Article: Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Ark and Laura Go to Mexico

In 1997 Ark was invited to Mexico by the Mexican Gravitational Society. They were very generous by including his family in the invitation, so we took two of the children with us.

The Conference was to be held during Thanksgiving Week (in America) so it was VERY difficult to get reservations. But, the Society performed a miracle, and we had round trip tickets waiting for us in Miami.

We flew from Miami in the late afternoon and arrived in Mexico City in mid-evening. But, Mexico City never sleeps, and it was as busy and bustling as if it were mid-morning on the first of the month in Florida - times ten!

Our guide, a wonderful and droll physicist, Dr. Bogdan Mielnik, met us at the airport and we experienced our first ride in a Mexico City Taxi. For a hometown girl who has never been anywhere, this was QUITE a ride!

All the streets in Mexico City are one way... alternate streets going in opposite directions. The traffic is bumper to bumper everywhere, nobody REALLY pays any attention to traffic lights, stop signs, lane markings, or anything. Yet, somehow, it works! High speed lane changes across 5, 6 or 8 lanes are standard... stopping in the middle of the middle lane and waiting to cut in front of someone in the lane on either side in order to turn is also fairly common. It was a TRIP! I finally realized that I was holding my breath and closed my eyes so that I couldn't see anymore "impending" disasters!

We finally settled in our hotel, and I took the above photograph from the huge open, double windows on the 17th floor. I was terrified by these windows with children in tow! Screens are NOT standard in Mexico, nor is air conditioning and sealed windows.

I have to tell you that he first night was HORRIBLE!

The sixteen-year-old was travel sick and the 8 year-old was crying to go back home because Mexico "smelled" bad. It was really only a pungent smell of lots of car exhaust which was not really too bad at 17 floors. But, when the older child had finished being sick in the bathroom (which appeared to be fairly modern), she then discovered that the toilet would not flush. That was bad enough. Then, she went to the sink to wash her face, and the sink would not drain.

Well, Ark, being a physicist, decided to go in and fix things. Pretty soon he shouted "it works!" and we could hear the toilet flushing. It was an industrial type with the jet lever at the back, and, sure enough, we could HEAR that jet of water!

And hear, and hear, and hear, and hear....

It seemed that the lever was now stuck and the jet kept SHUSSSSSHING continuously.

Unfortunately, the out flow was not working as well as the inflow... and the water was overflowing so rapidly that it was beginning to pour into the living area of the hotel room. Ark was working frantically to get the lever to shut off, I was grabbing every towel in sight to block the flow from under the bathroom door.

Finally, he managed to shut the thing off.

Oldest child is crying quietly on the bed that all she wants is a shower; youngest child is sitting with her face buried in her arms, looking stunned, miserable, and pathetic, and I decided to take the matter in hand. I picked up the phone and called the desk clerk to request emergency assistance and clean towels.

"Hello? Habla Ingles?" I inquired hopefully...

"Un pocito, " came the NOT encouraging reply.

I began to describe the present state of things, the flood that was still moving slowly like a spreading epidemic as it soaked into the blood-red carpet; the fact that we had, at least, managed the emergency, but could they please send someone to mop up the water and bring us some clean towels? .

"Manana." Was all that was said in response to my desperate plight. "Manana."

"MANANA?!" I shouted incredulously. "Do you mean to tell me that there is no one who can come and take care of this tonight? "


"Listen to me!" I said, using my very best "you are the bureaucrat and I am the customer/taxpayer" voice. "I have saved your blasted hotel from a deluge of cataclysmic proportions, using ALL the towels and throw rugs in this MISERABLE room to do so, and NOW you are telling me that I must wait until MANANA to get this mess cleaned up????"

"Manana!" CLICK. Phone went dead.

Not to be treated with such insouscience, I stabbed the numbers of the phone again.... it rang a VERY long time before anyone answered it. It was a different voice this time, so I was sure that the previous person was cowering downstairs in the corner after running to fetch someone else to talk to the crazy American woman who dared to demand service after 10 o'clock at night.

I was sure that I was going to have a sympathetic ear now... someone in authority who could DO something, so I calmed down and began to repeat the entire story of the shower that did NOT, the sink that would not drain full of vomit which was the obvious place for it to be since the toilet had not flushed, only NOW the toilet was flushing, only it would not STOP flushing, and had flushed until it nearly drowned EVERYONE... the kids were sick, I was exhausted, and for GOD'S SAKE, could we JUST HAVE SOME CLEAN TOWELS!



I did NOT like the hysterical shriek that issued from my throat. This time, I slammed the phone down! And, I turned to face my crying children looking at me with miserable "why did you make us come? You KNEW we didn't want to" eyes.

So, we used blankets for towels, and managed baths in the trickle of water that had, at least, stopped running brown, ignored the mess in the sink, and thanked God that the toilet was flushing. After all our cleaning up, I took the huge pile of wet linens and rugs and carried them to the door and plopped them unceremoniously on the floor in the middle of the hallway outside our door soaking wet. I had SOME satisfaction in doing that!

And we renamed Hotel Bamer... forever after we called it "Hotel California."

After the children were asleep, Ark and I got up and stood by this huge window, opened onto the largest city in the world and watched the endless traffic and people and listened to the hustle and bustle below, and gazed into the distance, where there were twinkling lights as far as the eye could see.

It was magic.

After a rather restless night, we awakened to the daytime view from our hotel window.

There was a park across the street from the hotel. This park was a place of endless activity and was quite beautiful. You will recognize it in the map that follows, as well as the circle indicating the location of the hotel.

It seems that, in the early mornings, a martial arts school holds its lessons and exercises in the park behind the monument. We could only very faintly hear the cries of the Sensei as he barked his commands to his disciplined and perfectly synchronized students. The air was fresh, as the traffic had slowed considerably toward 4 and 5 in the morning. There were policemen on horses riding by, and trash collectors picking up every single piece of paper left from the revelry of the night before. Revelry? Well, it seems that Mexicans like to buy and sell and do things all night. There is entertainment, street singers dressed in caballero outfits practicing opera for passersby and a few pesos.

And there was a reason for this... off to our right we could see a rather grand building, the Mexico City Opera... This is a gorgeous building with marble terraces and stairs and walkways...

In fact, Ark has been all over the world to most of the major cities of the world, and he says that Mexico City is very much like the old cities of Europe with a flavor of American enterprise that is purely and distinctly Mexican . Mexicans are a friendly and hard working people, it was truly a pleasure to be in this amazing city!

It wasn't long before the girls discovered a rather unique use for this smooth and glassy surface surrounding the Mexico City Opera...



Yes, indeed! Roller blades! And, except for one other person we saw later in the week, our girls were the only kids on roller blades and were quite a marvel! They had vowed to skate everywhere, but it proved to be impossible with the cobbled and rough pavements and curbs and crowds. So, they had to be satisfied with skating in this large and beautiful arena topped by graceful and marvelous statues, surrounded by 400 year old buildings. After skating, it was time to try a Mexican treat...


One of the things that people warned us about Mexico was the pollution. Well, Ark says that Marseille, France is more polluted than Mexico City. Yes, there WAS smog, but not to the extent that people who have reported on it imply. Here are two shots taken from the hotel window. They are basically the same view, but on different days, so that one can SEE how bad the smog is... which is really not ALL that bad compared to other places.

Now, just to give an idea of the location of all of these things, I am going to put the little fold out map here...

...Not too far away from our hotel is the famous Templo Mayor museum archaeological site... And, next to this is the great central Square faced by the palace of Hernan Cortes, built from the blocks that used to BE the great Aztec pyramid...
In an area off to the left of this picture, there were daily dances performed by "authentic Aztec dancers." So, here they are...

It was after the dancing that I got one of my favorite shots of the thirteen rolls of film that I used on this trip... I think you will love it too!

Only in Mexico!

We spent a week in Mexico City, trying our best to spend money in a place where everything is so cheap and attractive! The FASHION DOLLS that were dressed in incredible, hand-made outfits to die for... and you couldn't pick one, because you wanted them all!

The silver! The amber! The perfumes, candies, knitted, crocheted, hand made, leather, carved, stones.... good grief!

I heard that there are 27 million people in Mexico City, and I believe it. Further, I believe that they are ALL on the streets from dawn to dusk trying to sell something!

As hard as it was to shop, we had to go to the conference. We took a Mercedes Benz tour bus with luxury accomodations and headed off across the Sierra Madre Orientale to Xalapa... and, during a brief stop high in the Sierra, I snapped the photo at left of a little church that was practically in the clouds... another of my favorites...


Xalapa was quite a different place... busy streets, yes, but more provincial, and quiet.. at times. The following views are from the balcony of the hotel in Xalapa...

There is a snow capped volcano in the mist... but it only showed itself on a few occasions, only to be wrapped in mist after a few minutes.

But, looking DOWN from this balcony... see at right... We felt right at home, though, because to the left, out of the frame of this picture, was a Burger King and Blockbuster video store!



Xalapa was lovely, cool, misty... but not nearly as exciting as Mexico City. It was here that the conference was to be held, and Ark got up early on the day he was to speak and had a nice cup of coffee on the terrace of the hotel overlooking the mist shrouded volcano in the distance...
Later, during his lecture...

After the business was over, it was time to form an excursion to the local museum of anthropology... only this one happens to be the one where there are many Olmec heads...

After Xalapa, back to Mexico City for a few more days, and a visit to the museum of Anthropology there! Hard to believe that this fellow was designed as a sacrificial altar for hearts, probably still beating, as they had been torn from the chests of living victims... Our youngest doesn't think he looks too friendly!


This guy at right really amazes me! I expect that the damage was done by the Catholic missionaries... but WHAT an image it must have been with his phallic necktie!




There was some little time left to see some more sights in Mexico City, and we did, but you can see how exhausted I am becoming with this ENDLESS walking all over the place... only it was better to walk and suffer than get into a taxi and suffer!


And there was more skating at the Opera...
And visits to the Cathedral to the left of the Great Central Square...
Walking down quieter streets with an organ grinder in residence...


And sunset in Mexico City on our last night... after eating in an authentic Japanese restaurant...

Well, this is just a very small selection of the over 400 photographs I took in Mexico, and it was pretty difficult to decide which ones to leave out....

But, I hope you have enjoyed looking at them!


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