Marta, our daughter, was watching Pippi Longstocking one day and pleaded with us to go to Africa, like Pippi and her friends Tommi and Annika.
Epp picked up on this riff and located a relatively inexpensive package to Gran Canaria which, being off the coast of Morocco and West Sahara, can easily pass as "Africa" for 5-year-old dreamers.
But the real rationale behind our expedition to Gran Canaria was to retrace the steps of my spouse a decade prior. Back in 1999, a younger, more idealistic Epp worked in a local market here with fellow Estonian hippies selling trinkets and sleeping in the mountains. Epp also kept a journal: a journal she left behind in a bag at her friend Manuel's hotel.
I had no idea what to expect of these Canary Islands. I had read next to nothing about them, and I have only picked at the Estonian and English language guidebooks that have been among our possessions for the past few days. Our plane was filled with Estonians, but the flight attendants spoke Spanish and Russian.
Maspalomas, where we are staying, is brimming with pasty northern Europeans, who like bratwurst vendors and Irish pubs so much they brought them along on the plane. The local Supermercado peddles in Finnish Koskenkorva vodka but is fresh out of the local Canarian gofio bread because foreigners "have no idea what gofio is," according to the sales clerk. As I walked home from the Supermercado, I was serenaded by a Peruvian pan flute version of the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin."
Marta, meanwhile, has befriended a half-Finnish, half-Russian girl named Jennifer to whom she speaks in English. I managed to say "Terve", "Privet", and "Hello" to Jennifer and tried to figure out how to convert Estonian words to Finnish ones. Would "vanha äiti" pass as "vanaema"? Apparently not.
Manuel's hotel was in Arguineguin, a smaller, less touristy place than Maspalomas. Maspalomas is an urban jungle of hotels packed with foreigners; Arguineguin is a sleepy Atlantic Spanish town. Epp found her way from the bus stop to the supermercado where she used to hang out and recognized the clerk, Rene, who was still working there. Rene at first did not recognize the woman standing before him, but then realized that the carefree "Epah" of 1999 had returned with her husband and two daughters ten years later.
The hotel, however, was no longer there, and neither was the bag. It turned out that one day a year or two ago, one of the other Estonian hippies stopped by this very supermercado and chatted with Manuel, who mentioned that "Epah" hadn't picked up her bag. The Estonian hippie agreed to take it off his hands, and so now we are trying to track down a mysterious guru named Vello Vedelik who is somewhere on this island together with a horde of trinkets and beads and Epp's travel journal from 1999.
Of course his name is Vello. If you want to make your child a recluse, then by merely blessing him with this name you will have done the trick. If you want your child to be a president, then something formal like Lennart Georg or Toomas Hendrik will do. If you fancy an entertainer, then Marko or Lenna will suffice. But if it is the kind of human being that cannot be contacted by phone or e-mail in 2009, then chances are it's a Vello you are after. And so we are.
Tomorrow we will go to the Maspalomas weekend market to see if Vello Vedelik shows up in his Jesus Christ Superstar-inspired attire to sell to the crowds of Swedes and Brits and Deutschlanders. Then we will see if he's got the lost journal stashed somewhere in his mountain getaway. Our adventure has only just begun.