La Tortuga Literary and Art Contests
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” (Henry David Thoreau).
During the hard times of March, April and May 2020, while much of the world- ourselves included!- had to lock down due to the Covid 19 epidemic, we decided to stimulate the imagination of all our clients, previous clients and friends around the globe by launching “La Tortuga Literary Contest” and “La Tortuga Free Art Contest” with two sections, one for adults and another for children.
All participants were guaranteed a small prize.
In addition, the judging panel- formed by our staff and by the people spending the quarentine period in our hostel- selected the best works which received bigger prizes in terms of accommodation in our hostel and surf lessons with Surf Life Tenerife.
In both cases, the theme was la Tortuga, intended as an animal or in a broad sense as a hostel. We accepted any short novel, fairy tale, poem and piece of visual art inspired by either, which had a real or fictional connection with the image, location, story, pets, values and spirit of our hostel and community.
We are happy and excited to share some of the beautiful works that we received:
Giulia Mignolli from Italy. 1st prize of “La Tortuga Free Art Contest, adult section”
“The story of the swallow and the turtle”
This is the story of the swallow and the turtle, Vita and Alfonsita. Two animals as much friends as they are different, united by the same place of residence; an oasis that pretends to be a hostel called La Tortuga, a joyful and welcoming place, considered home by anyone who visits.
And you, reader, do not expect a story with a happy ending or too much emotion.
Give it just a little bit of your time, and tell me if you understood the notion!
I don’t want to be a maestro or too intrusive,
but it is interesting to me
to discover if you and all the people might agree.
Vita, finally ready to go, was giving her last hugs to the cat Milka, the gecko Sandro, the cucaracha Kalima, the squid Chipi, and all of her other companions in Adeje, leaving Alfonsita, her best friend, last in the round of greetings.
Each departure was a cause for discussion between the two. In a way Alfonsita, who had seen many swallows leaving (maybe too many) did not understand the reason for their persistent need to go.
‘’ I will never understand you swallows. Here you have everything you need and one thing above all, the eternal spring. But you come out every time with the same history of travel, instinct, exploration. Okay, see you in a few months. I have something for you, I hope it will bring you good luck. ”
And she placed around her friend’s neck a necklace of many lava stones arranged around a single and beautiful white pearl in the center.
The swallow could not hide her tears: she knew that the amulet would constantly remind her of that place that had taken possession of her soul from the first moment that she put her paw on the turf near the Tortuga 1 swimming pool.
Without looking back, she took flight and joined the other swallows who were already riding the trade winds.
‘’ I haven’t even left and I want to go back, am I normal? Who makes me do it ?! ’’
And so she flew for months observing from above infinite fields and swollen rivers, glittering seas and underlying forests, but never feeling complete. Her soul and her heart remained on that small triangle of black earth surrounded by the sea. To wait. For her body to be back.
And she thought, she thought a lot. A thousand reflections on what the true meaning of life was:
‘’ A continuous wandering in search of not knowing what
or the security of calling a place home? ’’
Maybe both of them. But she was happy. And every time the glow of the pearl at the center of the necklace crossed her eyes, she remembered La Tortuga, its perfumes and happy moments.
And then she was telling herself: ‘’ each of us has our own path to follow in pursuit of dreams and needs. And that’s how it has to be.”
In her usual walks on the solid ground, Alfonsita often remembered her friend: “who knows where that crazy one will be now. Will she be okay? Will I see her again? I miss her a little. But each of us has our own path to follow for pursuing dreams and needs. And that’s exactly how it should be.”
It was the last days of March and in the southern part of that black earth triangle surrounded by the sea, they were already in the middle of summer.
After bathing in the aquarium, Alfonsita was trying to understand how to get some sun despite the bulky armor. A second later, she felt that the cup of coffee that she had just prepared started to tremble. A moment of silence and then a gust of wind, dust and sand stroked her, turning her upside down. Another moment of silence, before the little head emerged from the shell. Then, unexpectedly, all the silence stopped, covered by her laughter. Growing in tone, and sincerely coming from the bottom of her heart. Her laugher was accompanied by Vita’s. There was no need to see her to know who it was.
‘’ Come on, turn me around, dopey. ’’
When she was finally able to look her in the eyes she saw her a little different: grown and strong. Changed, but with the same light in her eyes.
” So what do you tell me? ” Said Alfonsita, her voice trembling with emotion.
‘’ I tell you that I missed you. I have seen beautiful places, experienced both beautiful and less beautiful moments and met many new animals that have become my friends. But now I’m happy to be home ’’
‘’ But sorry you couldn’t stay here, if you already consider it as a home? ’’
‘’ I certainly could. But without all those experiences, perhaps, I would never have understood that I really considered it as ‘ my home’ “.
When life hits us almost to overturn it,
we all come up with something dear to save us – a laugh, a walk,
a football team or a song.
For me, a single thought allows me to escape-
in italian they call it la fuga-
from all the problems of the world,
and it’s called Tortuga.
Luka Zivkovic from Croatia. 1st prize of “ La Tortuga Literary Contest”
Viola Cerino, 8 years old from Italy. 1st prize of “ La Tortuga Free Art Contest, kids section”
Once upon a time in the kingdom of Tenerife there was a marvellous queen, the best leader that had ever ruled the land, known as Milkalefica. She inhabited in a beautiful hostel and was beloved by all the hosts, volunteers and staff. She could sleep in any bed she wished, have Nutella pancakes for breakfast and milk any time of the day. She would also take surfing lessons every afternoon with her cat friends, Batman and Capuccino. Her life was perfect, but only real in Milkalefica’s mind…
The real queen of the place was Alfonsita, the turtle, who was a gift to the owners of the hostel and was a legend. She even had her own sanctuary with a bunch of turtle statues of different sizes and colours.
Milka couldn’t understand how humans could love turtles so much. She thought they look like dinosaurs and that they were unable to express any feelings. Milka was convinced cats were superior beings: elegant, smart, able to follow humans for food and entertain them with mundane activities like trying to hunt a simple mosquito. While she was having this dark thoughts, she had an idea that could change her life forever: “Perhaps if I am able to eliminate this silly turtle I will finally own this place. It’s not fair the she gets to spend a lot of time with Karencita, in the front desk of the reception where everyone can see her. I am not even allowed to be inside, my only chance is to sneak into the basement and get to the volunteers room”. Milka thought the worst thing was the hostel was named after the turtle. For her “Milkalefica hostel” sounded so much cooler than “La Tortuga hostel”. She was really pissed off and started planning the operation to get rid of Alfonsita.
“The night is perfect” Milka thought. Gabi was in charge of the reception and it was time for Alfi’s walk around the garden. Milka convinced Alfi that if she jumped into the pool and showed Ale and Pasqui she could swim properly, they would buy a huge fishbowl for her. Then, she could have a partner and some baby turtles. That was everything Alfonsita ever wanted, so she did it. She jumped into the pool without knowing she would barely make it…
The next morning Karen arrived to the reception and found out that Alfi was not there. Instead, she was laying in the bottom of the pool, her soft parts turned white and she didn’t seem to be breathing. The vet said she was in a coma, induced by the cold water and the high concentration of chloride, and that she had low chances of survival. Everyone was very sad and worried, except for Milka, who was enjoying the situation laying on the grass of Tortuga 1. The fact that everyone was giving so much love and attention to Alfi was really bothering her, but she couldn’t do anything but wait.
Day by day Alfi started to get better. After a week she was feeling stronger than ever, and she decided to have a chat with Milka.
“Milka I know what you where trying to do with me. Why would you do that?”Alfi asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was just trying to make your life fancier” Milka answered.
“Milka, you don’t understand. You don’t need to see me as your competition. People love you for who you are.”
“But I am better than you. And it pisses me off that humans like you more than me!” shouted Milka.
“Milka, I won’t tell Ale and Pasqui what you intended to do but you have to promise me that you will try to change. Changes are hard and painful, they take time but they are necessary.”
“Are you trying to tell me that I need to loose weight? Because I won’t stop stealing Nutella from the kitchen…” said Milka.
“No cat! I am talking about an inner change! You have to start being more conscious of your thoughts and actions. We need you in our side…” Alfi was starting to loose her patience.
“Okay turtle, I hear you…”
“This is a hostel built by kind people. They are generous and willing to help whenever they can. And you know what is most important? They love what they do, and they work together to make this place magical. This is a family and you are part of it, we need to all stick together.”
“Is it true that I am part of the family?” asked Milka.
“Yes Milka, you are. Every single human here loves you. Maybe you should start loving yourself a little bit more” Alfi suggested.
“Mmmm, I’ve never thought about that before. I still don’t like you Alfi, but I promise I will do my best to be a better cat. And by the way, sorry for trying to murder you!”
“Never mind Milka. You don’t need to thank me for telling you the truth”, Alfi concluded.
And that was the start of an amazing friendship.
Milka found her path thought meditation and yoga, and decided she would no longer be Milkalefica but Milkai Lama. She is now the yoga instructor for every monday class in “La Tortuga hostel.”
Estefania Santamaria from Argentina (living in New Zeland). 2nd prize of “ La Tortuga Literary Contest”
The twins Bára and Viky Komínková, 10 years old, from the Czech Republic. 2nd prize of “ La Tortuga Free Art Contest, kids section”
Turtles, we rock! or the story of why turtles have a shell
Once upon a time,
Earth was known to be a big Planet with a lot of things inside it. Flowers, plants, birds, wolves, fawns and bears, united together, created the World of the Forest. Water, fishes, seaweed, corals, united together, created the World of the Sea and the Oceans. Sand, wind, palms, snakes and other animals, united together, created the World of the Desert. So many other worlds coexisted on Planet Earth. There was also the World of Humans, a mixture of natural and artificial things, where animals of different species lived together with men and loved each other.
What you probably don’t know, is that there was also another World, which has not been well described in the books: this was the World of Viruses. Viruses are tiny little things that, for an unknown reason, hate Everything. And when I say Everything, I mean Everything. Especially Humans, probably for their power and dimensions.
Viruses are always angry , but we don’t know why. You cannot ask them, because they are so small that it is impossible see or hear them. The viruses had a Queen. One day she was so angry with the World, that she started screaming. The sound was so loud that her crown crushed in a million pieces that turned into little and very angry viruses. They all belong to one family: Coronavirus. They began spreading all over the World.
The first objective of Coronavirus was to destroy all Human Beings and animals. So, from that moment, a very difficult war started for Humans, because the Virus was hiding everywhere and hurting a lot of soldiers. The only way to fight the Virus was to stay at home, and do not go out.
But every Human has a story and today I want to tell you the tale of A and P, two old farmers who used to live in a beautiful, light- blue Villa on the Island of the Eternal Spring. This Island was wonderful, and also not so crowded. Every human used to live with a Turtle, which was like a little Lizard, without a Shell (spoiler: this is the story about why Turtles have a shell!)
If the virus had spread into this Paradise, there would not be more Humans! So, everything was closed, nobody could go out… The Island looked ghostly.
However, A and P had to tend their crops, they couldn’t let them die!
They were very sad, also because they could not see their friends. One day, their little Turtle Alfonsita had a big idea! “I am little, I can help you with the harvest! I can move and, if I see something suspicious, I can hide under a rock!”.
“This is a good idea, but, please, my little Alfonsita, stay safe!” said A, moved to tears by her generosity.
So, little Alfonsita started to work near a rock. She was little, as the Viruses were, and so she could see them. She noticed that they passed by her house very often, and her job was very very slowed down.
So, on the first night, A and P carved a little rock and Alfonsita could go inside it, she could walk with it on her back, she could do everything with her strange house on her back!
It was very hard to work alone, so Alfonsita decided to ask for help to her Turtle friends. P and A created for them new “rock houses” so that they could work and stay safe. But the story is not finished yet. P and A asked their neighbours that lived alone to move to their big Villa in order to stay all together, because there were people with no more food. They sent the invitations and a lot of their friends decided to come, during the night, dressed up as palms and bushes.
All the turtles were in front of the light- blue Villa, ready to help their owners in case of emergency. The plan was simple: when A would whistle, everybody should have run quickly inside the light- blue Villa. The night was bright and quiet, but there was something strange, Alfonsita could feel it. A whistled, everybody started to run, but Alfonsita saw an army of viruses ready to infect all the Humans.
She couldn’t let it happen. “Turtles, we rock!” she said. Every Turtle knew what to do. They got on top of each other and created a “mountain” to protect humans and let them run to safety inside the light blue Villa. The army of viruses was running so fast that couldn’t see the turtle-barrier. They crushed against it and bounced so far that they disappeared from Planet Earth, and released everybody from their menace. From that moment on , turtles decided to keep their “rock house” and so now, you know the reason of their beautiful shell. The moral of the story is: from that moment, the farmers P and A decided to convert their light- blue Villa into a place for hosting people, staying safe and making new friends. And so now, you know also how “La Tortuga Hostel” was born.
Cecilia Gaipa, from Italy. 3rd prize of “ La Tortuga Literary Contest”
Anna Paggi, from Italy. 2nd prize of “ La Tortuga Free Art Contest, adult section”
La Tortuga Limerick
Arrived at La Tortuga in late November,
First day on the island I well remember.
No one had given me a warning,
That since that same sunny morning,
Of a beautiful community I would be a member.
Hadn’t felt that kind of energy for a while,
No matter where I looked I found a smile.
In this new beautiful stage,
Young ones or of an old age,
Everyone looked happy and juvenile.
From our homes many of us were really apart,
With no filter we could talk from heart to heart.
To the island with no seasons,
We were brought for many reasons,
But in something we coincide: it could be a fresh new start.
Tourists, backpackers, owners and members of staff,
Advice, interesting stories and jokes to make you laugh,
Sharing beach days and barbecues,
If I want my words to be true,
Those Wednesday`s dinners deserve their own paragraph.
When the sun goes down its time to start the fire,
While we wait for it the golden hour we admire.
People embracing a happy mood,
While sharing some of the best food,
This is never short, you can eat all you desire.
In these crazy times I miss one of my favorite places,
And all the people which this heart of mine embraces.
Social distancing will soon end,
I know you feel it too my friend.
Can’t wait to see again all of your happy faces.
I´m looking forward to celebrating all together,
I’m sure we won´t care about the weather.
We will meet in Tortuga One,
Where this poem once begun,
Wearing colorful glasses, wigs and a big feather.
Ciro Bunge, from Argentina ( living in Tenerife ). 4th prize of “ La Tortuga Literary Contest”
Charlotte Gilham, from England. 3rd prize of “ La Tortuga Free Art Contest, adult section”
Night thoughts of an italian in Lisbon.
It is not easy to put into words what the experience I had three years ago in Tenerife meant to me, when I entered the small big family of La Tortuga hostel.
In these days of more or less imposed quarantine (I say more or less because here, in Portugal, there are no huge restrictions) it is easier to stop to think. It happens that the mind induces more than usual on happy memories, on moments of life that look like fairy tales, on moments of lightness and bright awareness that, sometimes, burst into one’s life too often lived in search of gratifications outside oneself.
I learned to listen to the inner guiding voice there, which, even when we feel lost, is the compass to follow.
When I arrived in Tenerife I had plans: my goal, indeed, was to stay six months for an internship. Then, when life has messed up what were my certainties, I literally felt at the mercy of events, with all the typical fears of those who don’t know what to do or where to go (yes, I didn’t even have a roof over my head). I only knew that it was not yet time to leave that place, that it was worth not choosing the safe way. After looking in vain for an alternative, I came across La Tortuga hostel.
If it’s true that, “There is no place like home”,I can confirm that, I seldom felt safe in a place that was not familiar. Unlike now, when staying at home can literally save your life, the house I needed at that time was metaphorical: an unknown environment in which I learned to discover that certainties are often an escape from my soul. I had to go so far away to remember that it is people that matter and that fears, to quote the first female aviator, are only “paper tigers”
I will never stop thanking Alessandro, Pasquale and Karen for opening the doors of La Tortuga, for welcoming me with their unconditional love, for giving me the chance to see the beauty of human relationship with a new gaze, for giving me the opportunity to recognize my fears and not to give them space, for making me understand that it is possible to live following the flow, let go of the resistances, enjoy the simplicity of a sunset or a smile, find satisfaction even in cleaning a room or help lay the table, be grateful for a bed in a shared room with three more people, have little money but be happy anyway.
My travel companions of that experience have been equally understanding and loving, miracles in human form that have given me an intensity of unforgettable gestures, smiles and gazes. I believe that La Tortuga is a small community whereyou can discover that the people we don’t know are not an enemies, but only friends who we haven’t met yet.
What the others can teach us is really a lot: you just need to get out of the comfort zone, try to trust life without necessarily thinking that your beliefs take you on the right path.
La Tortuga family has shown me that the more you open to the Unknown, the more unexpectedly you can receive. I discovered things that I never imagined I could have done and I thank all the people who accompanied me during the months of my stay. I have certainly received more than I have given.
I will remember that summer as a fabulous time: I would have liked, like all moments of happiness, that it would last forever. But I bring the memory of all those smiles with me and I hope one day to be able to meet them again.
Your forever grateful
Armida Faienza from Italy (living in Portugal). 5th prize of “ La Tortuga Literary Contest”
In joint third place for the ‘La Tortuga Free Art Contest, kids section, are Mia Muzzi aged 6 from Italy and Matilde Marcolin, aged 8, also from Italy.