In the United States, there seems to be one distinct sound that can be easily associated with a Habitat for Humanity construction site - the hammer. That rhythmic sound of a dozen or so hammers hitting nails as the house is framed or the roof shingles are secured.
This is my first build with Habitat for Humanity outside of the United States and the first where the choir of hammers is absent. No hammers, no clinking on the nails. It got me thinking about the sounds I have noticed on our job site here in Dong Thap, Vietnam and it brings us to Wednesday on the build site.
There was an energy when we arrived for our third build day. It's safe to say many of us are tired and sore, but that seemed to melt away as we crossed the small bridge to reach the site. The smiles that greeted us from the family and our site supervisor seemed to light up the site. My achy muscles no longer were the focus.
So what about those sounds? There were really three main sounds that spoke to me on Wednesday - that really seem to dominate the build site.
The first sound comes from the trowel. It's the closest sound to the hammer that we have on our site. It's the small tapping sound as we carefully firm up the brick into the mortar. Just a light tap to the left or down slightly to match the level made of string that is guiding our work as we continue to stack bricks for the exterior walls. It's definitely our choir of instruments on the site - some playing loudly as the handle hits the bricks and others clinking softly using the blade of the trowel to firm up the brick.
If you listen carefully - you can also hearing the mixing of the mortar in the pans. - the subtle sloshing of the trowel scrapping the pan to lay the mortar on the previous layer of bricks or as we butter the brick ends.
The second sound that spoke to me was the scooter beep: While we cross over a small bridge each day to the site, we are still plenty close to the main road and watch the community pass by during the day. As mentioned in previous blogs (can you tell we are enjoying watching them) scooters seem to outweigh the vehicles 10 to 1 in Vietnam and fill the street throughout the day. Our team has been impressed with the items we have seen transported by scooter this week including tall plants, large coolers and five baskets carrying around 30 ducks. One sound that echoes in the background during the day is the scooter beep. That friendly beep that says I'm passing on the left or 'hey I'm coming around the corner - watch for me.' It doesn't usually seem to be used because of impatience but simply a way to communicate with others on the road. The scooter beep also played an important role on the job site Wednesday. While the team doesn't speak Vietnamese and the homeowners don't speak English, Dung found a clever and funny way to let several of our team know we were in his way to deliver a load of bricks in a wheelbarrow. He simply said...beep, beep. It brought laughs to the team and highlights just one way we have found to build relationship and communicate on the job site despite the language barrier.
The last sound I observed on Wednesday and the one that moved me the most was the conversation and laughs. I mentioned the energy that was felt as we walked on to the site, but it was so much more. It was the first day on the site that the homeowners, our construction supervisor, and team of volunteers really seemed to bond and enjoy each other. Not that day one or two didn't have those moments, but Wednesday really seemed to bring us together.
There were warm welcomes from the homeowners when we walked on the site - Xin Chao (Hello) accompanied by smiles and waves! Throughout the day you could hear and observe multiple conversations occurring and relationships deepening. Conversations of our team members getting to know each other better and enjoying a laugh. Curiosity from team members on how to say a specific word in Vietnamese so we could better communicate with the homeowners or construction supervisor. Sharing a little American humor through teaching a knock, knock joke or two.
While my choir of hammers maybe absent from the site it is easy to see that the trowels are singing quite nicely (and joined in harmony with the rosters, chickens and ducks that keep us company) and another successful Habitat build is underway. Community is being built, a family will have a decent place to call home, and our hearts will forever be changed from the sounds coming from the House 10 build site.
As the scooter says - beep...beep - Watch out for more tomorrow.