Both of our Peruvian host parents grew up in small towns in the countryside just outside of Huancayo, the city where we lived for the past 14 months. We’ve been with them to visit their hometowns, where they still have small plots of land, known as chacras, and they grow potatoes, corn and beans.
During one of our visits, we went on a walk to take in the landscape and learn more about the area. We climbed to the highest part of town with spectacular views of the lush valley extending below us. Eucalyptus trees and retama bushes lined the chacras, and the sounds of donkeys braying and cows mooing echoed off the hillsides.
On the way back, we passed a cluster of large cacti growing on top of one of the clay dirt walls that serve as boundaries for the chacras. Our host mom stopped and told me about how her family used to take the largest spines from the cacti and use them as knitting needles! Can you imagine? Cactus spine knitting needles. Now that’s something I never would’ve thought of!