The atmosphere here is eclectic, to say the least. Frightening cliffside roads stretch down into hotel-marred coves and tourist-thronged playas. We ate churros with our coffee in the coastal town of Puerto Rico and contemplated our search for Epp’s distant past.
We were in Puerto Rico to find Vello Vedelik. Epp described him as an old hippie who never cut his hair or beard, and after strolling past a few kiosks, I saw an old man in Indonesian attire seated in a chair. Epp walked up to him, peaked under his broad hat, and in a few minutes I had come face to face with the man with no phone and no e-mail address.
“Kott? Kott? Mis kott?” he said, when asked of the missing bag. Vello spoke in clean, crisp Estonian. This was not a man from Mulgimaa. I watched Vello’s body language for evidence of lying, but could find none. According to Vello, Manuel the hotel owner did indeed offer him the bag, but Vello said no, and Manuel threw it all away. It seemed unbelievable, but Epp looked Vello in the eye and said, ma usun sind — I believe you.
Then somehow Vello went off on a diatribe about how Russians are not really Slavs but are Finno-Ugric peoples who have adopted a Slavic language and about how the economic crisis is bringing the world to the edge of catastrophe and how one of the few safe places in Estonia is Suure-Jaani and how he came up with all the ideas for Star Wars. And I believed him, because he is very believable.
Well, good old Manuel decided to face the music and came down into Puerto Rico to acknowledge that, yes, after waiting for Epp to return for seven years the bag went in the trash when he renovated his supermarket. Epp forgave him, and he said he would drive us home. He then loaded us into his jeep and we made for the Canarian hills. Manuel used to be a captain of a ship and lived in Gambia for awhile. He’s a native Canario, and he owns multiple properties and seems to have many relatives on the island.
The interior of Gran Canaria resembles the American Southwest, at least to me, a person who has never visited the American Southwest. Ranches overlook huge canyons; dogs chase each other on the floors of endless, treeless ravines. The natives dislike visiting the touristed parts of the island, and, if Manuel is exemplary, they have no time to do so, because they are always driving around, visiting their friends, visiting their cousin, stopping the car in the middle of a road to chat with a friend in another car. Such is Spanish life.
For example, Manuel took us to visit the ranch of a friend he called “Gordo” — fatso. Gordo also is known to Manuel as “maricón.” Gordo acts as a local sherrif and drinks too much whiskey. He grows pigeons that he sells to local Cuban migrant workers for use in shamanistic sacrifices. My children were very impressed with the animals. Anna said “owf owf” many times in response to the tough looking guard dog. Gordo was sober, and I still don’t know his real name, even though we shook hands. He said that beer is for poor people; whiskey is the only real drink.
We may see both Vello and Manuel before we leave. Vello has no new fangled communication devices (he says he uses telepathy to communicate), but he said that he can be found in that one spot, always in that one spot, until April when he heads east. Though Epp has lost her journal for good, life is at least repaying her with new tales to tell.