Monday, January 31, 2011

the end of the world as we know it

Some tips for the flight into Ushuaia: get a window and take your xanax, the view is almost as heart-stopping as the turbulence.

There is something incredibly humbling about being in this place: for all practical purposes the end of the world (though I felt a bit cheated when I discovered today that there is a town of 2,000 on one of the islands that is a bit further south called Port Williams, they must not have as big of a marketing budget as Ushuaia). To see this city and the surrounding area--barren and inhospitable--reminds you that the world is not just for us, that it is here of its own accord. To look across the Beagle Channel and know that all that lies on the other side is Antarctica puts one in a state of proufound calm.

Yesterday I took a lake excursion in a 4x4 with a guide, a cook and another couple. It's funny, here I am, about as far away from home as I could possibly be and the landscape rather reminds me of...home, with the moutnains and lakes and trees. It was fun to be out and about with only a small group. The couple was made up of an American glass blower who lives in a cabin in Colorado with no running water and an Arengtine engineer who lives near Buenos Aires. I assumed in the beginning that they both spoke both languages as she insinuated that it would be fine if our darling guide Juan did the tour in English and he explained that he would be fine with Spanish as he understood it perfectly. In fact the opposite turned out to be true; she spoke not a word of English (actually she could say 'stop', 'shut up' and 'sit down' the really important things I suppose) and he may well have understood Spanish as he's been in the country for some months but he certaintly didn't speak it. This made me feel pretty smug as nothing warms the heart of a struggling language student than being in the presence of someone who speaks the language even worse.

We stopped in the forest halfway through the day to eat a seriously delicious lunch of, what else, chorizo, steak and malbec. I finally asked the woman how she and her boyfriend managed to talk to each other. 'We don't talk,' she said and we both collapsed in laughter.

Though her boyfriend seemed releived to finally be around another anglophone, he also seemed perfectly confident with his ham-handed attempts at Spanish and professed to speak it just fine when asked. I begin every attempt at conversation in Spanish with a litany of diclaimers: I'm learning, I only speak a little etc so that my efforts are met with low expectations and head pats. So in a way I had to admire the guy's chutzpah. With their seemingly different backgrounds I would ask what these two have to talk about but they just don't talk: how perfectly simple.

I did have a good time with them, making the instant and instantly-disolved bonds of people who find themselves travelling together. Our guide Juan and our cook Nacho were a total hoot. Nacho is a big lover of American music and I taught him the correct words to Sweet Caroline as we all belted it our while crossing the Lago Escondito on our little boat. Nacho is also a painter and writer and I even managed a halfway intelligent conversation with him after lunch about reading in other languages and how faithful translation of a text is in many ways impossible.

Sorry there are no pictures today--I left my converter in my last hotel in BsAs so I am not writing from my laptop: there are consequences to packing under the influence people.

No comments:

Post a Comment