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Posted by Tim on May 18, 2005
Patagonian Anecdotes

The Scotsman and the Armadillo

On our fourth night in Puerto Madryn, we were sitting in a restaurant with our good friends Stuart and Gemma, and their new friends Bo and Cogi. The four of them had spent most of the day driving a rental car around the gravel roads of Peninsula Valdés, and I asked them if they'd had any luck spotting an orca.

Stuart's eyes lit up. "Yeah, we did. Not up on the beach, but out at sea. But that's not all we saw!" And he pulled out his digital camera, and started playing a video for me.

The four of them had arrived at Punta Norte rather early, it turned out, and so they had a lot of time to kill. (Orcas mostly appear around high tide.) Among the wildlife you can see on the peninsula is the armadillo: they're everywhere, absolutely adorable and a lot hairier than you might expect. One of them had evidently run across Stuart's path, so he had fired up his camera and chased after it.

The video showed the armadillo fleeing from the demented Scotsman, and leading him into the little parking lot before disappearing beneath a large van. The video then pans over to the man standing next to the van.

Stuart is sitting besides me, beaming. He leans over to me and says proudly, "Johnny fucking Knoxville."

Those unfamiliar with MTV's gross-out smash-hit Jackass might remember Johnny Knoxville as the bad guy from the film Men in Black II. What the former stuntman is most famous for, of course, is doing things like "testing" a protective cup and getting attacked by guard dogs while wearing a bunny suit. To a fan of Jackass, such as Stuart, running into Johnny Knoxville is like meeting a rock star. Running into him in Patagonia is, well, a bit surreal.

Stuart told me he had a film crew with him, that they were setting up to do some stunt.

I couldn't figure out what on earth Knoxville could have had planned for Punta Norte, and said as much to Stuart. He shrugged.

"Trying to get eaten by killer whales, I guess."

Unmitigated Gall

At the end of the 19th century, Welsh settlers arrived in Patagonia. Among the towns they founded was Gaiman, which we toured while in Puerto Madryn. Gaiman is a curious little place, where ditches alongside the streets irrigate trees native to Wales, where you're more likely to hear Welsh being spoken than Spanish (the residents are all bilingual), where you're more likely to run into scones than empanadas.

On August 31, 1995, Princess Di famously visited here. She had tea at a place called "Ty Te Caerdydd" and was serenaded in Welsh by the local children's chior. When she died, a little shrine was built to her, one which residents adorn with flowers every August 31st.

Our tour stopped at a similar little teahouse, called "Ty Gwyn", and we all piled in. Inside, it really did feel like we had left Patagonia and stepped onto the British Isles. The walls were stone and oak, there was a fire burning in the fireplace, and bagpipe music was quietly playing (yes, I said "bagpipes" and "quietly" in the same sentence).

If Jessica and I were excited for the tea and cakes we were about to enjoy, the four Irish girls on the tour with us (whose names we didn't catch) were ecstatic. The six of us sat at a table together and were happily going about the business of becoming friends when it happened.

Over to our table ambled the proprieter, a round little woman with a broad, friendly smile. Her Spanish had a fascinating lilt, which I realized must be a touch of a Welsh accent. She was making the standard waitress small talk, noting that their were six of us, and had begun asking us another question when, out of nowhere, she was cut off by one of the Irish girls.

"English," the girl demanded, in the contemptous tone you might use if you were addressing a very badly-behaved child.

The woman blanched, as if struck, and then gave us all a heart-breakingly apologetic look before starting over in English.

I felt sick. Jessica looked furious. The other three Irish girls nodded approvingly at their friend.

We wanted desperately to swtich tables all of a sudden, but contented ourselves by making sure to speak nothing but Spanish to the poor woman the rest of the time we were there. I only speak a handful of words in Spanish, myself: hola, gracias, sí, and so on. But I stuck with them, trying with my limited vocabulary to distance myself from how shockingly rude the Irish girl had been.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've begun many a conversation with "¿Por favor, hablas Inglés?" I mean, I'm working on my Spanish, but right now I usually just panic and figure that it's at least worth checking whether the other person speaks English.

But to just say "English!" as if she need to be scolded for speaking Spanish, oh my. There are no words.

No words at all.

May 18, 2005 at 1:04pm
At least it wasn't an American with such bad manners! Hola!:)


Sister Soldier (The Post Hog)
May 18, 2005 at 2:07pm
You show much restraint my dear bro, for lord knows what I would of done! You know me and my bad temper! GRRR!
May 18, 2005 at 5:21pm
oh wow… that is SO wrong. i hate rude travelers – like seriously – don't they know they're not on their home turf? that usually means a little extra courtesy and kindness is in order. sheeeeesh.

poor cute round lady. i hope you tipped her well. (and enjoyed the tea!)


May 18, 2005 at 5:24pm
oh – and woohoo! johnny knoxville? tres random. i'm so watching out for that episode just so i can tell whoever's closeby about you guys and the armadillo and the scotsman.
May 18, 2005 at 10:30pm
ack! ugly behavior! :P
May 19, 2005 at 7:00am
U should have started talking to them in Spanish at the table…(philsie would have made u do it lol ) …
Carried away
May 19, 2005 at 12:59pm
Rude people, bleck.

Yeah on the wildlife sightings! We saw quite a few armadillos in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi (god, I love to spell that word), however, all the ones we saw were road kill. :(

Sister Soldier (The Post Hog)
May 19, 2005 at 3:59pm
The story of the RUDE Irish girls makes me want to learn sign-language again, so if I should ever encounter such evil people I can talk to them in sign-language. However, the one sign I'm really good at seems to be known to everyone who have ever cut me off in traffic. Oh well I'm sure I can think of some other non-known yet evil signs. *Tee-hee* > 8 o P
May 21, 2005 at 9:59pm
you know how mad i get here when the help here don't understand english but for somebody to be so rude as to demand it in a country that language is spanish i'm absolutlely shocked and i concur i'm glad that there not americans

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