Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

Where I am and Why: January 2012: El Médano, Tenerife, Canary Islands

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Austin,  elder son, is off on his travels again. Having qualifications which are travel-friendly helps. He’s a boat skipper, an assistant dive instructor and has a ton of certificates and experience with the Spanish Red Cross for water rescue and as a medical technician, so his travels have been on or connected to water, and I’m proud to say he’s just begun his own blog to keep track of his adventures, The Wet Stuff. Austin and Guy have both been to places I’ve only dreamed of – so far! I wonder if wanderlust is inherited?

Austin has stayed with me for a couple of months whilst putting out his cv, and working as a lifeguard here on the local beaches, so right now everything’s looking a lot tidier than it has for weeks, as his almost-ready bag is packed to go, and a mini-change happens in my life again.

Austin training on the rescue jetski

Austin training on the rescue jetski

Time to firm up my plans, methinks…….not to mention firm up other stuff too!

After a year of being an “expat,” back in 1988,  I did a mental check. Did the life suit me? Was I where I wanted to be? Was I (at that time) in the best place for my kids to grow up? Was there a better alternative?  It became a habit at the beginning of each, promising new year. Rarely was every box on my list ticked, but there was always a majority for maintaining my base here in Tenerife, even in the years when I wasn’t, literally, living here.

This year I don’t need the assessment because I know I’m going to explore other islands in a few months, – however, my proposed January departure  is delayed to late June (for financial reasons and because of commitments made),  out of habit I made a mental list of whether it’s better to spend the next 6 months here or, perhaps,  elsewhere on the island, because change is good – but it is also expensive – at least it is in terms of house moving for no really good reason.

It wasn’t hard. I opted to stay in El Médano for the next six months, but I questioned myself harder than usual, because my feet are more-than-usually itchy.

If I lived anywhere else would I have had a surf lesson for my 66th birthday present?

If I lived anywhere else would I have had a surf lesson for my 66th birthday present?

Assessing my alternatives:

The tourist coast is out. It’s expensive living. It’s not unpleasant these days, the food is great, beaches nice, but the vibe is a bit lethargic, lacking energy – the only places I feel energy are on the surf beaches of Playa de las Americas and the ferry terminal in Los Cristianos.  I’m not knocking it. If I were in need of a vacation, and had the money I’ve no doubt I might choose somewhere similar in some other country, to be pampered and chill out for a while, but, well, just not somewhere that feel comfortable living.

Would I see sunrises like this one so easily? This is, literally, right at the end of my street!

Would I see sunrises like this one so easily? This is, literally, right at the end of my street!

Tenerife’s villages are peaceful, often  pretty, and  never too far from coast or city, and yet the thought of living in an agricultural community feels claustrophobic, as nice and as tranquil as it might be. The vibe there is about tradition and routine. A month or even two perhaps but six? Hmm, no, I can’t see it.

Fellow blogger Talon Windwalker of 1Dad1Kid.com observed recently, coming to the end of a  3-month sojourn in Morocco, that he was looking forward to getting some variety back in his life. His stay in Guelmim had sounded idyllic on many levels, but the sameness  of a daily routine, and the same choices in the market each visit had eventually taken their toll.

Some of the old habits linger here in any event. This bar was't open when the bakery delivery arrived, so they just hung it on the door. This happens in the villages, but can't see it in the resorts!

Some of the old habits linger here in any event. This bar wasn’t open when the baker’s delivery arrived, so they just hung it on the door. This happens in the villages, but can’t see it in the resorts!

Island capital Santa Cruz  appeals to me. Cultural life is a plus – no more driving for an hour home after a concert or exhibition. Is it a mini Barcelona or London? Well, no, because, unlike those cities, or New York or Rome or Paris, or anywhere else I can think of, there is no international vibe. Whilst I fancy living in all of those cities because they could only be Spanish/English/American/Italian or French, they are, at  the same time, melting pots. In an odd way, despite the cruise ships lining the piers, and the beautiful boats in the Santa Cruz marinas, it remains utterly Canarian, and so it should be – that’s what tourists come to see, and I think it’s to the place’s credit. It just lacks the energy again.

El Médano has artistic surprises around almost every corner. This beautiful carving in a space between buildings, overlooking the bay.

El Médano has artistic surprises around almost every corner. This beautiful carving in a space between buildings, overlooking the bay.

It’s possibly a lust for variety as much as a thirst for knowledge and understanding which fuels wanderlust, and Tenerife’s cities are not  eclectic enough to entrap me. Don’t get  me wrong.  I love them both. I love the villages too. I love learning about different ways of life here.

Mostly I love the landscapes and the feeling of being closer to the earth, but I would miss the variety of life if I lived in either.

In winter, although the town doesn't face west, we have memorable sunsets too. The glory of nature at both ends of the day.

In winter, although the town doesn’t face west, we have memorable sunsets too. The glory of nature at both ends of the day.

The place I can find variety in Tenerife is in El Médano. Social groups are formed here not by nationality but by common interest. Windsurfers and kite surfers come from around the world to catch the breezes. The Saturday morning market is populated by artisans and artistic entrepreneurs from all over Europe, and the buskers who ply the streets or the “hippies” who languidly display their wares on the wall between the ocean and the town square are a pretty international crowd too, and at the base of this international pyramid are Canarian families, some of whom have lived here for generations, and must remember when it was a small fishing hamlet. Heck, it wasn’t that big when I first saw it 20-odd years ago.

A beach is a beach? Well, no, not for me anyways. The resorts have some fine beaches, but you can always find a spot within the comfort zone of your personal space in El Médano. See how it stretches along the bay?

A beach is a beach? Well, no, not for me anyways. The resorts have some fine beaches, but you can always find a spot within the comfort zone of your personal space in El Médano. See how it stretches along the bay?

I’ve written about El Médano before, here and here.  The words most commonly used to describe it are quirky or bohemian, but the one I came up with in writing yesterday was “a contradiction” – and that it is. Perhaps that’s where its very unique vibe comes from.

It has a laid back vibe which comes from the “hippie” community, from true nomads who live in caves to talented artisans who have found peace in doing what they love,  dreadlocks and gypsy skirts abound. On the other hand, the energy which comes from folk attracted here by sports is palpable, wetsuits and pareos are as normal wear around town as are the shorts and leggings of the local teens.

Handmade goods on sale at El Médano's Saturday market. Work your way through the universally-found cottons from Thailand or leather from Morocco and you will find stuff made by the stallholders themselves.

Handmade goods on sale at El Médano’s Saturday market. Work your way through the universally-found cottons from Thailand or leather from Morocco and you will find stuff made by the stallholders themselves.

The town attracts photographers and artists, but the good old boys can be found sitting on the harbor wall of an evening, and the small fishing boats can still be seen up and down the coast early mornings inspecting their shrimp and octopus cages.

It’s when you put all these factors together that you get – El Médano…..and it’s where you can find me for the next five months.

I signed a lease for another 6 months here despite how much I loathe this, specific apartment – waste of energy & time moving apartments – I just have to learn to live with the screaming, door-slamming kids who moved in next door!

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Author: IslandMomma

Loving island life and exploring the freedoms Third Age brings: Challenging myself every day: writing, traveling, snapping pix, running & teaching ESL

12 thoughts on “Where I am and Why: January 2012: El Médano, Tenerife, Canary Islands

  1. Well, I guess that screaming, door slamming kids can be found just about anywhere. So you might as well be in an awesome place like Tenerife! Your beautiful photos and descriptions of life in Tenerife explain much about why you’re there. Can I come for a visit? :)

  2. Any time, Cathy! I can only offer a camp bed since my downsizing is almost complete, but you are more than welcome to it!

    And at least when the daytime noise gets too much I can go out of the house usually, nightime is the worst. According to my friend, Pablo, the Spanish are, officially, the noisiest nation on earth. It’s taken me a while but I finally understand that now!

  3. I know how much you resist talk of getting older BUT I do find myself wondering if kids get noisier or is that we are less tolerant of their noise? Whatever, you have my sympathies. There has been a case in the news recently here of a lady who has killed herself because of intolerable neighbours running a crack den. So sad, and shameful that her council and the police have been totally useless on her behalf. You may find that can help put the screamers into perspective. I hope so. I know you will get out there travelling when you can. In the meantime you sound to be in an almost perfect place and those noisy kids can be anywhere you go lets face it.

  4. The great thing about renting as opposed to owning. You can move so much more easily!

  5. I have lived in this small mountain village in north-central New Mexico for nearly forty years. I (and my ex-wife, still friends) raised my daughters here. I often take short, 2-3 day photo excursions, but it always feels good to come home. That being said, there is a part of me that longs for a more care-free wandering existence. Maybe it’s just the idea of getting older and worrying about things left undone or unseen

  6. Ref your last comment I do think that’s part of it these days. When I was young there always seemed to be plenty of time (for everything of course, not just travel!).

    One of the disadvantages of living on an island is that travel is so limited. One day last year I drove my son & some friends over to the other side of the island in the early hours of the morning to take part in an organized cycle ride. Instead of turning around, I took the long way home, along the coast. I was home before 9am and I’d virtually driven all around the island – well a good half of it anyway. It’s beautiful and diverse and perhaps emphasizing its size also emphasizes how remarkable the variety within such a small space is, but it can get claustrophobic, no doubt. I’m thinking of practising for my jaunt later in the year by taking the car up into the mountains and camping though. When you do that it feels as if you’re farther from home than you are!

    All of that said, my heart sighs to read your first sentence – the thought of being happy and settled enough somewhere to live for 40 years is compelling. I do wonder if those of us who never feel “at home” are just looking for somewhere where we do feel at home.

    • “I do wonder if those of us who never feel “at home” are just looking for somewhere where we do feel at home …”
      I do feel very lucky and privileged to have found that place. We love el Medano for all the reasons that you do. It’s a very special town. Just how much we love it was born out recently when we finally travelled away (first time away since we moved here in August 2007 !). You can see our house just before the plane lands and I was struck by a huge feeling of relief and gratitude that we were HOME.

      Anyone interested to read more about this special place … I wrote some articles for Boards magazine when we first moved here: “Life on the Reef”, and they are on our blog … starting here: http://lifeonthereef.blogspot.com.es/2008/03/life-on-reef-in-print.html

      • I read this earlier, Richard, and then clicked on your link and became so absorbed in your blog, even though I’ve read a lot of it before, that I quite forgot to come back and say thank you for your comment, and, yes, how lucky to feel that way. I firmly believe it’s as close as I’ll get on Tenerife, and I love it, and I love the island, but it’s not home, neither is UK really, which makes me wonder where might be!

  7. I thought the Spanish were the noisiest nation on earth, Linda. Until I went to Turkey for my brother’s wedding. Now that’s what I call noise.

  8. Thanks for sharing my posts. It really can get to you depending on your personality. I like a like of variety in life, so that challenged me. I’m still trying to figure out how we handled life on Utila for 8 months, but I think it was because I was diving almost every day. That helps. Plus, we did some excursions off the island.

    After 3 months in Morocco, we had 15 days in France, and now we’re on an island in Thailand, and I’m feeling it again. Next time we’re headed to some bigger cities for a while because I need some action. :)

    • Perhaps when you were on Utila is was what you needed right then? I realized at some point in my life that I didn’t have to make a choice between cities and landscapes for instance, or between rock ‘n’ roll and opera – it’s ok to like both. You know the song, “To everything there is a season” – or even the text from which that was take which escapes me now. It amazes me that I’ve lived on an island for so long (in fact did a guest post on another blog recently, looking at a downside) – even in a “bad” year I must get off island at least a couple of times though.

      Looking forward to your posts from Thailand!

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