Vietnam Workcamp Update II

After our amazing but brief few days in Saigon it was time for a change of scenery and the next leg of our Vietnamese adventure. On Monday, January 9, after Mass, breakfast and some time cleaning up our lodgings we left for K’long. The bus trip took us most of the day and the highlight was certainly the incredible scenic landscapes provided by the Central Highlands of Vietnam. A close second to this was the petrol station we stopped at on the way which had, by far, the best array of Western food we have encountered so far on the trip. We all stocked up, some perhaps a little more than others, as was evidenced by the need for multiple emergency roadside stops in the Vietnamese countryside for those people to relieve themselves.

Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at our accommodation. After a brief tour our lodgings the evidence supporting the notion that we had travelled for an eternity grew as we realised that we had perhaps reached eternal life: the Salesian Retreat Centre in which we were staying was truly first class. Never before in the history of workcamps have we stayed in such luxurious conditions: individual rooms with ensuites, a rich and delectable cuisine, a large and graceful oratory and [the real crowd pleaser] cable TV and wifi. Perhaps I have been a little lavish with the adjectives but certainly the accommodation is of a higher standard that we expected [and indeed deserve].

We are, of course, here on a workcamp and after a good night’s rest we were up bright and early the next day eager to starting working on our project. Before we left for this trip, we were able to fundraise $3500 to pay for the materials to build a small house for a local family. The building of this house has, for the main part, been the aim for the time we have spent here in K’long. On the first morning of work we were able to meet the family for which we are building the house: a poor young couple with two small children. We were also able to see the remnants of their old house (if you can call it that); a pile of broken sticks and dried mud intertwined with some string, and a few rust pieces of corrugated iron.

There were 3 or 4 local Vietnamese builders to guide and assist us with our task. They immediately got us going in setting down the foundations for the house, laying bricks, rendering, painting, moving sand and dirt, and various other labouring type jobs. We have only been here a few days now but already the house has taken shape and we are well on track to finish the project before we leave.

Another project we have embarked upon has been to fix the derelict wooden bridge which facilitated (oxymoronically) access to the new house, and various other houses and agricultural land. We are in the process of replacing the bridge with a more permanent concrete structure and building a concrete path to replace the eroded dirt track that existed upon our arrival.

Each day a couple of us have been able to teach some of the locals some basic English speaking skills. They have certainly appreciated such efforts, and have reciprocated our efforts in allowing us to drive their scooters around the town [which is basically just one main road].

Every afternoon we have been able to play soccer with the local Vietnamese expending whatever energy was left after the day’s work. We are looking forward to the next few days, and having a little rest from the work. On Saturday we are planning a hike up a nearby mountain and on Sunday we will visit some of the local sights and the nearby town of Dalat.

There are a few photos below, but, again) if have facebook then you can see more here.