Vacation Complete: Computer Rehabilitation Commenced

I’m back baby. Renourished and ready to roll. First thing’s first: Two weeks without a computer proved an interesting experience, but putting myself back into the web-savvy circles is proving even more interesting. Blog posts have piled up, along with email, news and all sorts of spam to sift trough. Yargh. The web monster demands my attention. (Doesn’t help that my mouse feels strangely unfamiliar.) I’m picking up a vision; yes, I see constant computer use and several liters of coffee in my future. Expect Think Artificial to kick back into full gear in the next few days. [Updated!]

Two weeks of a total information blackout. It’s weird. The weight of it is crushing down on me now that I’m sifting through all of the mails and new content that’s piled up while I was away. I welcome any summaries of interesting past-events if somebody feels like filling me in.

Doodle: The information monster consumes me

From my own escapades I can report that I spent 2 weeks on Lanzarote, Spain (Canary Island). Two days were spent on Tenerife, one of the islands that were ablaze with forest fires. We went on a drive across the island and I managed to snap this picture of burnt trees. The fires had mostly been extinguished when I got there, but you could still see smoke arising from the ashes along with helicopters scurrying the air with bags of water.

Tenerife Forests Burnt by Fires

A note on the Canary Islands in general: Nobody there has a clue on how to make coffee. Seriously. I didn’t get one decent cup of coffee while I was there, on two different islands in 4 different cities! What little coffee I had tasted like week-old-roadkills. Spiced with brimstone. Needless to say my computer rehabilition is including large quantities of fresh coffee brewed with pure Icelandic water.

By the by, the Tenerife island totally looks like the island from Jurassic Park with its jagged mountains and gigantic fog-ridden forests. I had a bat-like log ready in the car to beat down any crazed velociraptor who’d try to jump us in anger over getting no good coffee.

Tenerife's Cappuccino Raptors

[Addition]

Getting to Tenerife was no simple task. After a regular, beer-cooled night on the terrace of our apartment, me and my girlfriend (Diljá, pronounce that) woke up at 7 am to catch a bus to Arrecife [capital of Lanzarote], the town where the boat cruising to Tenerife docks at 10 am. Why so early? Because (a) we’d been told that it was an hour drive, and (b) the damn buses only run every 2 hours. Turns out that Arrecife is only 30 minutes away by car, so we were way early.

We got off at a bus stop that looked not-so-shabby, close to the shore and apparently a popular stop, thinking that we might as well walk a bit in our search for the harbor as we had a lot of time to kill. Arrecife is nice, a bit Madrid-like, and maintains the islands’ key characteristic of keeping electrical lines outside buildings, which look like weathered cobwebs (which probably explains why the television was always half-scrambled and unstable).

After walking along the shore for about an hour, past market places, hotels and busy shopping streets, the building started to look a bit shabby. Electrical cobwebs became increasingly apparent, and we could spot harbor-industrial-like building cluster not too far away. Houses riddled with graffiti and crumbling from a half finished demolishion job. I was intrigued (they were abandoned buildings, awesome), and we’d seen a ship head somewhere behind that group of buildings earlier, so I convinced Diljá to walk a bit further.

When we got to the buildings, it turned out they’re inhabited. By stray dogs and stray humans. Old clothes were hanged out to dry here and there, scorching under the sun and probably emitting a stench that we wouldn’t be very interested to get a whiff of. So we didn’t go in for a closer look, but hurried past this vagabond village towards where we’d seen the boat head. But alas, my keen brain had made a gross miscalculation. Miles ahead, beyond mountains of lava and through the hot mist, we could spot the tiny silhouette of the harbor and ferries. Gargh. Not only were we out of the commercial area, far away from common Taxi routes, but we were running out of time too. We had approximately an hour to get to the ship.

We walked deeper into the industrial zone, a few cabs passed us by but they were all occupied and shaking their heads as we waved to them. There didn’t appear to be any kind of stores or public buildings where we could get someone to call us a cab. A good 15 minute walk finally led us to a very secluded bar, probably frequented by Popeyes of the Spanish armada. As always, nobody spoke english. So it was only by the virtues of the word “Taxi” and a series of bizarre body gestures that the bartender took a break from serving the sailors undrinkable Irish coffee and called a cab. “Sinco minutta” she mumbled and pointed to the street.

Driven by a middle aged Super Mario-looking character the cab arrived promptly. After using the bizarre body language again combined with the words Tenerife, boat, puerto and ship the driver started babbling incoherently about something incomprehensible. Presumably it was some sort of question, as he kept looking back at us and repeating similar-sounding words. “No comprende” didn’t hack it, nor did “I don’t speak Spanish” — this guy just kept babbling, leaving us very confused and crushing what little self adoration I had regarding traveling-survival skills from the Popeye-bar ordeal earlier.

Finally the man seemed to realize that we wouldn’t suddenly start understanding Spanish, no matter how often he’d repeat what he was saying. We managed to relax a bit, confident that we’d soon be aboard the ship leaving any troubles behind us. What little did we know. When we finally arrived at the harbor, which was surrounded by razor-like lavarocks completely insurpassable by foot, we found that we were on time with some to spare. The ticket-queue went smoothly, and quickly reached the glass window smiled victoriously and stated “Two tickets to Tenerife, please”. The woman looked at us for a brief second and then calmly, but with a certain attitude stated “Passports?”. Cold sweat ran down our backs along with a quick flashback of our conversation back at the room that morning which ended with the mutual conclusion that we wouldn’t need them.

We ended up outside the building, crushed by the silliness of it all. We wouldn’t make it back to the hotel to get the passports. We couldn’t go the next day either, as we had friends waiting at Tenerife with a rental car. Ugh. All was lost, when suddenly a friendly bystander approached us and started speaking in bizarro bodylanguage. After a minute we realized what she was saying: We could use our driver’s license instead of a passport! That damn ticketlady didn’t even hint at that possibility, evil bastard. The day was saved by an anonymous stranger and we were on the ship 20 minutes later.

Thankfully that was more or less the end of our troubles. But a word of advice to anyone that might try to do this: No matter what they tell you, the ride from Lanzarote to Tenerife does not take 5 hours. It takes 10 hours! After having been on board for 7 with no land in sight, we asked the bartender which shamefully confessed it’d take 3 hours more. Ack. We ended up spending 20 hours on a boat back and forth for a 24 hour stay on Tenerife. But the stay was worth it. Tenerife has a really amazing landscape, ranging from wastelands to mountains to huge forests.

Continuing my computer rehabilitation process. My mouse is starting to feel natural again. Expect Think Artificial to kick back into full gear in the next few days.

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