Sunday, September 17, 2006

All new episodes

I'm back.

For the past month, Skye Maconachie has been blogging about Blue Dragon kids while I have been sailing across the Pacific Ocean.

My good friend, Hugh Adams, bought a 46 foot sail boat in San Fransisco and needed some help to sail it to his home in Fiji. I thought it would be a great experience to travel with him - having never been on a boat before in my life.

So I went. I didn't make it to Fiji, though; we had some delays and so I could only get as far as Hawaii before I had to head back to Vietnam. Hugh is continuing the rest of the way with another sailor, and should arrive in Fiji in about three weeks.

Everybody wants to know, of course, how my trip was. But what can I say? I have delayed writing on the blog since we landed in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii last week. I am still not sure how to explain the joys and terrors of our journey.

We set out on this...

The clearest thing I can say is this: I feel like a character in a TV show, at the start of a new series.

We arrived on this

A new series always comes after the dramatic season finale; and there are always changes, twists, and new threads as the next series commences.

It's been a long time since I saw much TV, but I still remember the excitement of end of season / start of season action on over-the-top shows like Melrose and X-Files, when you'd be left hanging over the Christmas break to find out how all the crises would resolve, which they invariably would.

So here’s the story, and I’m expecting Aaron Spelling to call any minute now.

The basic plot: Michael and Hugh spend a week in San Fransisco preparing to sail across the ocean. The two finally set out, only to discover that Michael really does get sea sick, after all. Once he has stopped vomiting over the side of the boat, he starts to enjoy the trip – until things start going wrong. The travelers land in Hawaii 18 days later, in a row boat, and Michael returns home to an emotional reunion with Blue Dragon kids and staff.

The action: Out at sea, the sail boat strikes trouble during a storm, when the boom tears away from the mast, leaving the boat without the main sail. Other minor problems compound the drama: water pumps fail; the radar dies; and the engine becomes incapacitated, making it impossible to reach shore. Meanwhile, back at Blue Dragon, a team of doctors investigate the cases of four disabled children, and deliver a mixed bag of verdicts. The Blue Dragon lawyer, Van, once again avoids arrest while fighting for trafficked children in Hue. Everybody in Hanoi gets pink eye, but this appears to be unrelated to everything else that’s going on.

The romance: Back at Blue Dragon, Social Worker Giang announces that she’s getting married! And everybody is invited!

The comedy: For the first time in his life, Michael goes sleep walking. Unfortunately, the hotel manager is not amused at having some guy walking about in his underwear asking which room he is staying in.

The character changes: Two key volunteers, Eric and Noemie, pack their bags and head home, following emotional farewells. Kids and staff alike are devastated. However, at least four new children arrive, all with beautiful hearts and desperate for a helping hand.

The conclusion: Back at home after all the drama and excitement of the 3000km sailing trip, Michael realises that he wants nothing more than to be with the Blue Dragon family. On his first day back, he meets a 13 year old boy named Dat, who cries as he tells of how he and his mother are sleeping on the street because they cannot pay their rent. And so the new season begins…