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

University of Miami running back Mark Walton was rolling — until he got rolled on, or stepped on. Wa ...

University of Miami safety Sheldrick Redwine got to wear the gaudy (but beautiful to Canes and their ...

This just in: University of Miami at Florida State will kick off in Tallahassee at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. ...

For those concerned about the apparent on-field struggles of graduate transfer Dee Delaney, an All-A ...

This week’s Top 25 college-affiliated football polls, released Sunday afternoon, agreed on how to ta ...

UM undergraduate students resumed classes Monday, some ready, some not, but everyone glad to be back ...

The bold vision for advancing health care education and practice manifests itself this Thursday, Sep ...

UM students fan out across South Florida to help local neighborhoods rebound from the impacts of Hur ...

Classes resume on the Coral Gables campus after the removal of 4 million pounds of landscape debris. ...

Students living in residential housing are returning to campus and classes with renewed resolve. ...

University of Miami women's golfer Dewi Weber wasted little time this season in adding to her a ...

The University of Miami's football game at Florida State on Oct. 7 will kick off at 3:30 p.m. E ...

Walton rushes for career-high 204 yards and Rosier has four touchdowns in Miami's comeback vict ...

The University of Miami volleyball team outlasted Virginia, 3-2, in Atlantic Coast Conference action ...

Junior golfer Dewi Weber highlighted second round action for the University of Miami women's go ...

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.