Barely in Taxco a day and a half, and I boarded another bus, with my friend Vanessa, for Chilpancingo to visit mutual friends from a couple years ago (when I visited her there). It is a long and winding road through the mountains to a lower altitude and about 10 degrees or more increase in temperature. (Mas caliente!!! Or calor, if you are talking about the weather.) Along the way, there was evidence of the severe flood damage this area received from the torrential rains associated with the hurricane that hit Acapulco this fall. Actually Chilpo and the surrounding area suffered more damage than Acapulco (sort of like the Peshtigo, Wisconsin fire that destroyed more property and lives on the same night as the Chicago fire — the big sister got all the attention and sympathy.)
The highway showed evidence of having been washed out by the raging river as we traveled over smooth new asphalt in many areas, with a sharp drop on the edge to the river bed below. There were topless trees that once marked the river’s edge that now stood mid-stream looking like a line of 4-foot fence posts waiting to be strung with barbed wire. The opposing bank showed a water line 20 or more feet above the river bed and parts of the mountains had washed away giving them the appearance of a very large, somewhat haphazardly designed ski hill. Our friends told us that at least one friend had died in the flood and a whole town was washed away.
Chilpancingo itself appears to be returning to normal, though the concrete basin that channels the river through the center of town is broken and rubble strewn. Maintenance crews are still working to repair the hardest hit area which washed away the road and several houses and businesses in the main business district.
As devastating as the flood was, and as quickly as the Mexican authorities responded to help the people affected, our brothers came to the rescue of those in need and within a few weeks, all the friends who were displaced were back “home” either in their own repaired property or relocated, with the necessities to start anew. It was a heart-warming and faith strengthening experience for all. Now people just need to get over the shock of what happened and refocus their lives with some routine.
It was so good to see old friends again, many smiles and hugs all around. They asked when I would be back and begged me to stay and help there; believe me it is tempting (hearing the meeting in my own language instead of totally incomprehensible espanol was sooooo nice) but the location of the city, in a bowl surrounded by mountains, makes the air quality level way too poor for me. (As soon as we turned the bend and Chilpo was in sight I could see the haze settled over the city.) We stayed with a sister a little outside town which was much better than the city itself, but 5 days in the smog of the city was enough.
So for this year I guess it is learn Spanish or bust. Though Vanessa, who has lived in Mexico for more than 5 years now and is fluent in Spanish, says it was hard for even her to understand the meeting, so bust it may be. I will continue my search for an affordable location with an English congregation.
I have been given contacts in Cuernavaca, San Miguel de Allende, and Huatulco. One is likely too hot (described as like Gehenna in the mid-day), one is likely to big (700,000), San Miguel may be too Americanized — but all worthy of a visit at least.
Like Goldilocks, I am sure I will find my just right.