January 16, 2000

Hello from Cuernavaca,

We arrived safe and sound, and only slightly late. We've been enjoying a marvelous Mexican welcome from the delightful folks here at ITESM. As we expected, it has taken a while to line up all the logistics for email, hence the delay in sending this note.

We left Albany Thursday morning during the first snowstorm (mild though it was) of the season. The flight was due to leave at 8:20. We arrived early, thanks to a pre-dawn ride in the snow from Bob Delaney. We were of course worried that the flight would be delayed or cancelled because of the snow. But there were only a couple of inches on the ground, so the flight went. It didn't take off until after 9:30, because they had to de-ice the plane, and the Delta ground crew ran out of de-icer fluid and had to go back and refill. So we got to Atlanta at noon, to catch our 12:20 connection to Mexico City. We ran. We got to the gate by 12:10, just under the 10-minute no-more-boarding wire. Actually, though, several people got on after us, and indeed the flight took off 40 minutes late because they had to rummage through the luggage and remove from the cargo some items belonging to passengers that did not show up for the flight. However, even with the delay, we got to Mexico City only 15 minutes late. And we were delighted that our bags (2 huge and heavy bags we checked through) had arrived, making the transition in Atlanta despite the slim connection time.

We were met at the airport (outside customs, which we went through with nary a hitch) by Gregorio, the driver for ITESM Morelos. He was very pleasant and helpful, and we chatted with him for the hour and a half drive -- first through Mexico City traffic, then over the mountain highway to Cuernavaca. He delivered us by 5:30 to our house: 371 Paseo de la Reforma #9. It is a delightful, spacious, light and cool house, designed to be a weekend house for Mexico City people. It is about 1/4 mile from the campus, which is also on Paseo de la Reforma.

We were met at the house by Susana Sanchez, the person in the International Affairs office who has responsibility for housing. She had arranged this house for us -- it turns out we are the first visiting ITESM faculty to stay in this house. It is considered particularly desirable because of its high ceiling design, with fans and windows. Apparently it will be pretty warm here by March and April. There is a nice kitchen, fully equipped, a study, and a nice living room/dining room. And upstairs, 3 pleasant bedrooms. There are bathrooms with showers both upstairs and down.

Ricardo Fernandez also came by to welcome us Thursday night. He is Director of Engineering and Science, the person who I corresponded with to arrange this visit. He was very gracious, and took us to a local store to buy food for breakfast.

Friday morning, we walked to the campus after breakfast, and checked in at the International Studies office. Sonalika Bhaskar, the Director of International Studies, welcomed us warmly, and gave us a cell phone to use while we're here (the house has no phone). We wandered around the campus a bit, and then joined the staff and students for a tour to Taxco. We left in buses at 9:15, and returned at about 6pm. It was a glorious, sunny, clear day. Taxco is charming. We were treated to a very nice lunch in a restaurant with a great view of the town. We walked a lot, and got pretty tired.

We put the cell phone on to charge when we got home, and tried various experiments with it, without much success. Too much learning still to do here; we'll let you know if this ever stabilizes. We got through to our friends the Riveras in nearby Cocoyoc, only to be cut off when the cell phone ran out of money, before we could tell them anything useful. Frustrating.  If you are desperate to contact us by telephone, call (9am to 5pm Central Standard Time) the ITESM international affairs office to leave a message:  (when dialed from the USA) international code -- 011 -- followed by the country code for Mexico -- 52, then the Cuernavaca city code 7 and the local number. So that is: -- 011 52 7 3297193  --- they do speak English. Remember: rely on email!

The people here are really very gracious. We are feeling very welcomed.

Saturday we ventured out on bus #14 and promptly went to a different shopping center than we intended. Turned out OK, we stocked up on necessary grocery items, including some very cheap and absolutely fabulous mango juice. Then we struggled to get a bus back to the center of the city, where we had a large delicious and very cheap lunch. Unfortunately, that set off a toothache that gave the rest of Saturday a big black cloud for Don. Several doses of ibuprofen and a good night's sleep took care of that.

Sunday we went downtown by bus again, and felt much more oriented. We visited the Borda Gardens, a featured attraction, and the Cortez Museum, where we saw again the great Diego Rivera murals that we remembered from 1990. Another excellent lunch, eaten slowly and carefully with no tooth problems afterward. Then we walked the arduous path down and up the ravine, to arrive at the Espinoza house, where we stayed for 2 weeks in 1990. We were greeted by Juana Espinoza and two of her children, who were (amazingly) 10 years older. We had brought a few photos from our album, and they were delighted to see them. She still hosts students at the nearby Spanish institute ("Universal"). She invited us to come for lunch some day soon. She also pointed us at a brand new bridge that crosses the ravine, so we returned to the center of town in 5 minutes instead of the 35 that it took us to come the way we did in 1990.

We've been sleeping several hours extra: 9 or 10 instead of 6 or 7. We attribute this mostly to the process of adjusting to the altitude (5300 ft.).  But walking around discovering where we are and the stress of not knowing exactly where we are, and learning the bus system and the layout of the city -- these might be multiplying that altitude effect. In any event, by Sunday night, we're feeling more acclimatized: we might make it to 10pm (instead of 9) before falling over asleep tonight.

Hope you all are doing well. For those we left in the grip of the first snow: hope it didn't amount to much. Be well. Do good work. Keep in touch.

Hasta luego,

Don and Lois