Being abroad gives a certain sense of physical disconnect with your home, yet spiritually a person feels their values, past and culture more strongly than ever when facing novel circumstances. Yesterday I was feeling a bit ill before class and decided not to go (a pretty rare occurrence in general for me) when I got the news that my Grandpa Gene had passed away from complications of pneumonia. After taking some time to process my feelings, I began to really feel what my Grandpa meant to me and how he helped to shape me as a person.
A few things come to mind when thinking of Grandpa Gene: intelligence, kindness, a love of nature, a tremendous work ethic, a love of family and plenty of grit. To me, he was an excellent chemical engineer, artillery officer, community member and grandfather whom I had the pleasure of getting to know very well through a range of conversations about family history, life, sciences, politics and the like. These are some of the values that I’ve found myself holding onto while abroad and facing new circumstances and is really a testament to how much family really does influence personal development. Before I left I spoke with my Grandpa about Ecuador and he kept speaking about how alive the Earth is, particularly with regard to the volcanoes here. The Earth does live here in the Ecuador, teeming with astounding biodiversity and a variety of extreme climates separated by only hours giving a sense of the Earth anxiously awaited eruption (I’m talking about you, Cotopaxi…).
When all your routine and all that you’ve constructed around you is stripped away, you feel more in tune with your natural tendencies, and as a Frost I certainly love a good, punishing hike. Feeling lejos de my family today after hearing about my Grandpa, I thought that summiting Pichincha would be a fitting tribute to the man who helped shape me into the person that I’ve become. On the way up, Clark and I did not stop, making it to the summit in a little under two hours with true Frost gusto. At the summit, I felt in my element despite being thousands of miles from where I grew up, there’s a certainly set of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that have accumulated over the course of my life to give me a strong connection with nature, especially over the course of a rapid and demanding climb.
Despite being thousands of miles from home, I felt that the summit of Pichincha was the closest I could possibly be to my Grandpa today. Pope Francis highlighted the fact that Ecuador is the country closest to the heavens due to the Equatorial bulge coupled with the altitude of the Andes range and I had the good fortune to take advantage of that today and give a salute to one of the greatest men I have ever known.