How to Build a House in 8 Days

Trip Start Oct 23, 2011
Trip End Nov 12, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Linda

Flag of Vietnam  , Kiến Giang,
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rather than present a day-by-day account from this point forward I will organize the blog a little differently. Each day I will show a different segment of our two-week stay in Vietnam.   The work site was in Ban Tan Dinh Commune, Giong Rieng District in Kien Giang Province and our schedule was pretty much the same each day, a van ride from Rach Gia to Nam Chien Hamlet (1 hr. to go 30 km), a walk through town to the boat that would take us up the river to our work site (20 min).  I did finally locate the commune on Google maps and as suspected it is surrounded by water, river on one side and flooded rice paddies on the other, nothing more than a very narrow strip of land.  

Our workday began at 6 with breakfast, leaving the hotel at 7 a.m. and working until  3:30 or 4:00 p.m. with a morning and afternoon break and an hour or so for lunch. Work included digging holes for a latrine and foundation, mixing and carrying buckets of cement and mortar, backing breaking work, straightening pieces of steel, cutting rebar, bending rebar, tying rebar, more cement and more mortar, laying bricks, more cement and more mortar, laying bricks, priming and painting windows and doors.  I have to say without the few really strong members in our group, who did the bulk of the cement and mortar mixing, I would have all been in traction by the end of day 2.

Ngan our local "go to" person and liaison with HFH prepared plates of fruits and cakes for a morning and afternoon break and our lunches were prepared and served in a home about a 10 minute walk from the build site by two cheerful ladies, who took very good care of us.  The host family opened their homes to us not only for lunch but also allowed us  use of their "bathroom" anytime during the day and they tended to our injured.

After lunch we were encouraged to rest either on hammocks or their bed platforms made available to anyone who wanted to recline.  The hard surface didn't seem to make a bit of difference and it wasn't long before, we were lined up side-by-side, some simply resting and others sound asleep.  You had to be quick to get one of the hammocks strung between trees next to the house near the river.  Carmen and Reid purchased their own hammocks and brought them out to the site . . . smart fellows.

Clean-up of the work site at the end of the day involved tidying up and washing buckets and tools in the river.  We then boarded the boat for the 20-minute ride back to the village, a walk back to our van for the drive back into Rach Gia; shower (sometimes hot, sometimes cold), rest and dinner sometimes as a group and sometimes on our own but always delicious.  The Vietnamese cuisine is simple, healthy and quite tasty.   For us older folks collapsing into bed came next while the youngsters partied into the evening.

Below are photos of the build site from our first day to last day so you can see the progression. We worked for a total of 8 days, 2 partial days quitting early one day to visit the local school and the last day we ended early to have a ceremony with the family.  

This was an amazing and rewarding experience for me, I was left with such a feeling of accomplishment to be able to see this house go from ground level to near completion in 8 days - WOW!  It was also very emotional because of the closeness to the family who would occupy this home knowing that we had really made a difference in their lives.  I can now think of those little girls growing up here and while their lives will not be any easier my hope is that at night when the rains fall they will be a little more comfortable.
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