Happy lunar new year!

These last two weeks have been jam packed with festivities as the lunar new year (known as Tet in Vietnam) kicked off on January 23rd. Basically it's an excuse to take time off work, party with friends, eat delicious food, and in many Vietnamese cases, drink lots of beer. It's been a really great opportunity for me to meet new people (since nobody's working and everybody is celebrating with family) and get to know my city a little more before getting to work on my project early February.
During my orientation in Saigon, one of the Fulbrighters (Laurel) introduced me to her friend/co-worker Tho who lives in Nha Trang and was going home for Tet. I've been fortunate enough to meet up with Tho and her family several times here in Nha Trang before she goes back to Saigon in a few days. One thing I've learned is that Vietnamese people are very generous and big-hearted - they open up their homes and welcome you into their family, and they are such a friendly people. I've had a wonderful time with Tho's family and it's been almost a daily affair going to their place for at least one meal. The day after Tet, Tho and her family took me and Laurel to Vinpearl island, a small but beautiful island just off the coast of Nha Trang, connected by a cable car! It was the coolest thing being lifted over the sea in a gondola, and it was quite an experience seeing the big blue sea underneath me instead of a blanket of snow!
Many new friends and new experiences over here in Nha Trang, it's been very exciting. Tonight I will go to Hue (another small town about 300km north of Nha Trang) with some friends I met here to visit their hometown for a week. I'm really excited to travel a bit within Vietnam and see more of the country!

Tho, Laurel (another Fulbrighter, based in Saigon and visiting Tho's family for Tet) and Tho's little brother

Tho's father

A view of Nha Trang from the cable car

Riding the cable car to Vinpearl isand

Dinner with Tho and her family during Tet

Vietnamese rice field