now listening to: The Mountain Goats, "Going to Georgia"
So the "other" Pat Thrasher, my aunt, e-mailed me to ask what, exactly, I am doing in Vietnam. A fair question, given that I have have not explained much in Crossing HCM. So:
The Vietnamese government classifies these houses, and 48% of the houses in the overall Vietnam Mekong Delta, as "simple" or "temporary," which I take to mean, "will blow away in the next typhoon" (the last one, the equivalent of a category 1 hurricane, leveled over ten thousand houses in 1997; at over four people a household on average, that's a lot of homeless people).
Another 43% of folks in the Mekong Delta live in "semi-permanent" houses, which I understand to mean that the foundation raises the floor above the annual floodline, and the floor will survive the next typhoon, but the walls and roof will blow away (or some similar combination). That leaves 9% in "permanent" housing. So 91% of the 17.3 million people in the Delta live in substandard housing.
I'm here with Habitat for Humanity to crunch some of these numbers, systematically articulate the need for housing improvement in Vietnam, examine some of the larger forces at play in the real estate market at large, and get a handle on the policy framework surrounding housing and housing finance. In particular, Habitat is interested in developing its nascent housing micro-finance programs, and my Partner-in-Crime is focusing most of her energy on the micro-finance industry in Vietnam, and how Habitat fits into that world.
Habitat's longest running housing microfinance programs are in rural Kien Giang province, of which Rach Gia is the capital, so Midori and I trucked out there to see what's what. I encourage you to check her blog for more photos and experiences; she was in the field three days compared to my one.
Meanwhile, my Xeom driver in KG:
Midori and I simultaneously taking photos at 30 mph: