Norgyatso is checking the room reservations on her smartphone in a well-decorated two-story house, wondering what dishes she can prepare for her guests in this homestay. Three years ago, she would have just finished digging up edible fungus on the mountain, with scarce access to electricity and tap water. What the soil gave up over two months, in large part, was important to feed her family.
Soaked in sunshine and surrounded by sunflowers, Norgyatso's homestay is located in Dekyi villge, Jainca County of Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China's Qinghai Province.
The 30 homestays in the village are changing the lives of hundreds of Tibetans.
The 45-year-old Tibetan woman used to live in a moutain village 30 km away. "We drank from wells, farmed the soil and raised livestock that survived on the grassland, earning no more than 10,000 yuan (about 1,430 U.S. dollars) a year. I didn't even have the chance to go to a county seat due to inconvenient transportation," said Norgyatso.
"We were afraid of falling sick, because we had to walk or ride the bicycle for a long distance to the hospital in the county seat," she said.
When she was relocated to the new village, her children received better education as well. Two of them are now in universities. "If we still lived on the grassland, my daughters would probably continue to herd and farm," said the mother of four daughters.
Now, Norgyatso has become a well-known and capable woman. From Sichuan cuisine to Tibetan food, cooking is a cinch for her. The dining rooms in the homestay can accommodate a maximum of 60 people, and there are nine beds for guests who stay overnight.
When only few guests come to her homestay, she usually works as a cleaner in the neighborhood to make extra money. With her husband's part-time job, her family's annual income reaches 80,000 yuan.
Norgyatso learned most of the cooking in the training class organized by the Jainca government.
"I've taken four courses and never imagined I could be a chef. Before that, I could only make some traditional Tibetan food," said Drolmathar, who runs another homestay.
On his menu are displayed pictures of more than 30 varieties of dishes. During the five-day International Labor Day holiday in May, his homestay business brought his family a daily income of about 3,000 yuan.
In 2017, 946 Tibetan herdsmen and farmers from 30 remote villages in Jainca bid farewell to their poor life, moving to the newly-built Dekyi village, in which the Jainca government invested over 67 million yuan to construct 251 houses for them.
The village has now been transformed into a popular tourist destination, especially for residents around Jainca and those in the provincial capital of Xining. After the COVID-19 epidemic, people living in the province prefer short trips. Thus, the village welcomes more travelers than before.
The village sits next to the Yellow River, which brings villagers tourism business. Now tourists can go fishing, ride a speedboat and even laze on the artificial beach at the riverside. Locals have proudly named the beach "Mini Sanya on Plateau" as Sanya is one of the most renowned coastal resort cities in China.
In July, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced a new list of major villages for national rural tourism, and Dekyi was on the list. In October 2018, it was also listed as one of the "villages of beauty and leisure" by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
According to the Jainca government, about four villages have benefited from the rural tourism projects launched in the county, with over 300 people finding jobs and shaking off poverty. Every such person has seen their income increase by an average of 2,500 yuan.
"Tourists can experience traditional Tibetan culture in our homestay and enjoy a cozy and convenient life in the modern village," said Drolmathar.
"Dekyi" means "happiness" in the Tibetan language. "I believe they can also find 'Dekyi' here," he said.
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