September 5, 2009

Lunch with Ivan

The day before yesterday I was blessed to share lunch with Ivan Vallejo.
He was a bright and charismatic man. When I asked for him to pass the juice or the ahí, he insisted on serving me. His necklace was yellow and metal and unusual and I wish I'd asked its story.

There are 14 mountain peaks over 8,000 meters.
Ivan has summited all 14 - without oxygen.

I asked him about his children. His oldest, a son, is 25 and enjoys climbing Cotopaxi with Ivan whenever he has the opportunity. And his youngest daughter, he says, is an expert with the GPS - In the mall, that is. She knows where all the discounts are.

I saved my important question toward the end of our meal. (Paraphrased)

"You must have incredible inner strength to have climbed these peaks, especially without oxygen. What spiritual impact has this had on you?"

"That's a great question," he said. "It sounds like a journalist's question." He stood, considering his reply.

"The mountain is my 'school of life'. It teaches me everything. I come to the mountain with an open soul, an open mind, and an open heart. It is then that I can truly learn. The basic things, the daily things are what really matter. I realize that my health and having food to eat are so precious. After the 7,000 meter mark, I can no longer eat. If I try, I only feel like vomiting. And when I finally reach base camp, a plate of rice with two fried eggs seems like the most delicious meal in the world.

"And there are moments when I see a boulder 20 meters ahead of me and I continue toward it, but it feels like I am moving nowhere. During these moments I focus on my children - on a letter one of them wrote me, or an email, or something they told me." Ivan paused, flexing his arms, neck, and facial muscles. He looked away and grunted deeply. "This is what gives me strength to continue. Thinking of my children."

I am honored and humbled to meet such a man.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Rosie, You have shared lunch with a great Ecuadorian, one of our local Heros, a Celebrity and a Role Model for our Children. GBU Rosie, We´ll be in touch.