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​House building in Vietnam  

Monday, July 23, 2018, 08:16 GMT+7

The big boss is there every day (wearing a Hawaiian shirt, thick sunglasses and a Yankees baseball hat) to check

My neighbor has decided to build a house – oh, joy… As the foundation is almost ready to be filled with concrete, I soon expect the sound level of hammering to reach painful, headache inducing anti-bliss.

Fortunately my dog is the new site security, greeting everyone with a hearty blast of barking that I hope is annoying to them as their incessant shouting at each other from one meter away is for me. The dog has also mastered the art of curling up in a little ball next to the site, just as a human security guard melts into his chair half-asleep.

Most people don’t care about such things but I love watching the process unfold. It’s like playing with Lego. The mess and the confusion. The other neighbors inspect the site daily and advise the builders even though no one seems to use a spirit-level to ensure the building will not lean. The stupid questions all day long, “Oh, you’re building a house, aren’t you?”

The big boss is there every day (wearing a Hawaiian shirt, thick sunglasses and a Yankees baseball hat) to check. He routinely casts doubt on the work, making the workers scramble back to the ten-page construction plan and re-measuring in front of him. 

However he never makes any comments to the two female construction workers mixing concrete by shovels. It’s all flannel shirts, pajama trousers, rubber boots and face masks. Challenging a construction Ninja is hazardous to your health.

They had arrived unannounced at the site which is directly next to my house with a brute with his malfunctioning bulldozer at 6:30 am. Tearing into the accumulated rubbish tip, the air was so full of dust I was forced to shut all windows and doors to wait it out. 

The brute showed up on my doorstep to ask for water. Thinking he was thirsty I gave him a fresh bottle of cold water only to watch him waste the whole bottle on washing his face. Immediately I banned the whole construction crew from my place. Paraphrasing Marie Antoinette, I’ve decided, “Let them drink recycled water.”

In the middle of Hoi An’s current heatwave, I like watching how they frame up the steel work, twisting wires to join up the steel bars, working at a speed that’s remarkable considering the heat. They take breaks and get non-lithium battery fluid sugarcane juice and non-carcinogenic orange juice from the lady next to the motorbike shop that specializes in gunning the engines to reassure the customers that the motorbike will fly to the markets in under ten minutes.

Soon they will tear down the chicken wire fence that protects my dog to gain access to my side of the building to do brickwork. We’ve had extensive conversations about this using my trusty best friend, my landlord and my nagging to work out a deal on the timing for this. I don’t want the dog falling into the pit by mistake – although I’m sure he’s too smart for that and besides there’s no food in it for him.  

For sure, there’ll be scaffolding and weird people plastering and painting the wall next to me. I just hope no one falls from the roof into my garden. It should be fun weaving my way through the scaffolding to the side door at the back of my house as my front doors can only be opened from the inside – and I like it that way. 

Perhaps my greatest fear at this stage is the potential occupants of the house. Will they play home karaoke every night? Will there be summertime domestic arguments as my other neighbor on the right side is frequently staging every night after the local café has closed and he’s drunk. I’m hoping for a nice young family with one kid. That way, they’ll be too busy working and dropping the kid off at school to do any mischief at night-time. Exhausted Vietnamese are quiet people.

Inevitably, it just goes to show that change is the only real thing you can expect to be a normal part of life here. It is proof that Vietnamese are getting richer and the basic goals of most families – a house, maybe a car and a decent education for their kids – are still easy enough to achieve; unlike the Western world where homeownership is becoming harder.

Mind you, the new house will need my dog’s approval…



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