Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Last day of building, now it's just fun, fun, fun!

First, happy 2nd year anniversary to us! I wish we could have celebrated it together, but we did talk on the phone and we'll celebrate together soon!

So we have worked 3 more days and finished one of the houses (the plan all along was to finish one, and leave some of the 2nd one for the next Habitat team to finish). It is so exciting! Where once there was just a plot of dirt, we have put up brick walls (stucco'd over), created two rooms, a roof, a veranda, and laid down tile. (Our team decided together to purchase tile for the 2 families - since otherwise it would just have been cement floors in one house, and half cement/half tile in the other.

I have really enjoyed the work. There is something about sweating through your clothes while shoveling rocks or laying bricks that is a refreshing change from the everyday (especially when you're like me, and basically sit at a computer all day). And of course, being able to help provide a home to a family that otherwise was sleeping on a wooden bed, pretty much open to the elements, is pretty amazing. I have mostly been working on one house (which we lovingly call "the Condo" or "Townhouse") where the owners are slightly better off than at the other house. They are getting assistance from Habitat for Humanity and the local government, and will have to pay back a loan for the building cost. I spent a few days at the other site, where the landowner is quite a bit more poor. We call that one the "Lakeside property" because it is right on a teeny pond, where they go to the bathroom AND do their dishes/laundry. (Unlike in North America, land ownership in Vietnam is over 90% - so even if people are very poor they often have a parcel of land, they just may not have the money to actually have a house on that land, so they will live out of doors.) It is really an awesome feeling to be a part of this project, and to see how much of a difference we have made.

Tomorrow is our house dedication day, where we dedicate the houses to the owners. I'm not sure what is involved, but I think it will be emotional for me. Even today, when we had finished work for the day (because the house was pretty much done), I got a little teary. It's not at all a feeling of, "I made this house for these people" but just a happy feeling that because of something I took part in, two families will have a home to live in.

The construction supervisor on our site is pretty awesome, his name is Mr. Chanh and I love him. He is very structured and organized, always has a job for you if you ask, and is a pretty darn good dancer. Today he took me for a ride on his motorbike, which was so much fun. [Everyone has a motorbike here, and traffic is really anarchistic. Everyone goes every which way, there are no stop signs or lights, and it's pretty common to have 2 way traffic in every lane. I haven't seen any accidents, though, so I am sure there is a method to the madness that I can't see.] We also have had a few local workers on our site, and I got to work a lot of with Mr. Yo, who was pretty fun too. He warmed up over the build and started teaching me Vietnamese, so I know the words for mortar, water, paint, dry mortar, and some others.

I wanted to mention something about the food we've been eating. Everything has pretty much been provided by Habitat for the last two weeks, and it's been quite good. Vietnamese food seems to have a lot of overlap with Chinese so it's quite familiar to me. Some of the others on the team are not so used to the "funk" that is fish sauce, which is used in so many things here. Also, the main meat is pork, and I think that is unusual for a lot of Americans. I am loving it though. Also, the fruit here is amazing! Everyday, we get a morning and afternoon fruit break. We've had amazing mangos, dragonfruit, rambutan, "num num hook fruit" (can't remember the vietnamese name, but it tasted like pumpkin pie filling and you had to be careful not to eat the seeds, as they have a hook in them that will shred your insides on the way down), huge lychees, papayas, bong bong (kind of a lychee), watermelons, and pomelos. So good! Such a nice change from boring Chicago winter fruits.

I think we are doing a photo exchange, so I may try to post some photos eventually. There are a lot of sights and sounds here, so much to take in.

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