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Life in Rural Peru: A Photo Essay

The cookstove project we are working on focuses on people who live in the campo, or “the field” here in Peru. The campo is about 30 minutes to an hour away from where we live in Puno and is composed of various rural communities of pastoralists. The people in the campo  have limited electricity, no running water, and live in homes made of adobe or clay. While they do not farm for subsistence, they do keep many farm animals and grow a limited amount of crops.

Experiencing the campo has by far been the most interesting thing I’ve done in Peru so I thought I would share what it’s like out there as a photo essay*:

Sunrise over Lake Titicaca, about 5:40 am. We wake up before the sun so we can get to people's homes before they start cooking and doing their chores for the day.
Sunrise over Lake Titicaca, about 5:40 am. We wake up before the sun so we can get to people’s homes before they start cooking and doing their chores for the day.
It's so early and freezing cold! Jackie and I all set up and ready for observations. You can see a gas stove (not in use) behind us and on the other side of the cooking hut, the woman and her family began cooking breakfast on their adobe stove.
It’s so early and freezing cold! Jackie and I are all set up and ready for observations. You can see a gas stove (not in use) behind us and on the other side of the cooking hut, the woman and her family began cooking breakfast on their adobe improved stove.
This is an improved stove. Even though it still burns wood or cow dung (unlike gas stoves), it has a chimney (attached through the wall) that lets the smoke out. Traditional stoves can look similar to this but they do not have chimneys so the smoke flows back into the cooking area through the combustion chamber opening and the pot hole openings. We smell like a campfire after observing women cook in their traditional stoves.
This is an improved stove. Even though it still burns wood or cow dung (unlike gas stoves), it has a chimney (attached through the wall) that lets out the smoke. Traditional stoves can look similar to this but they do not have chimneys so the smoke flows back into the cooking area through the combustion chamber opening and the pot hole openings. We smell like a campfire after observing women cook in their traditional stoves.
Another couple works together to make breakfast in their improved stove. The woman is peeling chuños, a type of dried potato that is then rehydrated by soaking in water.
Another couple works together to make breakfast in their improved stove. The woman is peeling chuños, a type of dried potato that is then rehydrated by soaking in water.
Breakfast is served. The women are usually very excited to share their food with us. Breakfast so far has been variations on a potato soup. This one was my favorite: veg, potatoes, and barley. It takes about 2 hours for them to make the soup.
Breakfast is served! The families are usually very excited to share their food with us. Breakfast so far has been Variations on a Potato Soup. This one was my favorite: veg, beans, potatoes, and barley. It takes about 2 hours for them to make the soup so it’s a really satisfying and warm treat once it’s finally ready!
After breakfast, there are chores to be done around the farm. We wanted to help milk the cow but she said it was too dangerous.
After breakfast, there are chores to be done around the farm. We wanted to help milk the cow but she said it was too dangerous.
The woman strains the fresh milk and sells it to a factory where they turn it into cheese.
The woman strains the fresh milk and sells it to a factory where they turn it into cheese.
We keep ourselves busy while waiting for the family to cook lunch by playing with the various farm animals. We spent about an hour trying to coerce this alpaca into our arms but the damn thing was just to afraid of us. Jackie got spit on, which was pretty funny!
We keep ourselves busy while waiting for the family to cook lunch by playing with the various farm animals. We spent about an hour trying to coerce this alpaca into our arms but it was just too afraid of us. It even spit on Jackie which made everyone laugh.
The family actually hid their turkey from us so we wouldn't bother it anymore. But we found it eventually.
This family actually hid their turkey from us so we wouldn’t bother it anymore. But we found it eventually.
Lunchtime in the campo can mean a few things: the family might cook more soup, eat something they had already prepared during breakfast, or even build an outdoor temporary
Lunchtime in the campo can mean a few things: the family might cook more soup, eat something they had already prepared during breakfast, or even build an outdoor temporary “mud oven” and bake potatoes in it. We were served these potatoes baked in the ground alongside a mud, water, and salt mixture as a dipping sauce. Definitely the weirdest thing I’ve eaten in Peru so far!
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These are quinoa seeds the woman separated from the rest of the plant. The seeds are sifted further before cooking (or feeding the animals with them).
We may not have been very successful with the alpaca, but I have gotten to hold a chicken and a one-week old lamb so far! We'll see what the future brings as far as pet-able farm animals.
We may not have been very successful with the alpaca, but I have gotten to hold a chicken and a one-week old lamb so far! We’ll see what the future brings as far as pet-able farm animals.
One woman showed us how she spun this alpaca fur into yarn. She let us have a go with the spinning dreidel tool but we were pretty miserable at it.
Before leaving for the day, one woman showed us how she spun this alpaca fur into yarn. She let us have a go with the spinning dreidel tool but we were pretty miserable at it.

So that sums up a first week of campo visits. We will be doing more observations this week – this time of dinner prep and cooking. I never got sick from trying the food the families in the campo have prepared for us but I did recently spend 17 hours vomiting and losing my mind to nausea after eating at a restaurant in Puno, so we’ll see how adventurous I’ll be on the taste-testing front. Here’s to #allthepotatoes!

*All photos were taken with permission from our participants.

13 comments

  1. Laurey Kawalek says:

    Michelle, Your travels are just amazing to witness through your blog! What an experience. Stay safe and have a wonderful journey. xoxo

  2. marlene kawalek says:

    The photos and blogs are fantastic. This whole experience belongs in National Geographic. My favorite part was about the hidden turkey, which you managed to find. And of course, the mud dipping sauce. Sending you warm hugs.

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Marlene! Thank you – it is definitely some Nat Geo stuff out here. It’s crazy to think how normal it feels to me now. Probably won’t be eating mud again any time soon though…
      xx

    • mishvo says:

      Completely – it’s definitely a challenge being out here, certain parts more enjoyable than others! Going on holiday soon for a couple weeks so I’m really looking forward to that. You should come to Peru – there are SO many ruins to explore 😉

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Wendy! Thank you, I’m glad you are enjoying it and I hope it can be helpful to you during your trip. I will not be in Puno at that time, unfortunately but I wish you a fantastic trip!

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