Sunday, March 4, 2012

There and Back Again

Mike deGruy
             I left Santa Barbara bound for LAX at dawn. My dad was driving me to my flight back to Vietnam and we were seriously late and had to burn rubber to make it to the airport before my flight left without me. But there was a reason that we were late... yet another tragedy had occurred in my town and at my sisters' school. Mike deGruy, the world renown ocean explorer and cinematographer, amazing friend and teacher to Santa Barbara Middle School, and father of two of our classmates, died in a helicopter accident in Australia a couple days after my Uncle Matt died here in town. It was a double shock for my family as we are all friends with the deGruy family through different connections made over the years, and it was an immeasurable loss for our town, our school, and for the global ocean community. I was lucky to know Mike a little bit, he was an inspiring man who seemed to love everything he did in life. National Geographic made this tribute to his life in the ocean.  [May 3 - The NatGeo video now appears to be private, here's a second video tribute to Mike]

          We were late because we wanted to attend a sunrise swim in the ocean held in Mike's honor. We had time to attend the ceremony, but had to make a run for it before it was time to go in the water. As we approached LA it became clear that the 405 wasn't an option, so we took a chance and took the overland route down Malibu canyon. Well it all turned out fine, and I made the flight in time. The flight time to Tokyo from LA was about 12 hours, but my seat was comfortable enough and I was able to watch many movies so there are no complaints there. I only had a two hour layover at Narita, I used that time to work on assignments and reflect over the past week in America.....

          My English teacher in Vietnam has told me that I list too many details and not enough substance when I write, and she probably makes a good point. But, details of the day are like comfort food to me and you'll need to indulge me a bit. Hey, at least I no longer start each blog entry with a count of how many days I've been here, and how many days to go...

my mom(s) will be so proud!
            So, back to our riveting story: I slept during the entire flight from Tokyo to Hanoi, from before takeoff straight until landing. It was around 11:30pm when I landed I breezed through customs and soon found myself back in the familiar chaos that is Hanoi. I have to say I really did enjoy taking a break from the madness on the streets. It was nice for a change to not see any motorbikes, and have every one follow the traffic laws. I only had about 8 hours in Hanoi, because on Sunday morning SYA was leaving on its trip to Hoi An (yes the same Hoi An from before), Da Nang and Hue. I arrived back at the house at 12:30am, and was greeted by my host mom. My dad was on a business trip and my sister was already asleep. I didn't actually sleep that night. The 6 hours to Hanoi was enough. So I just watched TV and waited for morning.

          The past few weeks have been a blur of truly unreal experiences for me, as I've been; plucked out of class in Vietnam with the worst kind of news; without warning, on a 24-hour journey to my - now unfamiliar - home; with my grieving family trying to make sense of an accidental death; days thereafter confronted with another accidental death; forced to watch helplessly as the community of people who had been supporting us were suddenly grieving themselves. And now, without having had any real time to process these things, I'm back in a foreign land, 10,000 miles away from home.

          Stranger still, is my realization that those things feel like they took place in a far away land, and only now have I returned home.


  1. Hue Cool! Just caught up on a lot of your blog, Andrew. So wonderful to read and be part of your wonderful journey. Your dad and sisters will be here in a couple of days -- wish I could see you too! But June will have to do. Enjoy to the fullest your last few months in Vietnam! love, mm

  2. Thank that you shared these story's with the world.

  3. Thank you for letting us see what life is like in these different places!