Chinchero: Part One
While spending time with Worldschooler Lainie and her group, we did some amazing things. One of the activities we did in Peru was farming in a town called Chinchero. Lainie first met this family while drinking juice at a cafe. They told her and her son Miro about their culture and how they farm. They welcomed her to their family farm to learn about their everyday life. Lainie always brings her Worldschool groups here and the family now has a small business sharing their culture. The whole extended family lives on the farm including the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.
When we arrived at their farm, the first thing we did was a blessing with coca leaves. We each took three coca leaves in our hands to represent Heaven, earth, and the underworld. We all took turns blowing on them three times and thanked Pachimama (Mother Earth) for her nature.
We also were able to see their dinner… before it was cooked. Guinea pigs! Guinea pigs are a delicacy in Peru so many people eat them for special occasions. They are called “cuy” in the Quechuan language.
We started off the farming by helping the family harvest potatoes. It is a lot harder than it looks! First we had to dig up the potatoes before cleaning all of the dirt off of them and piling them up on a blanket.
We were really lucky to be at the farm during harvest time, because the family decided to make a “whatia”. It is an outdoor stove that looks like an igloo made out of dirt and stone. The ladies made it right in the middle of the potato field in less than 20 minutes.
We put dry eucalyptus tree branches inside the whatia, lit it and let it heat up while we moved on to another area of the farm.
There are thousands of types of potatoes in Peru and our next job was helping with a small type of potato that could be dried and and stored for many years. Stepping on potatoes is the first part of the drying process. It was a lot of fun because we got to make a pile of about 40 small potatoes and step on them to take the peels off and squeeze out the juice. The ladies even took out their cell phones and played music to dance to while we stomped. The next step was to spread them out and leave them under the sun to dry for a few days.
Drying these potatoes was important because they can be stored for a long time. In the past, when the Inca messengers traveled far, they could bring the dries potatoes in a bag, add them to a soup and they would be ready to eat.
While we stepped on the potatoes, we all tried chicha, a traditional corn beer. Mikhaila and I only had a tiny taste of course! In the Incan times, chicha was made by women. They would chew up corn and then spit it out into a bucket. The chewed corn and saliva would ferment for a few days and taa daa, ready to drink! Today it is not made like that. Thank goodness!
At this point in time, the whatia was hot enough to cook the potatoes. The family showed us how they place the potatoes in the whatia and then crush the hot dirt on the potatoes. We only had to wait about thirty minutes until the potatoes were cooked and ready to eat.
Once the work was all done, we sat down and ate our snack. It was so good!
I really enjoyed farming in Chinchero as it reminded me of apple picking and pear sorting in Australia on my family’s orchard. It was a lot of fun spending time with the family and getting to know them. It was also very interesting to learn about the traditional ways of farming in Peru.
After we finished our potato snack, we drove to our next activity for the day: Not telling! You will have to wait until tomorrow to find out! 🙂