Sunday, March 5, 2000
My friendly colleague Eduardo, who schedules the seminar cycle for the Depto. Computación, leaned on me on Monday, February 7, to reschedule my talk from Feb. 24 to Feb. 10. I agreed, with only 3 days notice, provided I could give the talk in English. Since he was desperate (the Feb. 10 speaker had cancelled), he assured me this was no problem -- lots of the talks and many courses are in English anyway. Indeed, it turned out very well with extra attendance from another campus. The slides I used are at http://donporter.net/RPI-TEC/index.htm. Thanks to Sharon Roy and Don Bell for info and pictures.
Despite the millions of tourists that visit Cuernavaca, and the intense interest in benefiting from that business, there is no obvious Tourist Office offering information to visitors. One of our best sources, Aurelia Marquina, who runs the Math and Computación Deptos. from her command post at the front door (where she is on the telephone more hours than most people work), provided us with detailed directions and a map, to find the hidden Tourist Office for the State of Morelos. Unfortunately, all we were able to find there that was of use was a small map of Cuernavaca (posted at http://donporter.net/Cuernavaca/CampusITESM_Morelos/CuerMap.jpg) with a list of local sites of interest. We've devoted a number of Saturdays and Sundays to visiting all of these. We've learned a handful of bus routes, and resorted to taxis when we run out of energy or time. At least in Cuernavaca, the safest authority on what bus to take and where to get it is a traffic cop. Lots of them are directing traffic at busy downtown intersections. We've gotten bad information from everyone else, including bus drivers, and the friendly but useless Tourist Office.
The International Affairs Office on campus arranges for campus delivery of the slim English language newspaper that comes out in Cuernavaca whenever its publishers find the time. One of these led us to the Newcomers' Club, which we had heard about last summer from our friends Tim and Martha O'Connell. So we went to a meeting, and met some people. That led to lunch with the Brownings. And also to attending a dinner at the Club de Golf Cuernavaca, to benefit the Animal Shelter. We also learned from the newspaper, and from the Newcomers Club, about a House and Garden Tour of Cuernavaca, organized by the Damas de Cuernavaca, to benefit local charities. We went on one of these tours on Thursday, February 17, and enjoyed it a lot. Pictures (and anecdote) at http://donporter.net.
We figured out that taking a taxi to the movies, even the big megaplexes out on the autopista, is perfectly doable. Taxi fare out and back, plus the price of the ticket, is still less than going to the Latham Circle cinema. Confirmed this by going to see "Con Todo el Poder", which we enjoyed a lot. Somewhat controversial, and reputedly temporarily banned, because it is a Mexican film, depicting extreme corruption in the government and especially police force in Mexico City. There wasn't a seat left in the house. The highlight for us was the police commissioner, named Elvis Hernandez, who was a gangster caricature, in love with the Elvis Presley he tried to imitate.
I've made connections with the Communication Department and the Library, and made more progress with the Math Dept. With help from RPI (Mark Holmes, Bill Siegmann, and Joe Ecker), I've been providing tips and pointers for Project Links modules and Studio Calculus. There's talk with the Communications Dept. of some talks I offered to give on digital photography and digital video. And a weekly seminar on interactive learning topics I cooked up with Crisanto Castillo, the chairman of the Math Dept. is scheduled to start next Tuesday. I attended a 4-day seminar (4-6pm each day) given by two visiting professors from Barcelona on hypermedia and information technology in education. I had a hell of a time understanding them. I also spent most of yesterday (Saturday) at a seminar for faculty on the use of internet information resources.
We're really enjoying our old friends Myrthala and Enrique, and our new friends Maria and Pablo. We've been on several sightseeing trips with Maria and Pablo -- to the fabulous cave Grutas de Cacahuamilpa, to Tlayacapan, and today back to Tepoztlan to see the chinelo dancers (and dance with them in the densest crowd I can remember surviving). We visited with Enrique and Myrthala in Cocoyoc, who invited us and Maria and Pablo to lunch there. And we took both couples to dinner at the fabulous Las Mañanitas restaurant in Cuernavaca. Pictures are at http://donporter.net. Soon I hope to get some photos of the chinelo dancers up there too.
We had our first visitors from New York, Peg Reich and her son Joe. They were here for a business meeting, and stayed on at our house for a couple of days afterward. We really enjoyed visiting with them and seeing some of the sights, for the first or second time. This was our second visit to the Brady Museum, and this time I took the video camera. We went back to two restaurants (Marco Polo and La India Bonita) that we had enjoyed, and Peg and Joe seemed to enjoy also. Peg got to sample a little Mexican inefficiency when she tried to get cash from several ATM machines. Finally found one that "developed a desire to function". There's a picture on the website of her celebration.
We had a few adventures solving international problems proving that US inefficiencies and Mexican inefficiencies can complicate each other to annoying lengths. Some legal documents needed my signature, and Texas authorities wouldn't accept Mexican notarization, so we had to make a trip to the US Embassy in Mexico City to handle that. Meanwhile, I discovered that our ATM cards expired at the end of February, so we had to impose on Gabrielle to dig the new ones out of our stacks of mail waiting in Schenectady, and FedEx them to us. We have learned how FedEx Cuernavaca and the TEC campus fail to work together. And the US Embassy is a scary place. To get in, I had to surrender my passport, my camera, and my Swiss army knife. I thought they might take Lois hostage. But all turned out well in the end. We found out we can go to Mexico City and back in the same day and we enjoyed visiting the Museum of Anthropology there again (we remembered almost nothing from our last visit, about 15 years ago).
Lois has been producing terrific repujado works and ceramics (see photos on website). The repujado always needs to be mounted on something -- frames, in the case of the virgin and the woman with alcatraces. She has some designs, including some that are already done, that she wants to mount on wooden boxes, for use as jewelry boxes. The trick is to get wooden boxes. All supply lines are shaky here. She contracted with a carpenter to make a box, and he did. But it took 2 weeks longer than promised. She spent hours yesterday getting to an artists supply store that has the boxes she wants. Only not now, and not for at least 2 weeks. Which probably means never. Triumphs are great, but the cost in hassles is high.
Lois is busy also with English tutoring. She's got several people doing "intercambios", where they converse in first one then the other language, so everyone gets to practice what they're learning. And she's just beginning an intensive project with Crisanto, chairman of the Math Dept, to help him prepare to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) competency exam. She also was invited to speak to two Sociology classes, on her experiences of the differences in Mexican and US culture. Lively discussions, especially the one at 7am.
Lois's friend Carmen, our neighbor, invited us to the party that they had for their two sons who just graduated from college. Family came from miles around, and stayed several days. The main party was Saturday night (a couple of weeks ago), and we went for a couple of hours. Lots of dancing to old rock-n-roll songs, sung in Spanish. And the latest dance sensations (remember the Macarena? Well, it has been replaced several times, and Lois was right there with the current style.) We had a great time, and Carmen and Pedro enjoyed our participation.
Maria invited us to attend a meeting with Cuauhtemoc Cardenas last Thursday evening. He is President of Mexico City, and is running for President of Mexico in the elections that happen this coming July. He is the long-time leader and champion of the PRD - Partido de la Revolucion Democratica - the liberal party in Mexico. (The PRI is the middle of the road, in power for 60 years, and the PAN is the right wing). He was in Cuernavaca to meet with artists and teachers, the intellectuals and "knowledge workers". It felt more like a Unitarian gathering than a political meeting. We were amazed that there was no security -- we're used to police and military people with rifles practically anywhere, banks for example. But Cardenas entered and left with no visible bodyguards. He sounded very reasonable, although he was identifiably a politician. Maria made a speech about the Normal schools that train so many rural teachers (she is a graduate). They are threatened by the current (PRI, of course) administration. Cardenas made a strong statement of support for them, in response to Maria. Some 8 or 10 others made short statements but Cardenas didn't say much about their issues. We left with a good feeling about him, but some doubts about his electoral strength.
An old friend of Myrthala's, Bertha Alicia, has a daughter, Veronica, who lives in Cuernavaca. She called us up and as a result we went to hear a lecture given by her sister Jeanette. The topic was the healing power of Tao. We heard a fairly detailed (90 minute) overview of this new agey approach, all about organs and forces, and so on. There was a weekend workshop (for money) which we did not join.