Days 5-6 Thurs 9th-Fri 10th Jan
If you’re checking in hoping to experience a frisson of schadenfreude while learning about the latest episode in my tales of misfortune, you have come to the wrong place. The Good Ship Tooth has finally sailed into less turbulent waters and has some wind in her sails. You might have sensed this from my last post, where my mood had improved after the first full day in Patagonia. The interviews and sight seeing had gone well, and I was feeling more-or-less at peace with the world. I remain more-or-less at peace, but not entirely so, because although my luggage apparently has made it to Trelew airport, I have no idea when it will be delivered to Gaiman.
The interviews and sight seeing continue apace, and we make very good progress. Most interviews are conducted by Hywel in Welsh, but it surprises me how often I can get the gist of what is being said just by hearing a few familiar words and watching the body language and gesticulations of the interviewees. I conduct one interview in Spanish with a gentleman who speaks no Welsh and claims to speak no English (although I think he is being modest) but who has a wife whose family originally came from mid Wales. Although I was anxious about this interview, it goes better than expected and he gladly provides us with a copy of a photo of his wife’s family and others sheltering atop a hillock during 1932 floods. This date – among a few others such as 1899, 1958 and perhaps 1998 – is certainly one that seems to be cropping up again and again with people of a certain age; there is no doubting the fact that certain floods of the past are part of the local community’s cultural memories. Droughts – being somewhat more nebulous and less singular events – do not seem to feature so strongly in these memories.
On day 6, I take the initiative and collect my luggage from Trelew airport (see photo of the joyful reunion below). Finally, I am able to stop doing the continental European traveller thing and wash out my clothes before re-use every day. This change of clothes gives me an extra spring in my step and I’m sure makes Hywel feel more comfortable during the car journeys. In addition, the grapevine in the lower Chubut valley has been working apace and other willing interviewees are coming forward; we are even invited to the regular Friday evening slot on Radio Chubut with two locally well-known and respected sisters of Welsh descent. In between Welsh hymns and announcements in Spanish of deaths, graduations, births, and birthdays, Hywel is asked a few questions in Welsh (with Spanish translations) and is invited to answer in Welsh. I am asked a few questions in Spanish (with English translations) but rather than accepting the invite to answer in English with translations to be done for me, I decide to answer in Spanish: I like the right kind of challenge. Afterwards I am told that I did quite well (although in reality I know that I made some grammatical errors, muddled some tenses, and murdered some pronunciations), but that because I was concentrating so hard I forgot to smile (!) for the radio audience of octagenarians. Damn. Next time.
The day ends with tri-lingual conversations between Hywel, myself and various others over pepsi, beers, wine, peanuts and pizza in several establishments in Trelew and Gaiman; the conversation lurches back-and-forth between one and another iaith/idioma/language (even in mid sentence) and across a multitude of topics (increasingly diverse as the evening flies by), but everyone present seems to enjoy the ride. Even my Spanish seems to be improving, although perhaps I shouldn’t trust my recollections from this type of evening. Once again, food and alcohol acts as the great social lubricant.