Nude beaches and regular beaches in Gran Canaria are ruled by their own, unspoken codes of conduct.
In the Zona Nudista, nakedness is normal. You are surprised to learn that all of those masses of similarly clothed people you pass on the street day after day also look homogenous without their bathing suits on, give or take stages of sun tan, extra pounds, and gray hairs.
When a clothed person walks by, they look hilarious in their baggy shorts, polo shirts, and caps. They also seem foreign and a bit rude. "Where is your nakedness?" The nude sun bathers glare. "What are you doing on our beach?!"
On the regular beach, it is the opposite. The sight of a topless sunbather draws similar stares. Couples look at each other, wondering whether or not the woman in question knows she has strayed from the Zona Nudista. No male dare remove his trunks on the regular beach, lest he be hauled away by the police for scaring little children. Here, it is the nudists who are unwelcome and suspicious.
The most interesting place is where the two beaches meet, the brackish water between the salty clothed bathers and the fresh-water nudists. Here the two tribes mix freely, quietly acknowledging that their borders are porous. In this No Man’s Land, bathers of both stripes tolerate the others’ differences.
I lay here in the golden dune sands oppressed by visions of the past. They swoop down on me like vultures, plucking at me. What are these sandstorms of feelings that harass me? Do they have names? Alienation? Vulnerability? I ask Epp, and she says that it's normal to feel vulnerable when thinking about one's past.
Our trip to recollect Epp’s bag from 1999 has dredged up the memories of a past that, on its face, seems more freewheeling and carefree. At the same time, some kind of melancholia lurks behind the nostalgic glow of not so distant history. It has been 10 years since Epp left the island. There are reasons for these things.
Part of the reason for this onset of Canarian blues is that Epp is such a good story teller. The characters – their names, faces, and situations -- come alive. People I have never met and will likely never meet become characters with whom it is easy to empathize. I can see the different sets and watch the actors block their scenes. The zestful yet absent minded young traveler. The sea captain turned supermercado padrone. The Estonian prophet. Many others. Why, it’s as if I am there, except I was not, nor am I.
Who are these people? What are their stories? If only we had Epp's journal, I could tell you more clearly. She tells me she can't recall one line of it. Such is the conundrum of our lost youth. If only Henry Miller were here to fill the rest in.
Last night, Vedelik indulged us one last time in his theories of the connection between the Estonian and Canarian peoples. “The Estonians worship Taara,“ he pointed out, “while the Guanche Canarian idol was called Tara.” Vedelik believes that Estonia is a juhtriik, like ancient Greece or Rome that all countries will eventually follow. “It would be better for Russia,” he argues, “if they readopt their lost Finno-Ugric languages and reconnect with their kin peoples in Suomi and Eesti.
"Forget about Ukraine," advises Vedelik. Once these latent Finno-Ugrics reconnect with their past, the cultural confusion that has driven their country through the preceeding neverending chaos will cease. At that moment, all will be one. Om.
On Gran Canaria, the promenades are home to slick marketers trying to sell naive tourists time shares. "Just come to our beach," they smile. "It's the best beach on the island." They always start hitting on you by asking where you come from. The time share sellers in Maspalomas are quite talented in this regard: I have heard them switch freely from Spanish to English to ... Swedish.
They asked us where we lived. "Estonia?" the Spanish time seller announced from behind his cool dark shades. He then began speaking to us in Russian. "Nyet!" I protested. "But didn't you learn it as a little boy in school?" he said. "Nyet!" I said again. Finally, Epp decided to tell them that we already had a place on the island.
Yesterday, we took a glass-bottomed boat from Mogan to Puerto Rico. No, it was not a nude, glass bottomed boat. I was waiting for Jaws to rear its great white head in the underwater window, but we only saw a few small schools of hungry fish. Over head, a plane flew by advertising a Boney M concert on the island.
Boney M’s disco-pop career peaked in the late 1970s, probably around the time that most of Gran Canaria’s middle-aged tourists were enjoying the swinging, single life. In our hotel restaurant, they indulged us in Boney M’s greatest hits, including “Rasputin.”
'There lived a certain man in Russia long ago
He was big and strong, in his eyes a flaming glow
Most people looked at him with terror and with fear
But to Moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear'
One of the only things I really look forward to, as we headed back from this sandy paradise to Eesti Vabariik, where the temperature is -5 C today, is that I will get these Boney M songs out of my head.