What I've Learned

When I arrived from Minnesota as ECHO’s first Storytelling Intern six weeks ago, I had never smelled a jackfruit, I couldn’t tell you if moringa was a plant or a dance style, and permaculture may as well have been a trendy coffee shop.

Thankfully, living on this diverse farm has been an enriching experience. I thought I would share some snippets of what I’ve learned before I take off to my home in the Tundra again.

You are capable of making your own creative, delicious, healthy food. You just have to know where to start.

“When someone tells you their name for the first time, use it twice in the next minute and you are more likely to remember it.” I learned this from Luke Little when we met a Security Officer named Scott.

Rotational grazing is a good idea. It is healthier for the animals and the environment. If I ever have a pet cow, I think I will implement this technique. 

Sheep can be a good alarm system. Not that I needed one.

Diversification of crops (planting a variety of crops instead of one or two crops) is important for any farmers, but especially small scale farmers.

Glenn is the best kind of mango. But Carrie is pretty good too. No. Turpentine. Actually, I can’t decide.

West African farmers should be respected. They can grow food in some of the toughest conditions. And their ability of learning and applying new skills is remarkable.

In Asia, more than 4 million premature deaths can be attributed to indoor pollution. Women and children are affected the most.  (www.who.int)

For a technology to work, it needs to be locally appropriate.

Making a beach tent is easy if you bring some bamboo and sheets. The interns assembled one on the beach and I was inspired.

This tent was constructed by the ECHO interns on a trip to the beach on July 4th.

This tent was constructed by the ECHO interns on a trip to the beach on July 4th.

“Being a leader doesn’t mean you are on the top of the pyramid. It means you are on the bottom serving the people above you.” Bruce Wilson taught this to me one day when he stopped by my office to chat. He would encourage me while I worked on writing stories. 

You don’t need a TV to have a good time.

Wear gloves when you are weeding….or else fire ants will leave your hands feeling spicy.

Getting sprayed with cold water helps after getting bit by fire ants.

In Tanzania, many people like drinking warm soda. It is uncommon to eat or drink cold things. (According to a Skype interview with someone from Tanzania.)

“When in a work environment, it is better to be encouraging and gracious. When people feel appreciated and supported, they will produce better work.” Kristen Musko told me this last week over lunch while explaining ECHO's work environment.  

Always remember an extra pen.

The interns have told me they really like farm work. I think that is really cool. It seems like it can be a fulfilling job.

I think God likes surprises.

Enjoy the moment you are living, because you will never get it back.


Thank you to everyone who has welcomed me here to ECHO. Thank you for reading my blog posts and encouraging me along the way!  Keep an eye out in ECHO News for the stories I have been writing this summer.

Don’t eat too many mangos without me!

-McKenzie Van Loh

Storytelling Intern from Bethel University