CBulldozer driver Phan Hòa Hiệp (right) plans to spend Tết at the construction site of the Trung Lương-Mỹ Thuận Expressway in order to make sure the road is completed in 2020. — Photo tuoitre.vn
HCM CITY — Tết is a precious time of the year for family reunions, but dozens of construction workers on the Trung Lương-Mỹ Thuận Expressway will be missing out this year.
They will be spending the Lunar New Year on the road next to bulldozers and concrete mixers to complete the decade-long wish of millions of Mekong Delta residents – to complete the expressway this year.
48-year-old Phan Hòa Hiệp was trying to fix a bulldozer that broke down just hours before the afternoon he was scheduled to flatten the ground for the Thân Cửu Nghĩa section of the expressway.
Standing next to the huge machine under the scorching sun, he looked up at the crowded, noisy lines of motorbikes and cars on the adjacent HCM City-Trung Lương Expressway carrying millions of migrants from HCM City to their hometowns forTết.
“I'm going to work for a few more days and then go home to burn incense for my last mother and father. Just one day off and than I'll be back at work,” Hiệp told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
“I will be on standby all the time, so if there is an emergency and someone needs a day off, I will go straight to work. My house is close anyway”.
Hiệp is a professional bulldozer operator and has been doing the job across the country for more than 10 years. But this is the first time he has worked on such a massive project which he first heard about when he was a rookie driver.
The 51km Trung Lương-Mỹ Thuận Expressway is a key national infrastructure project connecting HCM City with the underdeveloped southwest region. Investment for the project is expected to cost more than VNĐ12.6 trillion (US$536.1 million). Construction of the expressway first started in November 2009 but has been on and off for the last decade mainly due to capital shortages.
Hiệp is proud to be working on the last sections of the road.
“Even if I have to sacrifice my Tết holiday to be at the construction site of a project that dozens of millions of western folks are looking forward to, I’m very willing to do so,” he said.
But not all workers live as close as Hiệp.
Nguyễn Quốc Đạt said that his hometown was in the north central region where winter was cold and wet instead of sunny like in the south.
“My heart is restless as I miss the cold breeze, the spring drizzles, and spending nights with friends by the boiling chưng pot,” he said.
“I really wanted to go back to my family this Tết, but everyone (at the site) has agreed and cheered each other up to work on the mission to finish the road in 2020.”
While Đạt will be spending his first Tet away from home, guard Lê Phú Thiệu is used to welcoming the new year with colleagues rather than family and friends.
69-year-old Thiệu said he had not returned home forTết for the last four years because of his job – which was to look after the warehouse and machinery.
“I miss my wife and children, and my nephews and nieces. But I’m old enough and it’s fine to stay here for another Tết so that other workers who have young children can go home,” he said.
“If I leave everything here and go home, then something could get lost which might slow down the project. I would feel so guilty and wouldn't be able to face the folks here.” — VNS