Administration, Frenk, News, Profiles

Let’s Be Frenk: favorite place, hobbies, ducks

What is your favorite place on earth?

I had a very early and defining experience in my life in the mountains, the high mountains of the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. It’s right on the border with Guatemala. It’s the poorest state of Mexico and in the mountains, there are still – it’s the state with the highest population of indigenous people. In my junior to senior year in high school, that summer, I took a two-month trip there. This is the 1970s, so Chiapas now is well-communicated, it has roads, etc., but there was nothing [then].

I wanted to live in some of the indigenous communities because I was trying to decide if I was going to study medicine or social anthropology, those were my two. And in the university system in most of the world, if you’re going to study medicine, you go straight into medical school. Most places don’t have the great, great experience of a liberal arts college. It’s those four years where you can explore.

So, it was an important trip because I needed to decide what I was going to focus on once I went to university. So, I went there and it changed my life. It actually made me decide to go into medicine because I had close encounters with really extreme poverty and it made me want to study something where I could have a more direct impact on the lives of people.

But, having said that, the physical beauty of the place is extraordinary, especially being in those mountains. And the warmth of the people, the cultural richness is amazing. I was literally with a backpack, a few friends — most of my friends actually started going back, so in the end, I was traveling alone the last week. Some of my friends couldn’t deal with the poverty, actually. It was very emotionally draining.

At the same time, I just love the people and I love the place, the highlands of Chiapas. It’s called “Los Altos” in Spanish.

Besides reading and listening to opera, do you have a hobby?

Collecting. I have a collection of kaleidoscopes. I would say that this is a very modest collection compared to serious collectors, but I do have a collection of kaleidoscopes. And at some point, I was collecting ducks. Not ibises, but ducks. Maybe now I’ll start collecting ibises.

I have ducks of every material you can imagine; every shape. For whatever reason, ducks are a pretty universal object and ducks are all over the world, so almost any country you go to, people do images of ducks, whether it’s in wood, in metal, [or]in cloth.

When I was traveling a lot and I always liked to bring something to my kids, I found that instead of having to think a lot about what to bring that was unique, I could always go to any part of the world and find a duck. So, I have ducks from all over the world … from Africa, from Asia, from Latin America, from the Middle East, from Europe, from the U.S. and Canada. I have hundreds of ducks.

At some point, I stopped collecting the ducks. I have some decoys; a few of them are valuable.

It was a way of explaining to my kids that I had been gone for three or four days, but here’s a piece of where I was. It was a way of connecting, of giving them a connection to what was a big part of my life.

I don’t travel as much as I used to. Especially at the World Health Organization, I was traveling 40 percent of the time. So, getting a duck was a way of showing that although I was not at home, I was thinking of them.

Right now it’s in boxes because we don’t have a place to put them.

How do you feel about the ducks at UM?

I, in general, like them. But the one thing I was told from day one was, “Do not call Sebastian a duck.” I know he is an ibis.

September 23, 2015

Reporters

Isabella Cueto

Isabella Cueto can be reached via email at editor@themiamihurricane.com and through Twitter at @isabellacueto

William Riggin


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

After assembling one of the nation’s best groups of skill position players in the 2018 recruiting cl ...

Coach Kool, AKA Craig Kuligowski, is gone from the University of Miami, which is entirely uncool wit ...

He is considered among the finest defensive line coaches in the nation. And now, according to a writ ...

This is the time of year when every win or loss can make a difference in a team’s NCAA Tournament ch ...

Mike Brey doesn't pay much attention to the NBA draft stock of opposing players, but the Notre ...

At the University of Miami, the professor has the last word on whether students can use their laptop ...

Members of the University of Miami first response teams remind us of resources available and what to ...

Mexican activist, poet and novelist Javier Sicilia deplored the violence stemming from the “drug war ...

From the North Pole to the South Pole and everywhere in between, the art of UM alumnus Xavier Cortad ...

The No. 25-ranked University of Miami women's golf team finished ninth at the 2018 Allstate Sug ...

Three Miami women's tennis players are featured in this week's Oracle/ITA rankings, along ...

Riding a five-game road winning streak, the Miami women's basketball team will look to make it ...

After capturing its opening series with Rutgers, No. 24 Miami continues a season-opening, seven-game ...

Walker IV scored 19, Izundu scored 14 and the Canes picked up a crucial win in South Bend. ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.