This is not a way you want make a living. This is hard manual labor.
North of the central Vietnam city of Hue is the village Thuy Phu. The soil there is clay – perfect for making bricks. Most new construction in Vietnam is done with brick, then stuccoed over.
Scooping the heavy wet clay into the forming machine in the heat of a Vietnamese summer day is tough work – manly man stuff - except that the workers are women. Surrounded by freshly formed bricks drying in the sun, they scoop shovelfuls of clay into the machine’s hopper. The clay is extruded by the machine, then cut to size and loaded onto a small cart. The fresh clay bricks will sit in the hot sun for awhile to get the excess moisture out of them before being fired.
The economy of the entire commune/village is brick making. Yes, there are lots of rice fields and there are many small boats in the streams lacing the area, but the fast-growing economy has created a building boom – and that means Hue needs lot of bricks. The Mystery Guest Blogger took this photo.
Next for the new bricks is firing. The area is dotted with these smoke-belching buildings. In the center of each building is a huge kiln. I asked my former student Ai Nhan (say Aye Nyun) to stand in the entrance to give some idea of the size. Notice there are still a few bricks remaining on the floor
from the last firing. After the kiln has been loaded, the entrance way Ai Nhan is standing in will be sealed completely so that the heat from the fires will rise to the top and all the new bricks will get the same amount of heat.
Surrounding the kiln are portals for the insertion of burning logs. To augment the heat from the wood, cakes of coal and rice husk are interspersed with the new bricks. The fires are kept burning for three days before being allowed to die out and everything cools. I was surprised to learn that the ladder seen in the background is used by workers to unload the kiln. I have no idea why the loading entranceway is just not unblocked and the new bricks taken out.
I wonder if there are some Thuy Phu bricks in the new building. I wonder if someday, bricks will be part of Vietnam’s export economy. I wonder if the hard working women of Thuy Phu will benefit.