Update: 22:07 | 24/01/2020
Tet is a precious time of the year for family reunions, but dozens of construction workers on Trung Luong-My Thuan 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 Hoa Hiep was trying to fix a bulldozer that broke down just hours before the afternoon he was scheduled to flatten the ground for the Than Cuu Nghia section of the expressway.
Bulldozer driver Phan Hoa Hiep (right) plans to spend Tet at the construction site of the Trung Lương-My Thuan Expressway in order to make sure the road is completed in 2020.
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 Luong Expressway carrying millions of migrants from HCM City to their hometowns for Tet.
“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,” Hiep told Tuoi Tre (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”.
Hiep 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 Luong-My Thuan 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 12.6 trillion VND (536.1 million USD). Construction of the expressway first started in November 2009 but has been on and off for the last decade mainly due to capital shortages.
Hiep is proud to be working on the last sections of the road. But not all workers live as close as Hiep.
Nguyen Quoc Dat 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 chung pot,” he said.
“I really wanted to go back to my family this Tet, but everyone (at the site) has agreed and cheered each other up to work on the mission to finish the road in 2020.”
While Dat will be spending his first Tet away from home, guard Le Phu Thieu is used to welcoming the new year with colleagues rather than family and friends.
69-year-old Thieu said he had not returned home for Tet 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 Tet so that other workers who have young children can go home,” he said.