Saturday, April 12, 2008

Everything Molds

Spring has sprung in all of its humid glory. I’m not actually sure if there really is a “humidity-friendly” construction technique, but Vietnam certainly hasn’t found it yet. The townhouse-style concrete buildings that make up the majority of new construction absorbs moisture during the cold season only to force it all back out in the form of ooze and slim as soon as the walls begin to warm up. The stacked stories don’t allow for any airflow creating great temperature differentials inside and out.

This year the warming and cooling came in fairly extreme cycles – we had one extraordinarily beautiful weekend over Easter, and then it almost immediately cooled off again. That first heating-cooling pulled enough ooze out that the floors and walls absolutely blossomed with mold. It was as if a CSI team had come into my house and thrown some magic powder that made every bit of missed dirt, every un-wiped and un-mopped detritus explode into view. A bit embarrassing to have your actual cleaning habits in the kitchen brought out in stark relief against the tiles, countertops and appliances. Even stacked plates with a few drops of water but no airspace prove fertile ground.

This is a picture of the steps next to the blender, which obviously got spattered with something that wasn't visible before...and this is after I wiped down all the walls with bleach the first time. I didn't get pictures of the real nasty stuff...

Did you know it’s even possible for bleach (or at least the bottle) to mold?

After the second chill, the weather has turned hot again – a whole week in the 90s (mid 30s C) during the day and the very foundations of our homes began to give up the ghost.

Our several of our neighbors have decided to demolish their buildings and we’re getting an up-close-and-personal view of construction techniques in Vietnam. This is a picture of the hole and the emerging foundation of the home-to-be next to us. The moisture that simply gathers in the clay soil and goes nowhere. That is what lurks beneath each building (even after it is filled in – the foundations are completely saturated) and every spring the evil spirit of moisture oozes up to reside in the house again.

So for one weekend all of our floors were slippery with ooze. Fortunately for Rachael and I, our house was closed up tight most of the time (especially as the kitchen was cooler and we had no desire to let in the hot air), so the oozing was kept to a minimum. In places where the temperature contrast was stronger – like in our office – whole puddles of water formed in the low places.

Today the first of the spring rains has moved in and the temperatures are moderating again. I think the mold is almost over for the year (although I’ll still probably be finding things like papers and freshly-laundered but not completely dried towels peppered with black for several months to come. It’s really a wonder more people don’t suffer from allergies here.