Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mexico: Vacation caused by an earthquake, 1979

My very first trip overseas was to Mexico City in 1979 in my junior year in college. I was into the semester for two months and one morning at 5:15 I was awakened with a sense that the room was rocking back and forth. We all went to the doorway, which is supposedly the safest place to be during the earthquake. The building rocked for about 30 seconds and then stopped. There was no major damage to the house but the electricity went out. About 15 minutes later some of our classmates stopped by our house and told us that something had happened to the university. We walked there with them and saw that much of the university's buildings had collapsed. Luckily, there were no casualties.

The immediate result was that there were no classes for a week, and as there was no electricity and later no running water in the house, we decided that the best plan was to leave the city and take advantage of the time off. We took a bus to Acapulco (a six-hour ride) and spent three days there. One of our Mexican roommates was from Acapulco and his father owned a small guest house near the beach. They gave us a 60% discount on our rooms! They also had a nice pool, and I remember being really amused because there was a TV on near the pool and they were showing the TV show "Fantasy Island" with Ricardo Montalban's voice dubbed in Spanish!

Our next stop was up the coast to Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa. Both of these destinations have enclosed bays and great swimming. I haven't been back, so I imagine that these sites look completely different now (Ixtapa at the time was only a strip of hotels). One event in particular still jumps out at me. While walking down one of the streets in Zihuatanejo, we saw two American tourists, a mother and her son (about 10 years old at the time?) trying to hire a taxi. The kid said to his mother that the taxi was supposed to have two drivers (why I have absolutely no idea), and the mother then said to the taxi driver, "Dos drivers." It makes me laugh not only because the woman expected the driver to understand what she meant, but also because on my next trip overseas, this time to Bogota, Colombia in 1980, we were told never to go into a taxi with two people in it, that it most likely had an extra person in it to rob the unwary passenger.

During the overnight bus trip back to Mexico City, I woke up to see the two volcanoes, Ixtaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, as the sun was coming up. There were clouds that looked like spirals and because of the sunrise the sky was red, pink and a host of other colors. It looked like a scene from some remote Shangri-La paradise. It was a shame I didn't have a camera because it was one of the most incredible sights I've ever seen.

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