Friday, May 15, 2009

Dispatches from Mexico: Volcanoes and dispatch centers

Our officers in Morelia, Mexico, (which is located in the state of Michoacan), are about 1.5 weeks away from coming home. Their latest site-seeing experiences include a volcano, national park and Morelia’s C-4 Dispatch Center (of course they had to see police stuff while they were there!). Here’s Sergeant Tamara Pronske describing their recent adventures:

On Saturday, we took our last big excursion to the volcano Paricutin. This was about a 1.5 hour drive from Morelia. The volcano Paricutin first erupted in 1943, and for the next 10 years erupted lava and boulders across the surrounding terrain. We drove to a village near the volcano and rode horses to the area where a small village was buried under 40 feet of molten rock. The only building that withstood the wave of lava was the church, whose steeples can still be seen jutting some 70 feet above the lava rock (the photo’s above).

Once we arrived to the edge of the lava rock, we hiked to the church. The church is approximately 12,000 feet above sea level, so it was hard work trying to hike over the lava rock, which is very rough terrain, and trying to catch our breath. We climbed through the lava rock and ash to arrive at the church. For miles around there is only rock, and then there is a steeple and part of the church sticking out. In the background, several miles away, you can see the volcano itself. After exploring and hiking, we had our lunch next to the church while sitting on the lava rock. When we finished, we rode the horses back to the stables. Most of us had not been on a horse in quite some time, so it looked like a scene straight from the movie “City Slickers.” It was a good thing the horses knew the route, because we were laughing so hard, there is no way we could have ever found the stables on our own.

After we returned, we then drove to the Parque Barranca del Cupatitzio in Uruapan, one of the national parks in Michoacan. The park was full of waterfalls and lush tropical gardens. In the middle of the park are cliff divers, who will dive into shallow pools. The park was beautiful and very serene. After a long day of hiking and being a little saddle sore, a long siesta was in store for all of us!

On Monday, we toured the dispatch center for Morelia. When someone has an emergency, they dial 066 and are routed to the C-4 dispatch center. From there, the calls are fielded to the appropriate agency: Police, Red Cross, Fire Department, or an on-site psychologist, for those feeling suicidal. The C-4 also monitors over 30 cameras mounted in the city, much like our Emergency Operations Center. We were told that even with all the crazy drivers, there are only approximately seven accidents reported a day. Since Morelia has a population of about 1 million residents, the C-4 can receive 3,000 calls on a given day. Since the Swine Flu seems to be descending on Morelia now, we were informed that we had to wear surgical masks when we were in the C-4. (shown above) This is the first time we have had to wear the masks, and it was quite amusing to be sitting in a meeting, wearing the masks and trying to ask questions in Spanish without laughing.

Our time is beginning to wrap up now. We have only 8 days of class left and 11 more days in Mexico. Seems like it was just yesterday when we all arrived in Mexico City bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to master the language. We have thus far survived Swine Flu, an earthquake, stomach issues, and several trips to the hospital, but it has been a lot of fun. We have studied a lot and our skills of speaking Spanish have increased ten-fold. As much as we all love the country and the people we have met, we are also excited to get home to our friends and families.

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