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Introducing the Laozhai Local Team

This is the first in a series of 4 posts where we are introducing our Local Teams to our online community.

These village communities are the reason for our existence. As we've returned to these communities year after year, they have come to feel like our own hometowns/laojia in a sense. That has naturally resulted in our desire to play a role in their sustainable development and preservation, and to find ways for visitors to these communities to have transformational experiences as they also play a role in this process. Our first post is about the magnificent Laozhai. Join us in celebrating our Local Teams!

Laozhai is an ethnic Pan Yao village located deep within the tall mountains north of Guilin. It has had access to a road since only July of 2015. Due to this, Laozhai has seen very little development, and has remained largely self sufficient. Still today, the villagers seem to live in a beautiful harmony with their natural environment, while at the same time being eager to open themselves up to visitors. Take a few steps into this village and you may feel a sense of arriving at a long lost home.

From Yongfa and Maarten's first moments of setting foot in this village, they experienced extraordinary generosity and warmth. The energy exuded by many villagers in Laozhai is like that of the timberframe houses that they build -- big, beautiful, strong, and one with the mountains. Health and smiles seem to naturally emanate from these people. Villagers in Laozhai share many values with the Laojia project, and we have thus developed a rich collaboration. Below we mention those villagers that comprise our Local Team -- these are members of Laojia老家 that have worked in our "family" consistently.

Thank you to Yangyan for contributing introductory bios for each Local Team member. In addition, we have collected some words from each Local Team member about their relationship with Laojia老家.


/ Li Ayi 李阿姨 /

Li Ayi is the host and cook of the guesthouse for Laojia老家.

Li Ayi is warm, cheerful and hospitable. She is always smiling, loves her rural life, and is busy and optimistic every day.

Zhao Shushu, Li Ayi's husband, has been a friend and supporter of Laojia老家 since the beginning. He does not play an official role on the Local Team, and yet he has spent many hours engaging with us and teaching us about local issues.

Laojia老家: How did you develop and maintain your relationship with Laojia老家?

Li Ayi: "In Laojia老家's team, I am the least educated, and have limited ability. I can only try my best to do my job, or communicate with guests, introduce them to the activities they choose, introduce them to local folk customs, and give guests clear guidance."

Laojia老家: Can you share a good memory from your work with Laojia老家?

Li Ayi: "The most impressive thing is that a Chinese girl in the (Laojia老家) education program some time ago, she liked us very much, liked Laozhai; when she left, she also sent me a small wallet as a keepsake."

Laojia老家: How do you hope Laojia老家 can affect your life?

Li Ayi: "The impact of Laojia老家's on my life is that I see you don't have to climb mountains to do heavy farm work; you do not have to work for others, you can receive guests in your own home, have living wages, and work is not so hard."

Laojia老家: How do you hope Laojia老家 can affect Laozhai?

Li Ayi: "Laojia老家 is the epitome of local, relatively successful development. The increase of tourists, the coming of high-quality guests from home and abroad, not only created a new income stream for villagers, but also added a beautiful sight to local community. In short, I think Laojia老家 is quite grounded, and will become very developed, depending on everyone's heart to explore and move forward. I think Laojia老家 is already a success!"

/ Tofu Ayi 豆腐阿姨 /

She offers immersive activities for visitors and manages educational programs with Laojia老家.

Tofu Ayi is hardworking and capable. In order to give the villagers more abundant [local, nutritious] ingredients, Ayi makes delicious tofu (hence, her nickname) every morning and supplies it to the villagers at a very affordable price. In addition, Ayi is a person with organizational ability and foresight.

Cun Zhang, Tofu Ayi's husband, is a kind man, and a skilled carpenter. Due to his role as village head of Laozhai, he is a very involved figure in the community. He, together with his wife, have felt like mentors to us in the way that they teach us about local etiquette, and keep us informed about village news.

Laojia老家: Can you share a good memory from your work with Laojia老家?

Tofu Ayi: "What impressed me most was that one year a guest from Hong Kong came to our house to make tofu. Seeing that my mother was in poor health and had been suffering from rheumatism and back pain, she gave pain medication to her, and also gave my mother 200 yuan. This is really touching to us. She came from Hong Kong, she was not familiar with life here, and yet she was so caring for the elderly here--I think it's worth learning from this woman."

Laojia老家: How do you hope Laojia老家 can affect your life?

Tofu Ayi: "If Laojia老家 often brings guests, we are sure to be very happy. We don't have to go outside (the village) to work, we can earn a little living at home. And when we come in contact with the guests, we can share these ethnic customs of our mountain village, or some snacks we make ourselves, or make them with the guests. They also bring us a lot, and we can know (a lot of things) without going outside (the village)."

Laojia老家: How do you hope Laojia老家 can affect Laozhai?

Tofu Ayi: "We certainly hope that Laojia老家 can drive forward every family in our Laozhai. From a different perspective, it will be the best if (Laojia老家) can continue developing in our village."

/ Zhao Song 赵松 /

Zhao Song is the van driver, and the manager of a rice farming project with Laojia老家.

Zhao Song is one of the few young people left in the village. He holds a leadership role in the village that encompasses economic and agricultural planning and production. He works carefully and responsibly. He likes to understand and learn new things from outside (the village). He hopes Laozhai will walk it's own unique road toward development.

Laojia老家: How did you develop and maintain your relationship with Laojia老家?

Zhao Song: "In order to develop the philosophy of Laojia老家, we have co-planted natural agricultural rice. I am going to do my best."

Laojia老家: Can you share a good memory from your work with Laojia老家?

Zhao Song: "The thing that struck me most was taking students to experience farm work every year."

Laojia老家: How do you hope Laojia老家 can affect your life?

Zhao Song: "I hope Laojia老家 can bring me economic benefits, bring a lot of spiritual inspiration, and many advanced ideas."

Laojia老家: How do you hope Laojia老家 can affect Laozhai?

Zhao Song: "I hope Laojia老家 will let the villagers learn and understand the practices and ideas of Laojia老家."

/ Wenge Ayi 文革阿姨 /

Wenge Ayi and Shushu were our earliest friends and ambassadors to Laozhai. Wenge Ayi does cleaning work for Laojia老家.

Maarten's account of meeting this couple: "It was Wenge Shushu who I met first while entering the village and who welcomed me into his home (for free!) for a full week. He also introduced me to Li Ayi who's house we eventually ended up renting. His wife ended up being Laojia's cleaning lady. Both are very hard working, modest and kind people."

Some words from Wenge Ayi:

Laojia老家: Can you share a good memory from your work with Laojia老家?

Wenge Ayi: "I was impressed by the fact that a family of 4 in Nanjing came to Laozhai's Laojia in 2017. During our interactions with them, I felt that the old man and his wife were approachable and polite. The daughter was knowledgeable and courteous, dignified and generous, and the youngest son was naughty and cute. They left a deep impression."

Laojia老家: How do you hope Laojia老家 can affect your life?

Wenge Ayi: "I hope that Laojia老家 will develop more and more, and that the team and villagers will benefit."

Laojia老家: How do you hope Laojia老家 can affect Laozhai?

Wenge Ayi: "I hope that Laojia老家 will become family with Laozhai -- harmonious and united like a big family."

/ Chongmi Ayi 舂米阿姨 /

She is a member of both our rice farming project and our educational programs.

Chongmi Ayi is industrious and skillful. She is always able to add richness to life; she can think about things from the standpoint of others sincerely, and in turn often gives people a warm feeling.

Laojia老家: Can you share a good memory from your work with Laojia老家?

Chongmi Ayi: "One of the most impressive things I can remember: the time that an American grandmother came here for a few days. She had a good time with my granddaughter, and then went out to buy gifts --balls and candy -- for her. I think the guest really had an interest in teaching my granddaughter how to speak English."

Laojia老家: How has Laojia老家 affected your life and Laozhai?

Chongmi Ayi: "As a neighbor, I have been greatly helped in all aspects of my life due to Laojia's establishment. And of course the same is true for Laozhai Village's benefit. I hope Laojia老家 can continue its development."


Many thanks to our Local Team in Laozhai for their hard work and so much more!

And stay tuned for forthcoming introductions of our other Local Teams, coming soon.


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