Cuernavaca – Dias 1 & 2

Written on October 20, 2014

I arrived in Cuernavaca yesterday evening, and everything has been fantastic so far. I really have nothing but great things to say about my experience (short as it has been, thus far) and want everyone to come here and have a similar adventure! My posts are going to be a bit long, so apologies in advance, and feel free to skim. I’ll also try to lean towards advice and tips for future Cuernavaca travelers and students at ASLI.

There are flowers all over Cuernavaca, it's called the City of Eternal Spring. Cuernavaca grows and exports cut flowers.

There are flowers all over Cuernavaca, it’s called the City of Eternal Spring. Cuernavaca grows and exports cut flowers.

I’ll start with travel and arrival – I flew out of Austin, to Dallas, then into Mexico City. The flights were fairly uneventful, if running a little behind schedule. Flying into Mexico City is crazy – it’s so vast and colorful, I kept thinking “this must be the biggest city I’ve ever seen”, only to be informed by Bug and my host mom later that it is, in fact, the largest city in the world. So yeah. (Although for the sake of accuracy, Wikipedia has a more complicated definition of biggest city.).

The airport was fairly easy to navigate – I had already filled out customs forms on the plane (one of which was only in Spanish, so I helped the guy sitting next to me). At the Mexico City airport they screen some bags – every traveler walks up to a stand and pushes a button, if the light turns green, you’re okay to go through with no bag check, if it turns red, your bags get run through the x-ray machine. I got green, but it didn’t seem to take that much time if you got the red light.


I followed to signs to the bus ticket window and purchased my ticket on the Pullman de Morelos bus to the Casino de la Selva stop in Cuernavaca (as recommended by the school). The bus leaves every 40 minutes or so, after getting my ticket ($203 pesos), I went to wait for the bus downstairs on the street. We had to check any bags that were bigger than backpacks, and were offered our choice of beverage and some cookies when we checked in. The bus was a big, modern Volvo tour bus with two seats on each side of the aisle, tray tables and cup holders, and movie screens. I half paid attention to the new Disney version of the Lone Ranger dubbed in Spanish.

The stop in Cuernavaca was a little bit hectic, but luckily some of that chaos was due to an active taxi stop right outside the bus stop. It didn’t take long for me to muster the courage to flag down a Radio Taxi and jump in. The ride to my host mom’s house was only a few minutes away – I Had 3G on my phone, so I mapped it, which was good because the address alone would not have been enough to tell my driver how to get to the house. The school had sent me suggestions to tell taxi drivers that the house is close to “el tunel”, a bridge that’s a block away from the address, so that was also helpful.


The view from right outside my room – dramatic skies and colorful buildings.

My host mom is named Dora. She is very nice and helpful, she says that her English is not very good, although I have a feeling it’s better than my Spanish. She’s very easy for me to understand, and I seem to be able to fumble my way through communicating with her. She has an adorable cocker spaniel named Greta who wants nothing more than look at you with her ojos muy tristes (very sad eyes) and beg for pets. Suffice it to say, I’m glad there’s a dog here, I think she’ll go a long way towards making me miss home less.

Dora is retired and a widow – she lives in a nice house which is in some ways more of a compound – there’s the main house which has a kitchen, at least one bedroom, dining and living room, etc. Past a large patio there are stairs down the hill to the room I’m staying in – there seems to be at least one other set of rooms next to me that no one is currently using, and another set of buildings downstairs. My room has two twin beds, a big closet, a little sitting area and a small bathroom. It’s definitely as big or bigger than most hotel rooms I’ve stayed in.

Greta, mi amiga en Cuernavaca. Mira sus ojos tristes.

Greta, mi amiga en Cuernavaca. Mira sus ojos tristes.

When I arrived, Dora quickly prepared me a meal – she was very accommodating, and as she wasn’t sure if I was vegan or just vegetarian, had prepared me an entirely vegan meal of taquitos de papas, chayote, arroz con verduras, y salsa. It was all delicious and we quickly established a shared love of all things dairy for future meals. We talked a bit over dinner, but I went back to my room to get settled not too long after eating.

That night, I tested out some communications and was able to get ahold of Bug both via facetime audio and skype. I have free, unlimited texts, so feel free to get in touch with me that way if you want to chat – we can arrange a call (via facetime or skype or google hangout). After that, I watched a bit of TV I smuggled into Mexico on my computer, listened to a podcast and went to sleep.

It rained most of the night and definitely cooled off enough that I wanted a blanket in the middle of the night. I woke up at 7:30, took a shower and headed upstairs for breakfast. Breakfast was huge and the food just kept on coming – Dora said it was because I wasn’t going to have another meal until 3:30pm, but it was still so much! Yogurt and granola, fruit, toast with jam, migas y frijoles. It was definitely more like two generous breakfasts. I did my best to balance not offending vs. not gorging myself.

The view from my morning classroom, overlooking the grounds of the school.

The view from my morning classroom, overlooking the grounds of the school.

After breakfast, Dora drove me to school, which is less than a mile away from her house. For most of the trip, I plan on walking, but for the first day, she wanted to drive to show me the route. The school is gorgeous – there’s an open air yard that has a great lawn, trees, and flowers. Most of the classrooms overlook the yard. I was placed in a class with a teacher and one other student (a few other students were supposed to be in our group, but they didn’t show up). Classes all have five or fewer students. From 9 until noon, we worked with our teacher on grammar, specifically el infinitivo and reviewing el preterito. The other student, Becky, seemed to be at a similar level and the teacher Susana was exceptional.

Entrance to the Cathedral. Built in the 16th Century. Notice the skull and crossbones.

Entrance to the Cathedral. Built in the 16th Century. Notice the skull and crossbones.

From noon until 1:30, I took a conversation class that was a lot of fun, the teacher, Maricarmen Culebra (culebra means snake, I’m not sure if that’s her real last name) is a hoot and a half. After introductions, she passed around a deck of cards that we all drew topics from – the topics were everything ranging from the rather simple (jobs, education, food) to the much more complex (dealth penalty, environmental contamination, homosexuality) and we each had to speak a bit to our topic and then engage the rest of the class via questions and comments. It was a lot of fun and I got to meet other students (there were eight of us in the group, I think). At 1:30, the new students got taken to an orientation, which was alright, but definitely geared towards the more reluctant travelers in the group (one family in particular – parents and their adult son – who know pretty much no Spanish and seem generally overwhelmed by being in another country).

In the courtyard of the seminary at the cathedral.

In the courtyard of the seminary at the cathedral.

After the orientation, I went back to Dora’s where she once again overfed me amazing food – this meal “la comida” is typically the biggest meal of the day, and is typically eaten between about 2pm and 4pm. We had a creamy carrot soup, tomato and avocado slices, and chile rellenos stuffed with a bit of queso panela. She made me two large chiles, of which I could only eat one and less than one half. I guess I don’t have to worry about being hungry at “dinner” time.

Outside of the Palace of Cortez.

Outside of the Palace of Cortez.

I did a bit of homework (I had one verb worksheet and a writing prompt to complete) before leaving with Dora to meet the group of new students at the Centro. We met right outside the cathedral and walked around with a guide. The cathedral was built in the 16th century and was very much a vehicle for cultural and religious assimilation the Indians. It was a bit hard for me to see past the history of oppression to see it as a place of serenity and worship. Still, it was an impressive piece of history that is still very much in use today. If I get the chance, I might check out one of the Mariachi Masses held at the Cathedral every Sunday at 10:30am.

Archeological site outside the Cortez Palace. Steps are from a pyramid the palace was built on top of.

Archeological site outside the Cortez Palace. Steps are from a pyramid the palace was built on top of.

After viewing the cathedral, we walked around el Centro – walked to Cortez’s palace and around the adjacent market. We checked out a few things before splitting up and catching a Radio Taxi back to Dora’s. Since that trip, I completed my Spanish writing prompt and have just been writing this post.

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Comments ( 4 )

Great post. Sounds like you are having a great time. Reading about your home and host makes me feel more comfortable about the idea of you being in Mexico by yourself. Have fun.
Love you

Mom added these words on Oct 22 14 at 12:29 pm

Is it seriously dorky if I ask you for pictures of all of the amazing food? Since I can’t really ask you to send it to me, I’m just hoping for next best thing. It sounds delicious. Classes sound really interesting too. Yay adventure!!

Adrienne added these words on Oct 22 14 at 1:12 pm

Coming soon! Not dorky, I felt kinda weird about taking pictures at home, but since you asked I told Dora “Mi amiga me pidio fotos de la comida” and she said that her other students take photos of the food too.

Emily added these words on Oct 25 14 at 9:21 pm

Thanks, Mom! It’s really quite safe and my host mom and everyone at the school really cares about me – I’ll post a more detailed post about the city and getting around, and everything soon. Cuernavaca is quite metropolitan in many ways. Every time I walk around (only in the daylight, don’t worry), I see lots of other students, people coming and going to work, people shopping, etc. Don’t worry (too much)!

Emily added these words on Oct 25 14 at 9:23 pm

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