergency

Once the passenger left, I thought we would reverse and take off again. Not True.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the passenger has exited the plane. The cargo crew is now searching to remove the passenger’s luggage before we depart. Please standby.”

Another forty minutes. As each minute goes by, the chances of making my connecting flight closes. I look out the window. It’s a cloudy day in Scotland. The rain on the window distorts the view. I try to sleep, but it’s too bright outside.
I get out of my seat and stretch. Passengers start talking about connecting flights. Looks like I’m not the only one that will be stuck in Oslo. The flight map on the screen no longer counts down to the final destination. The globe just keeps spinning and stopping at Edinburgh.

In the next announcement, the captain tells everyone we need to refuel. He asks everyone to stay seated but to unbuckle your seatbelt. Good thought. If the plane catches on fire, I don’t want to be buckled in.

2 hours in Edinburgh, the cargo crew has found the passenger’s luggage, the plane is full up on gas, a new flight plan is logged and we are on the way to Oslo. The flight to Oslo is only 90 minutes away. I click on the flight map and see the location time 16:45. My flight left at 15:30. So much for meeting my co-workers tonight.

Ding. The seatbelt light turns off. People jump into the aisles. It’s a rush to get out of the plane. I feel the American Stress vibe.

We debark the plane and take a long walk to immigration.
The other passport queue has two women working the booth. I proudly show my visa.

OH, yes! I will be living here. Yes! I will be working here. Hello, EU! Hello, free health insurance! Goodbye Trump. Goodbye “Take Back America” people.

I miss my connection. I pick up my luggage and head over to Norwegian customer service.  Here’s my passport. The man at the counter starts typing. A LOT. It’s not looking good.

There are no more flights to Tenerife tonight. There are no available flights tomorrow. Instead, he offers a flight to Barcelona. I can sleep in a hotel there and then fly to Tenerife tomorrow.
He prints out some boarding passes and then casually says, you might have to get off the plane at Bilbao. Bilbao? Turns out, I now have to fly to Barcelona, then Bilbao, then to Tenerife.

I call my new co-workers and inform them of my delay. My amazing new school co-workers had planned to pick me up and take me out to dinner and host me at their house for one night. So much for that. I spend the next 18 hours in a daze. I arrive Barcelona around midnight. Norwegian Air gives me a voucher for a taxi and hotel.  I drag myself to the hotel. Its a NH 5 star hotel. A nice surprise.

The room is a bit smokey despite being a smoke-free hotel. The kitchen is closed because I arrive so late into the night. I order a giant breakfast to be served at 5 am. About 3.5 hours of sleep later, I wake up to room service with a cart full of food. Eat. Taxi. Flight

Travel Insurance

I call Chase Sapphire Reserve and Norwegian Air. I find out that “medical emergency landings” are not covered. If the flight had been delayed by weather, I could have received up to 600 euros in compensation with the EU laws. However, this was caused by another passenger, so the airlines do not have to compensate.
My credit card insurance only refunds and credits pre-paid expenses. So I don’t get any charity there either. I feel a small twinge of anger from the delay. But then again, I don’t have anywhere to be.
European Compensation
What qualifies for a compensation? Let’s say you missed your connection.

Here are the types of delays that do NOT qualify for compensation:

  • Medical Emergency

  • Weather

  • ATC or strike by crew

Other than that, you can get 250 euros to 600 euros depending on the flight.

Priority Pass Lounge

Back to my misery. In the early morning, I fly from Barcelona to Bilbao. My layover is 2 hours. The airport is small and without any shops. I use my Priority Pass card to get into the VIP lounge. Its only 9 am, so I decide to skip the free booze. I must be getting old. I grab some perrier and fruit.
Wifi and all the snacks you can eat makes the two hours fly by. Finally, I am on my way to Tenerife. Three more hours.

Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are part of Spain, but not like Spain. People here pay fewer taxes, have cheaper gas and cheap gas. The lifestyle is even more relaxed than the mainland. I wheel out my baggage and find a bus to Puerto De La Cruz pretty easily. For 13.55 euros, I take an hour bus ride to the city by the sea. Once there, I put on my duffel bag and wheel my two carry-on suitcases and laptop bag around the bus station. Sweat clings to my back. My face is dripping wet, and my sunglasses keep fogging up. I say forget it. I want to the taxi queue. Pension Silene Orotava hotel por favor. 4 men start speaking Spanish trying to figure out the directions.

5 minutes later, they all agree on the route and we hop in. Another 8 euros I’ve arrived at my final destination.

Total travel time…. 36 hours. Was it worth it? Have a look for yourself…