This China trip was mainly to reconnect with my roots and to experience life of Chinese ethnic minorities, who tend to have the closest relationship with Nature. Many of these 55 ethnic groups congregate around Yunnan & Guizhou, but finding a Workaway/HelpX host in these 2 poorest provinces has been challenging… Instead of staying at Xi’an before my Yunnan family trip, I gave Sichuan a try despite of my spicy-food intolerance. Afterall, China is a huge country with vast diversity to be experienced, and Walden farm turned out to be a very pleasant surprise!
It started with a rather uncomfortable bus ride for 10 hours from Xi’an, with swifts of faecal smell and our driver honking every 5 minutes. But I was happy finding fruits to be a common snack option at highway rest stops, and even happier to be offered the sweetest pear by a fellow passenger!
As I arrived Walden farm, I was warmly welcomed by the big Lin family over dinner, for a luxurious 2-weeks stay in the bamboo strawhouse built by old local craftsmen, spending after-work time in the swimming pool, and most surprisingly, having access to a clean sit-down toilet.
The pig and grape farm is in transition to practicing natural farming, with ambitious expansion plans. They raise their swine free-range,and produce most of the food they consume.
I spent most of my time here planning, designing and building my second cob oven. Thinking it would just be a practice of what I’ve done, it turned out to be a tremendous learning opportunity working with locals.
Life in a village community also gave me a better picture of the local culture, from Chinese political landscape, the early marriage trend (I’m talking about 16-22), traditional building techniques, to local munchies & flavours.
Similar to the rest of China, communication is a challenge even for Chinese from other provinces since most villagers only speak their local dialect, but Walden farm got some good translators – the young educated ones who are committed to return and help their family farm business. My two-weeks stay with this community of diverse talents was unexpectedly rewarding in so many aspects because of these two bridges I had: gen Y connecting me to the elders, and thru elders to life back in the days. This was just a glimpse of the vast knowledge I could learn from my ancestors… before it all disappear with the older generation, urban sprawl, industrialization & westernisation.
I wish I could stay longer to pick the brains from my ancestors through Walden farm, but for now, they have my best wishes along with a piece of my heart.
Until I return for a bite of my oven’s pizza, I’ll savour these memories of adorable pets,amusement over random cool little things,vplugin flashlight and bijis of Walden farm as souvenir 😉