Vietnamese couple make a home on a homemade island

By Pham Linh   October 7, 2020 | 06:00 am PT
For 10 years, they carried mud to a midstream mudflats and planted trees to hold it together. The self-made island’s been home for 25 years.

The self-built island stands in the middle of the Diem Dien Stream in the central province of Quang Ngai.
Pham Duc Quang and his wife, Phung Thi Thuy, began making a home for themselves by carrying soil in boats to the mudflats in the middle of the river, around 200 meters from the mainland. One the island was formed, they had huts built on it to live in and raise ducks.
The manmade island is part of a reclaimed area located between a residential and an agricultural area on the Cho Moi River, downstream the Diem Dien Stream.
After it was formed, the island earned the nickname "Happy home" because of the heart shape formed by a mesh fence built to keep the ducks in.


Although the shallow Diem Dien stream is small with a weak flow, it took the couple 10 years of ferrying soil and planting trees to form the 400-square-meter island. Quang hired people to build their house’s outer frame and roof since he’d lost one hand to a landmine injury when he was a kid.


Their home involves a lot of makeshift arrangements, but the couple are no longer permanent residents on the island, living now on the mainland with their grown up children and a grandchild. However, they still enjoy lunch on their island home and like to lie down in the shade it offers in the afternoon and evening. They also spend the night once in every while.
"We do it to avoid the kids from seeing us quarrelling," joked Thuy.


The couple are well known in the area for their duck farming skills. They have just sold 100 mallard ducks and are getting 200 more from Hanoi to continue their main trade.


In addition to breeding ducks, Quang keeps "ornamental birds" on the many trees planted on the island.


Thuy washes dishes after lunch. She said the island is occasionally visited by groups of friends who bring "portable kitchens" for holding a party.


Quang rows back to mainland to work after lunch.


In addition to their farming and breeding ducks, Quang is in charge of raising and lowering the sluice gate of the Bo Dap reservoir, which separates the Diem Dien stream from the sea.
"Using my experience of growing rice and raising ducks, I contacted local agricultural authorities often to suggest adjusting the schedule of opening and closing the reservoir gate. Later, they trusted my judgment and assigned me the task," Quang said.
For the last four years, he has been paid an annual salary of VND6 million (around $260) to be the gatekeeper for more than 100 hectares of fields in the communes of Ti Khe and Tinh Hoa. To do his job well, he must know clearly the tidal water levels and the heights of shallow and deep fields so as to adjust the gate to prevent both inundation and salt water intrusion.


After he’s done "adjusting" the gate, he rows back to the island to pick up his wife and they go around to check and secure the mesh fence so that their ducks do not escape.
"I have set up the fence so that my ducks can live in the part of the river with cooler temperatures, which will help them grow quicker. Those that have escaped live in nearby groves and bushes. They are very smart and it is hard for me to get them back," Quang said.


Quang takes a break on a bamboo cot he made himself and his wife pulls out gray hairs from his head.
Thuy said that her husband was very hardworking and dexterous. He has made many agriculture tools with bamboo to sell and augment their income. He is also very optimistic, funny and many people love him, she added.
Married for more than 30 years, they have two sons, the older of whom is married himself and has a child.


Quang stacks up straw to avoid them from getting damp.


The couple wrap up their day by bringing back their own and their neighbors’ buffaloes home from nearby fields.

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