El hombre sin miedo

Suffered several hours of horrifying mefloquine-induced nightmares last night. Won't jot down their substance here as it's too personal and painful to recount, but I must wonder if the antidote for malaria is worse than the disease itself. Six more weeks of this? On the other hand, such nightmares do reveal to me, in a Freudian release of the unconscious, my deepest anxieties and fears. I think I've reached that age where family is increasing in importance to me. I understand why people will move to be closer to home, with home being where one's family lives.
Nostalgia is a most peculiar emotion. It is inherently sad, to me, but at the same time so appealing. It spreads over the body like warmth, and I find myself nostalgic quite often during this trip. How is it we can miss things we've maybe never even experienced, or can't be sure occurred the way we remember? Maybe it doesn't matter, and all nostalgia is is a side effect of living in a linear temporal world in which our memories point backwards. Perhaps if time were reversed, we'd be nostalgic for the future.
My last post was just after the airline strike by LAPA. Aerolineal Argentinas bailed me out with a flight to Trelew, and I've spent the last two days here in Puerto Madryn. That was probably one day too many, though a day with an empty schedule is not always unwelcome on such a long journey.
My first day here was spent almost entirely on a tour around Peninsula Valdes. It's famous as a national park for some of the wildlife it hosts. The star of the area is the Southern hemisphere's right whale, which can be seen off the coast certain months of the year, but not this month. Instead our guide focused our attention on the next most enticing species, the elephant seal. I knew that it was an elephant seal not because the guide told me but because I read it a day later in an English museum brochure. The guide spoke only a rapid stream of Spanish the entire 12 hours of the tour, and I understood nada. Half the time I slept while we bounced over unpaved dirt roads in our tour bus, cutting across long, desolate stretches of arid steppe where nothing moved beneath the endless canaopy of blue sky except the occasional guanaco. And our mini tour bus.
The elephant seals, which, at the time, I knew only as elefante marino, lie on the beach this time of year, sunning, sleeping, I'm not really sure. They're massive, a pale stone-colored grey, and they lie in small groups, as if dead. They sneeze quite often, and occasionally they fart loudly, which always caused a few of us tourists to snicker like school children, and our guide would shush us with a frown, as if we were embarassing her or the seals, or both.
How do so many people know of Patagonia? Until I decided to travel to South America, I had no idea where Patagonia was on a map, nor whether it was a country, a mountain, or a saying (it's a region). All this consumer-culture baby knew was the clothing brand. Yet everyone I speak to back home about my trip exclaims, "Oh! I want to visit Patagonia." Even without traveling to Patagonia, you can get a very good idea of what the area is like by picturing an environment in which the technical gear manufactured by the clothing brand Patagonia comes in extremely handy--windy, occasionally wet but usually quite arid, cold up high, warm in the summer, a bristly desert floor like the rough half of a velcro fastening.
Nothing but capilene and other synthetic fibers have touched my torso since I left home, and I must admit it's quite comfortable. There's an overdone functionality to wearing capilene, fleece, and gore tex out to dinner that's quite pleasing. You feel like a trekker even if you're simply window shopping around town.
Accumulated sleep deprivation caught up with me, and last night I fell asleep with the TV and lights on about midnight and didn't wake up until 9 this morning. After breakfast, I went for a jog along the beach, all the way to the southern tip of town where I spent a half hour in the Ecocentro, a tiny museum about the geology and marine life of the area. Then I jogged back, fighting a stiff Patagonian gust the whole way. It's the first time I've jogged in forever, and right now my knees feel like rusted hinges. If I step off a curb awkwardly my leg might snap like a dry twig. Still, something about running along the beach in crisp, ionized ocean air revitalizes the lungs.
By the time I felt like lunch, which was 5 p.m., nothing was open. All restaurants close between, say, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. I ended up having quite possibly the worst pizza of my life at Lizard Cafe, the only restaurant that was open in the nine blocks I walked. Then I strolled arond town looking for trouble and finding none. I was, I am, ready for some urbanity after this two week stretch of Patagonian desolation.
And then I stumbled on a movie theater. The only movie theater in town, and the only movie theater I'd seen since I left the States. At that moment I was so ready for an American movie. My two choices were Chicago or Daredevil. Having seen Chicago already, I settled for Daredevil: El Hombre Sin Miedo (if that doesn't mean "the man without fear" then I'm dumber than I realize). The last time I saw an American movie in a Spanish-speaking country I was unpleasantly surprised to find it dubbed in Spanish, without any subtitles (Tomb Raider, in Madrid). But I guessed that this would have Spanish subtitles because a poster for one of the children's movies coming soon boldly proclaimed "hablada espanol!" or something which I guessed meant "dubbed in Spanish". That message was absent from the Daredevil movie poster.
No commercials or anything. The movie theater went dark and immediately jumped into the famous Twentieth Century Fox graphical montage. It was music to my ears, a blessed familiar landmark for the eyes. And the first words uttered in the movie? In English. I'm all for learning the local languages, but it will be a long time before I can watch any movie in a language other than English and understand it.
The movie itself was terrible, but it killed some time. They don't mess around here. As soon as the credit began rolling the lights came up and the curtains closed on the screen. Damn it, who was the key grip?! Now we'll never know.
I'm starting to pick up some basic Spanish, and I can work out a lot of written Spanish using contextual clues or familiar roots from other Romantic languages. My favorite Spanish phrase is m