EDIT: so much has happened in the first week, so I decided to just split it up by section into different blog posts. I’ll put the same date so you know it’s all the same blog post. LOL hope you enjoy.
tldr; I’ve learned & experienced a lot; take ur doxycycline w water; GOOGLE IS BAE
It’s currently 11:07pm and there is someone singing/blasting Vietnamese music outside the guesthouse. I can’t sleep so here I am deciding to start the blog and update you on all the details and things that I’ve been doing.
I’ve put this off for a while and the weekend has passed and I’m waiting for my roommate so I guess I’ll just write this now…
BY THE WAY THIS IS MY ROOMMATE! HIS NAME IS MINH AND HE’S GREAT! more on him later don’t worry
But also I don’t know how to organize everything that’s in my brain and that’s really frustrating… but let’s start off with our daily schedule/routine as a basis and then we’ll move on to some other stuff/details from this week specifically.
A typical weekday looks like this:
wake up and get ready (but for me this gets pushed back to 6:00am a lot of times)
breakfast (pho bo or bun bo depending on what type of noodles you want, yogurt, and a banh mi)
3.5 mile(ish) bike ride through the city, across the national highway, and in the countryside to the worksite
around this time more or less, but we begin working (mixing concrete, sand, rocks, water, picking up bags, shoveling, etc. etc.)
typically take a break from working around this time (if we’re lucky we get some jackfruit *update* and pomelo!)
finish up, wash our shoes/limbs and begin the bike ride back to the guesthouse (maybe get some sugarcane juice on the way?)
arrive at the guesthouse and usually rinse off/change and then handwash clothes from the worksite, which are drenched in sweat and covered in dirt/concrete
group lunch at a place real close to the guesthouse (1 minute walk); (lemonade, rice, a veggie dish, 1(+) meat dish(es), a soup, and this unfolded egg omlette thing I’ll talk about more later)
before this we’ll usually nap/lesson plan/do errands or whatever we need to but at 2:30 we all get on our bikes and bike to the youth center to teach
class begins; if we need something printed out, we go to the local print shop on the way to the youth center
class ends, the kids run off to do their thing and we bike back to the guesthouse (maybe grab some smoothies or yogurt or juice on the way back)
depending on the day, some of us go to a local field to play soccer/American football/Frisbee, etc. with or without local people
group dinner at the same place we had breakfast and lunch (meals are similar to lunch with the addition of fried potatoes)
lesson plan/chill/write/read etc. etc.
bedtime. Honestly. I’ve tried, and if you stay up past this you will be exhausted the next day.
The worksite is cool. It’s around 3.5 miles away in the countryside. This is like a 20-30 minute bike ride depending on how fast you’re pedaling.
This program has built many different things. In the past they built toilets and playgrounds, etc. This year, the program is building a concrete path (it’s mud/dirt right now). Vu (our program director) decided to build this path after investigating/talking to many of the local people. Because it’s only dirt, it makes it extremely difficult for those local families to move around when it rains or in adverse weather conditions. Building this path would help these people to move regardless of the weather (unless it’s physically impossible to walk around outside). At least 20 families would use the path, which amounts to at least 100 people.
We park our bikes at a local home right next to the worksite and walk down to the path/where we actually do the work. The tools are also stored there. Shoutout and many thanks to that family! We also take our break there, where Linda has taken to feeding the mangy (diseased?) puppy (dubbed “Champ”) that fears human contact. Every now and then, the local people will have jackfruit prepared for us and while it makes me feel privileged, it also makes my heart feel so warm that they do this even when they don’t have to.
Day 1 we were introduced to the site and met some of the local people/masons who would guide us in where to put what and how to efficiently work. For 60 year old men, they are STRONG AF. We started out removing twigs and trash, and leveling the ground so that when we would have a flat surface to work with. Everyone was pretty clumsy with the shovels at first, so work went really slowly
We came back the next day, and it had rained. And a truck carrying the sand and rocks that we would use had tread over the path, so now there were huge tire track imprints on the ground that was still muddy (you can kind of see it in the first photo in this section). But it isn’t like we had done SO much work. So to me it wasn’t that big of a deal. We ended up just flattening one section and mixing and laying concrete down there.
The first day of making, mixing, and laying down concrete was terrible. None of us knew how to do anything, so work went really slow. We made I think 1 or 2 batches that first day, with the masons showing us how to work efficiently and how to do things at all.
Here’s how you make concrete and build the path:
- You get 5 FULL wheelbarrows of sand (7-8) if you have less
- You form a little volcano type thing and place 2 concrete bags (~120lb each) in the middle; cut them open and empty out the concrete and mix them. Mix by shoveling/moving the pile to another place beside the original pile.
- You form a little volcano type thing again with the mixed sand/concrete and fill the middle with water (~2-3 gallons? But you add more as you go along if you need it)
- You get 5 FULL wheelbarrows of rocks about the size of your fist and smaller (basically impossible because it’s so heavy so more like 7-8 wheelbarrows) and place them in the hole you made with the volcano thing above.
- You use the same mixing technique you did with the sand and concrete. You move/mix the pile until it’s one big pile of wet/muddy sand/cement/rock.
- You take this pile and shovel it into wheelbarrows to be taken to the place where they’ll be poured out.
- You pour out the wet mess and someone (with boots) steps on the new pile and mixes it/flattens it/evens it out, adding water as needed.
- The masons use this wide flat tool to flatten the top of the concrete to make it a nice even path.
- Repeat steps 1-7.
Here are some photos of the above steps being done (start from the left column and move down; tried getting as many photos as i could, but I have to work too!!):
The first day we started out with ~4 shovels and 2 hoes and 1 wheelbarrow and quite a few people standing around doing nothing.
The next day (and now), thanks to donations from local people (I’m pretty sure), we had/have ~8 shovels and 2 hoes and 3 wheelbarrows. This is very useful and makes the whole process go by much faster because everyone is doing work.
Our team has come so far. We’re far from perfect, but we’ve become quick and efficient in our work. We’re up to ~5 batches of concrete a day and have made quite a bit of progress. I’m pretty confident that we’ll finish up everything by the end of the 6 weeks.
BOO I’m a dummy and didn’t get a photo of everything we’ve done but ^^ is a good amount of it.
So here’s to the end of this section of the first week: our daily schedule and what work this past week has felt like.
More random pics of us at the worksite!!!! :