Halfway home...

Can I really be five months in already? Amazing… when I first arrived in Vietnam I thought 10 months sounded like an eternity, and here I am, already halfway through my Fulbright grant.
Things have really picked up lately as I’ve been engaging in a whole bunch of new activities – I’ve started teaching English to a group of university students a couple times a week which has been really fun and introduced me to a lot of new friends, I’ve started playing tennis with a group of old Vietnamese men who don’t speak a word of English, I’ve started waking up at 4:30am to go swimming in the ocean (believe it or not, by 6am it’s already too sunny and hot to be walking around outside in my opinion haha). There’s nothing like pulling through the water as the sun peeks over the horizon and the sky lights up, the feeling is almost enlightening. I’ve also started a new lobster project where I’m co-culturing lobsters with mussels to compare the growth rates and survival with lobsters that are cultured alone. It’s been pretty fascinating because mussels act as filter feeders, so whatever waste or uneaten food is leftover is taken up and recycled rather than sitting at the bottom of the cages and polluting the water. This has been one of my big interests in making the lobster aquaculture industry more sustainable and environmentally friendly for future growth because co-culture is self-sustaining and doesn’t require any new technology or extra labor.
 Aside from work, things in Nha Trang are better than ever. I’m finally establishing a good group of friends (all Vietnamese – some of whom I can even talk into waking up and swimming with me at 5!) and that’s made all the difference. When I first arrived it was a bit of a struggle to keep entertained as I was quite lonely, but lately each day is better than the last as I keep making wonderful connections and meeting new friends. It’s also been extremely helpful to learn some of the language as the majority of Vietnamese people don’t speak English, so they are always surprised to see the giant American boy speaking to them in their native tongue. Even though I only speak a little, it’s amazing how much they open up when they realize that I’m putting an effort to engage in their culture and learn the language rather than keep my American ways and ignore their way of life (which is what almost all the tourists here do, and even the majority of expats who live here). The weather is definitely hot now that it’s summer, but after five months I think I’ve finally learned to cope with the scorching humid days here – finding every bit of shade, even if it’s as small as a street sign, has become second nature.

 Just before swimming one morning, around 5:15am

 Small local fishing village

 Working with the lobsters

 Adult lobster. Here in Vietnam, this guy would sell for about $90!

 Snorkeling

 The shells after molting

 During a recent Fulbright conference in Hue - These are all the Vietnam Fulbrighters including both the students and the scholars.

 Riding the motorbike

 Having fun :)

 Tony came to visit!!!

Lazy day

Setting up the cages for my lobster project