Monday, December 21, 2009

Aventuras en Tenerife (Adventures in Tenerife)

After an eleven day sail, we arrived in the Canary Islands early Saturday morning.  The Canary Islands are geographically a part of Africa but politically a part of Spain, which means that this is the closest 1st world country to Benin, and therefore the best place for our yearly maintenance and inspections.  We will be here through the end of January before moving on to our next outreach in Togo.  I'm looking forward to exploring a new city and experiencing European culture.  We got a good start on that this weekend!

Several of us got up to watch the sunrise as the ship pulled into port.

Jamie and me, bleary-eyed but happy to be here!

Ahhhh, land!
The first thing we did when we were given permission to exit the ship was run on the dock.  The weather was perfect--sunny but much cooler than African heat--and no poo rocks!  Then we quickly took showers and set out to explore this beautiful city by the sea.

A Little Taste of Spanish Culture
It was a bit of a culture shock to be back in the western world even after just four months in Africa (and even more surreal to step back onto the ship afterwards).  No longer walking down dirt roads to the street markets, we were surrounded by shopping malls, expensive cars, nice restaurants, and of course, McDonald's (which, I am ashamed to admit, was one of our first stops).  The clothing in Tenerife is extremely trendy.  It's kind of like when you look at the models in a fashion magazine and think, Who actually wears this?  Well, I can now confirm that real people do in fact wear multiple tones of purple from head to toe (yes, as in shirt to cardigan to scarf to purse to mini-skirt to tights to boots).  

I could definitely grow to love Spanish culture.  I love the fun, upbeat music that makes you want to dance in the middle of the fruit market.  The language is beautiful, and the people are friendly and helpful.  Speaking of language, it's been comically confusing trying to switch from French to Spanish.  I know very little Spanish to begin with, and I think my brain now automatically shifts into French mode when I hear unfamiliar words spoken around me.  Trying to confirm my ice cream cone order in McDonald's, I answered "oui" when the cashier asked me if I only wanted one.  As he was preparing my ice cream, I literally stood there and repeated to myself, Gracias, gracias, gracias, because I knew if I didn't make a conscious effort I would say "merci" when he returned.  The funniest language slip-up was when Jamie thanked someone with the words, "Thankmmmmgracias."  People joke about using Spanglish.  We are definitely using Spafrenglish.  :)

with Christina, Jamie, and Kelly

Conquering El Teide--The First Attempt
By far my favorite adventure this weekend was hiking El Teide (pronounced TEH-theh).  At over 12,188 feet above sea level, Mt. Teide is the third highest volcano in the world.  It's a 5-6 hour hike up to the summit, and we were determined to conquer it.

Out at sunrise and ready to go!

We had a bit of a setback with the rental car company opening late, but we finally piled into Baby Beluga (our nickname for the cheapest-we-could-find GIANT blue minibus we rented) and started the one-hour drive to the volcano.

approaching El Teide (view from the car)

a little closer...Isn't it gorgeous?

When we arrived at the information center, we learned that because of our car rental delays, we wouldn't have time to hike to the summit by our assigned time slot of 3:00-4:00.  In addition, there were 100 kmph winds near the summit, so strong that it was unsafe to run the cable cars up to the top.  We weren't planning to take the cable cars anyway, so we set off from the bottom with the intentions of going as far as we could and turning around in time to make it back to the car before dark.

starting our journey to the top (or at least the middle)

unbelievable surroundings...The pictures just don't do it justice.

approaching the remnants of lava flow from its last eruption in 1909

We made it to the bottom of the lava!

the middle of the lava...Do you notice the cloud BELOW us?

proof that we reached the middle of the lava

the view from our stopping point about 2900 meters up (If you look back at the close-up picture of the volcano, we stopped where the lava connected at the top, where it no longer appeared to be "dripping.")

a crater

almost back to the bottom

Even though it was disappointing not to be able to hike all the way to the summit, we had a great time and were amazed by God's unbelievable creation.  We were already planning a second attempt in January as we walked back.  What a fabulous end to a great weekend!

Homeward Bound
I fly out tomorrow evening to spend 2 1/2 weeks at home for Christmas.  In addition to spending quality time with family and friends, I'm looking forward to real milk, cooler weather, boots, my home church, and Chick-Fil-A.  :)  

I can't wait to see everyone!  If I don't see you while I'm home, have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

1 comment: