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Photo by Teva Corwin (2018 Summer Photo Contest Entry), Peru 4-Week.

I’ve Got 99 Problems and a Problem Ain’t One

When I asked Julio what problems existed on the farm he answered with a simple “we don’t have problems, only opportunities”. The journey of my internship, and any internship, is to create space for future opportunities for yourself. Working with experts and finding mentors develops knowledge and passion for any given field. In my case, I am here to directly learn from Eco-Huella and the Nina siblings themselves. I aim to develop my knowledge and skills in the field of sustainable agriculture, but there is another purpose of my presence here: sharing my perspective. I did not realize this until I was given permission to realize it, when Raquel (our Dragons instructor) visited my placement and facilitated a discussion with Julio regarding our goals and his expectations. Julio said something along the lines of “I want you to start sharing your opinion more, because I value every outside perspective I can get”. I felt surprised, because I thought I had so much more to learn before my perspective became valuable. I thought that my work ethic was the only thing I had to offer. Now, in fact immediately after he said that, I was more encouraged to even just ask questions. I had permission to be less polite and more inquisitive, which he values. So will the farm.

Over the course of the last three weeks I have gotten more comfortable with Eco-Huella. More specifically (and importantly), I have developed bonds with my co-workers. Manuel and I debate the pros and cons of Nuclear energy and the best path forward to fight climate change; Yoel and I share jokes and nick-names and many hours in the invernadero (greenhouse) pulling weeds and planting seeds; and Jessye Nina (Julio’s sister) has become a caring mentor to Yong Quan and I both. This means that going to work is less about watching and listening closely as they show us what to do and when to do it and more about trying to understand the deeper operations of the farm (understanding why they do things).

When I asked Julio what sort of problems he had, I asked the wrong question. To a man like him, that question immediately puts things in a negative context. Instead, I have learned to ask about what is difficult (i.e. an obstacle that will be overcome). Today I asked Jessye this question while we ate at Nuna Raymi, the upscale restaurant in Cusco at which all of the vegetables are supplied by Eco-Huella (yes I remember picking those exact leaves of lechuga). She answered in a serious manner, explaining the difficulty in keeping track of how much they were producing and planting, and that the ordering system (by restaurants) could be drastically improved from what it is now (a simple list sent via Whatsapp). It began to pour out of her, and I could tell that this was something she thought about every single day.

Again, these are opportunities. “Maybe”, I found myself thinking, “I could help with this”. In this manner I have started to find a balance between learning and sharing my perspective productively. It’s satisfying. Allow me to clarify: I still believe my primary purpose is to learn and improve myself, because they would do fine without me, but now I feel like more of a part of the team and that means that this internship now feels like a real job. One that I’m motivated and excited to produce for. And so I am immersed in Julio’s world of opportunities. My co-workers are, and always will be, my guides.