Happy New Year!

How about a quick 2013 post with my standard promise to post more in the new year?

2013 was a busy year for me. I moved three times, started a new job, started learning a new language, and did a fair amount of studying. Moving to Vietnam was definitely the biggest event that happened, but graduate school applications were a close second. I am SO close to being done with them and I cannot wait! More posts after I turn those in! 😉

Anyway, here are a few highlights from the past year that I’d like to share:

An early Hanoi picture of Hoan Kiem Lake. My first apartment was very near here.

I learned to drive a motorbike!

I met too many of these. Ick!

I ate a lot of fun new foods! (Black sesame pudding maybe?)

I celebrated a new holiday, Tet, the lunar new year celebration in Vietnam. Here I am visiting the temple with Hien and her family.

Perhaps one of the more challenging experiences this year was teaching public school classes of 50 + kids. I’m not sure I will ever really get used to it.

Max and his family came to Vietnam. This is from a cooking class in Hoi An. I’ll make an actual post about this soon. It was so much fun!

Trekking in Cambodia with Max.

I attended (and was in) the wedding of one of my best friends. Congrats Hien and Duy!

I made a quick trip to Bangkok by myself. I could have sworn I made a post about this already. I’ll make one soon!

Quick trip to Austria. Hiking in the Alps.

Thanksgiving in Hanoi.

A new favorite winter food. Fried potatoes, fried corn, and fried bananas! YUM!

There were so many things that happened in 2013 that I did not capture on film or don’t have on my computer, including my trip to the States, but I think you get the idea. All in all it was a great year! Here’s to the many new adventures and friends I hope 2014 will bring. Happy New Year!

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Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! Tết 2013

Vietnamese New Year, Tết, is  Vietnam’s biggest and most important holiday, and Hanoi is all decked out for the occasion.  image

The one on the left is the symbol of Hanoi. 

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The timing of the holiday is based off of the Lunar Calendar, and as you may know, each year has an animal representing it. This year’s animal is the snake. In the days leading up to Tết, people were busy buying new clothes, trees for the occasion and offerings either to burn or put on the family’s altar. 

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I was lucky enough to be invited to spend Tết with my friend Hien and her family. New Year’s Eve was spent watching comedy/commentary of all that had happened in Vietnam in the past year, stuffing lucky envelopes, “lì xì”with money to give as gifts and preparing the altar tables for various gods and ancestors, as well as one for Buddha. 

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The money in the envelopes should be new, and some colors are more lucky than others. Red is considered a very lucky color. 

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This is the altar for ancestors. The offerings include fruits, paper money, sweets, beer, cola and cigarettes among other things. 

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One important part of the altar is”Mâm Ngũ Quả”, or “five fruits”.  Even numbers are unlucky so it’s important that there is an odd number of fruits; this odd number rule applies to everything placed on the altar. To the left is “bánh chung”, which is made up of rice, mung beans and pork and wrapped in banana leaves. You can read about how it’s made here

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The altar for Buddha. There is no meat or alcohol on this altar. 

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Mâm Ngũ Quả with Buddha’s hand fruit.

At midnight, we passed out the xì lì and shot off some fireworks filled with confetti. image

Khanh with his lucky money. 

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All in all it was a great night, filled with lots of fun and many interesting experiences. If you made it all the way through this very long post, then congratulations! 🙂 I’ll be sharing other great Tết experiences soon, including New Year’s Day, so make sure you check back!