Negotiating the death toll

Day 2,367 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross). 

A week further into the future

pano

Guest speaking at Malvern College, temporary member at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, the invisible enemy, all the support, unsung heroes, Red Cross, when will you die, newborn hostility and gruesome negotiations. Yeah – it’s a full entry.

Is it just me or is it well beyond the point where media outlets, influencers and the entire world should stop referring to COVID-19 as “the coronavirus?” We knew of six coronaviruses until December 2019 when we came to learn about COVID-19 which is the seventh. If you are just saying “the coronavirus” then you could be referring to SARS, to MERS or to the last common cold you had. No…clearly if you are saying “the coronavirus” today then we all get it from the context. However it seems annoyingly sloppy to me nonetheless. Good news people!!! From April 8th Wuhan is set to open up again after an eleven week lockdown. Wuhan was the epicenter of this outbreak but before you judge, just keep in mind that the next epidemic, which becomes a global pandemic, could in reality start anywhere. A way of looking at this virus outbreak is to view a timeline with three different phases: phase 1) discovery and denial, phase 2) response and containment, and phase 3) recovery and rehabilitation. Out here in Hong Kong we are in phase 3 as we had quite the head start on much of the world. Some countries appear to be stuck in phase 1 while most countries are somewhere in phase 2. The pandemic is a heck of thing to deal with and I fully understand a range of emotions across the board: fear, confusion, frustration, feeling powerless etc. These are truly trying times. Some may have the feeling that the world is overreacting but surely an overreaction is better than the alternative during a pandemic? With so many countries dealing with phase 2 right now more and more nonsense is surfacing: “lemon juice cures the virus”, “mosquitos spread the virus”, “taking a blood test will get you a COVID-19 test”….no, no and no. You are probably not a doctor, not an epidemiologist and not a virologists…so just admit that you don’t know enough to analyze, guess, second guess or probably even understand a whole lot of what is going on. Most of us are simply standing on the shoulders of giants regurgitating whatever someone else told us. Very few of us have ever seen a bacteria or a virus. We just believe they exist because it has been taught. The best advice I can give you is to stay clear of media speculations and “breaking news”. If you want to know something then lean on knowledge coming from the WHO, CDC or your local Red Cross Red Crescent. Since I’m feeling extra service minded today I’ll share four links with you, which offer insight from experts within their respective fields:

TED talk with Dr David Heymann, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist (click on link to watch)

JRE podcast interview with Michael Osterholm, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist (click on link to watch)

TED talk with Alanna Shaikh, Global Health Expert (click on link to watch)

 

The Atlantic article on what may come next (click on link to read)

The Red Cross Red Crescent has taken a lot of formidable action globally. In Austria the Red Cross has developed an app to help users keep a digital diary of who they have been in contact with. In Denmark the Red Cross quickly set up a call centre to assists the public in dealing with COVID-19 and limit confusion and fear. There are countless examples of action which has been taken. The Hong Kong Red Cross was very quick in addressing the outbreak and I look forward to meeting with them next week. For weeks the Red Cross Red Crescent has been pushing a very important message which is that COVID-19 does not discriminate in regards to religion, ethnicity, gender, nationality, ideology and a number of other factors which diversifies us. It will infect any of us! COVID-19 will however have a hugely disproportionate impact on different income groups. If you are poor then you may be stuck in a dense slum area, you may be poorly educated, you may not have access to proper healthcare and social distancing could be a luxury beyond you. Furthermore the lower income groups may not have access to a healthy diet or even safe drinking water, meaning that the immune defence could already be compromised. Some countries have very few doctors and low standards relating to equipment. The wealthy have a huge advantage over the most vulnerable people. I think it would be fair to say that inequality across the planet is our weakness and the pandemics strength. Until the day I die I will debate anyone who says that this is a small planet. However there is no doubt that it is well connected! And we are no stronger than the weakest link.

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While Hong Kong has recently experienced its second COVID-19 wave it became clear where the regions social circles lie. Hong Kong is far less connected to mainland China than to the western world and countries in Southeast Asia. Those who frequently travel in and out of Hong Kong do so from Europe, North America and there is a close connection to the Philippines as well. Many Hong Kongers have never been to mainland China and have no interest in going there. The answer as toward why can be found in politics and history. Hong Kong’s surge in new COVID-19 cases did not come from China, which today appears to be well in control with 90% of production shutdowns being opened up again. No, the new cases came from elsewhere. Many people left Hong Kong to wait out the virus thinking that it would be another localized SARS-like epidemic. However many expectations were disproven. Hong Kong has had the outbreak under phenomenal control with only four deaths directly related to COVID-19 among a densely populated city of 7.5 million beating hearts. Meanwhile Italy, Spain, USA, France, China, Iran and the UK have been the hardest hit nations in that order as per today. It became apparent to many that Hong Kong was the right place to be during the pandemic so many foreigners/expats returned and some brought the virus with them. While most people are harmless sweethearts there are always some people who aren’t. Some Hong Kongers are blaming foreigners for the second wave and in particularly pointing out that many foreigners are not wearing masks and continue to socialize. I have no confidence in that mask-wearing in public has any significant effect on containing the outbreak. However I am no longer traveling among thousands of Hong Kongers without wearing one. That all comes down to risk assessment! If you are surrounded by a group of angry people demanding that you should wear a banana on your head to please the rain gods – then you better do it!

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Still hanging out with the most wonderful and supportive family!! :)

“But Thor! The mask works! Why else do mask-wearing nations have such low numbers and why would health professionals wear masks if they don’t work?” Have you ever heard about false correlation before? The classic example of correlation not equalling causation can be found with ice cream and murder! The rates of violent crime and murder have been known to jump when ice cream sales do. But buying ice cream doesn't turn you into a killer so the correlation is false and coincidental. In a number of Asian countries people are quick to put on a mask. I have found that exceptionally considerate in comparison to where I come from in the world. If someone is sick here in Hong Kong then they will immediately put on a mask (often a surgical mask) to avoid contagion of others. That is just brilliant and something the rest of the world could learn from. And it is right to the point as well: the sick wear the masks. Here in Hong Kong some 99% of everyone wears a mask when they go outside and many even while in their car? So am I to believe that everyone is sick? No…most believe that the mask will protect them from getting sick and there is very little evidence to support that they are right. Healthcare professionals wear a mask as a part of their PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The key word is ‘as a part of’ their PPE. The mask on its own does very little. But furthermore people seem to be under the impression that the virus is just floating about everywhere. It simply isn’t. The WHO, CDC and Red Cross Red Crescent tells us that the main way the virus spreads is through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets hit the ground or a surface within a second of a sneeze or a cough. So having people cover their mouth or nose would be enough in most cases. And people should be doing that anyway – global pandemic or not. “But Thor, how do you know who is sick? Anyone could be sick and not be showing symptoms!” Yeah – well if you are not showing symptoms then you are not sneezing or coughing are you? I ride the busses and trains A LOT here in Hong Kong and I have not once noticed anyone sneeze or cough. I suspect people try hard to supress it.

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I've heard that membership committee of the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) unanimously approved me becoming a temporary member. So there! ;)

Nope, in regard to the true correlation of why the numbers are so low across many Asian mask-wearing countries, the truth is likely found in government efficiency. The countries which experienced SARS in 2003 all took this pandemic very seriously right from the beginning. Offices and schools closed down, amusement parks were shut, people self-quarantined. Hand sanitizer sold out. Handshakes stopped. In some cases like in China entire regions were locked down. Most Asian countries are also authoritarian. So when people are told to do something then the public generally follows suit. Try telling a healthy young Danish person to stay at home – it just doesn’t work in highly independent societies. Some experts argue that a lock-down in reality doesn’t stop a virus from spreading. It might work if it is efficient but most lock-downs simply aren’t. People are to blame. Japan has done exceedingly well during the global pandemic and the Japanese like masks too. You know what else the Japanese like? They like cleanliness! Japan is super clean. No – I don’t buy the entire “we should all put masks on” argument. And as long as the direction from WHO, CDC and the Red Cross Red Crescent doesn’t dictate general mask-wearing among the public, then I feel that I have the necessary backing I need to underline my argumentation. Should they change their direction then so may I. The entire “healthcare workers wear masks” argument also falls apart near me. Construction workers wear hardhats you know. It is circumstantial as far as I am concerned. If you want to protect yourself from everything then you should put on a mask, goggles, a raincoat, a helmet, a bullet proof west, safety shoes, gloves, carry an umbrella, pop in a mouth guard, cover yourself in sun screen and stay at home. But for now I will wear a mask when travelling by public transportation in Hong Kong….not to protect myself from COVID-19 – but to protect myself from anyone passionate enough to blame me for not wearing one.

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Let's see if it all goes back to normal again on April 11th. Fingers crossed.

A funny thing across the planet is that most people don’t have a particularly good understanding of their own mortality risks. Even without the pandemic 1 in 20 people over 80 years old will die before they reach 81. What do you think your odds are of making it another year when you are twenty…or forty? I bet you have no idea. Most of us don’t. It all depends on a great deal of factors of course. But to state an example a 20-year-old U.S. woman has a 1 in 2,000 (or 0.05%) risk of dying within the next year. By age 40 the risk is three times greater, by age 60 it is 16 times greater and by age 80 it is 100 times greater (5%). People die. That is a well-known fact. These days we are being bombarded with detailed information on how many have died due to COVID-19. However it may be slightly reassuring (in a morbid way) to realize that many of the deaths we are currently counting, would have occurred anyway. Some perhaps a few days, weeks or months later…and some right on time as they would have done anyway. Because people who die test positive for COVID-19 doesn’t mean that they died due to COVID-19. But obviously hospitals and healthcare workers are overwhelmed and COVID-19 is contributing to that…you must have heard about “flatten the curve” by now. This plays into that. People die all the time…we are simply not geared to handle it if everyone dies all at once. As I mentioned in my video a while ago: “you, personally, are likely to be fine. You are likely to be unharmed by this – however this is going to hit enough people that you are likely to have someone within your circles, that is going to be harmed by this”. And the reality is that this may still be early days of phase 2 for many. A not very funny thing across the planet is that we today see ourselves in a negotiation of how much loss of human life we can accept. I’ve met several people who have said that every human life is valuable but I’ve never met anyone who truly lives by those words. Not even the Red Cross Red Crescent has enough resources to help everyone and must make hard choices all the time. You may or may not be aware that a quarter of a million people die every year from the common flu. This does not make front page news, there are no door to door collections and celebrities do not sing for them. In a very cynical fashion I must conclude that we do not care much about that quarter million. So in other words we have accepted that number and thus begins the negotiation. Would it reach the front page if the number one year went up from 250,000 to 300,000? Probably not so we are also “fine” with that amount of flu related deaths. At which point do we become uneasy? Ten million people? Definitely – right? So our negation is set between 300,000 people and 10,000,000. Horrible negotiation. Yes I know. But we all take part in it. We even discriminate about who dies. 200,000 dead in a country you’ve never heard about vs. 200,000 in your favourite country, or your home country if those aren’t the same? Oh how we negotiate death. Today governments virtually negotiate human lives vs. economy. Don’t feel too innocent ;)

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Righto…lets wrap this entry up. In relation to wave two Hong Kong has been taking some new precautions. Government employees had only just returned to work before they were sent back home again. Cinemas are closed and so are a lot of social gathering spots such as parks, BBQ sites and camping sites. The closing of the campsites (and all the rain we have had lately) are counterproductive for me personally. In addition to putting the MacLehose Trail behind me I was hoping to do Hong Kong’s other three major hikes. However I wanted to do them by camping along the way which I currently can’t. The shortest of the trails is however the ‘Hong Kong Trail’ which is 50k (31mi) across its eight mountainous sections. It would be tough but I figure I can do that in a single day. Actually I’m pretty sure I’ll give it a go ;) Hong Kong largely remains open. Not to visitors though. Only residents can enter Hong Kong and everyone is tested and quarantined. In fact a friend of mine returned to Hong Kong recently and sent me a photo of the entire family wearing electronic bracelets around their wrists. They are not permitted to take them off. The bracelets count down from 14 days and sends the government their exact location. Pretty high-tech and efficient. Someone like me who has been in Hong Kong for 66 days now can wander about freely. Restaurants and cafes are open. The hiking trails are open. Buses, taxis, trains and metros are running. People are in the streets. So in many ways Hong Kong is open and certainly not locked down. Without flying I just can’t leave. So here we are waiting along with the rest of the world.

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I had a great time with Mr Andrew Chiu who is Malvern College Hong Kong’s Digital Design Teacher. He invited me for a livestream interview in connection with “Earth Day” which kicks off their theme throughout April. I’ll share the recording of the session in a few days :)

I’ll end this entry on a note of unsung heroes. There are so many heroes these days. Healthcare workers are at the top of everyone’s congratulatory list and not without reason. Then there are the seamen who navigate containerships from one port to the next keeping the supply chain open. Teachers have adapted to working and teaching online. Humanitarian workers have it tough too! There are many people who we should appreciate these days. My thoughts fell on sanitation workers. On a good day garbage men need to haul out our bacteria and filth so it doesn’t build up. In Angola I witnessed with my own eyes what happens to a city when nobody comes to collect the garbage for a while! It is not a pretty sight and it didn’t take long for the population to catch all sorts of small diseases which weakened the nation’s immune defence. So let’s always be happy for the work which sanitation workers carry out. However particularly today I find their job to be slightly more daunting. Because now they are hauling out potentially contaminated tissues and masks. And as the plastic bags containing them go into the compactor air gets squeezed out which I imagine would spray virus out into the air. And you know what? I haven’t heard a single sanitation worker complain.

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Just a thought...

If you are currently living in isolation then remember this: when Isaac Newton stayed at home to avoid the 1665 plague, he discovered the laws of gravity, optics, and he invented calculus. Are you feeling inadequate yet? Get off your arse and get something done! ;)

 

 

 

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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - in a world of life and death.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

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Once Upon A Saga

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While the whole world waits

Day 2,360 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross). 

Hong Kong: day 59

pano

While the world fights an invisible enemy life needs to find a way to continue. If the economy breaks down then far more people will suffer than the damage COVID-19 can directly cause. Unfortunately there are no good solutions at hand. Only the painfully clear light of hindsight will tell us what we did right and what we did wrong.

While my beard keeps growing I can assure you all that my fiancée and I are fine. My fiancée, Le, rhetorically asked when we once again might see two people holding hands, and our first thought wouldn’t be about social distancing? My close family is also hanging in there and my friends are coping as well as possible. My mother is a travel guide and brings senior citizens on excursions to Italy. So take a guess about how well that is going these days. A lot of people are taking some kind of hit. The pandemic is on everybody’s lips and it is intriguing while sickening to hear about all the time. It is a topic in which everyone has an opinion or has heard something. As I wrote last week, I have more or less tuned out from what the media has to say. There is far too much speculation and not enough substance. Every once in a while I do read through a recommended article built on solid journalism and reputable sources. But generally it’s enough for me to follow up on the websites of the WHO, CDC or Red Cross Red Crescent and furthermore speak to people around me. A favorite quote of mine has for many years been this: “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future”. While the quote has been attributed to many I have within my research found that it is originally Danish and attributed to an autobiography by the Danish politician Karl Kristian Steincke in 1948. However he may have borrowed the phrase for his book in which case the author remains unknown. Nonetheless it now seems truer than ever. What does the future have in store for us? I fear we are in for a long winter and that it will be long before the world stabilizes again. Some say we will see a world before and after the virus outbreak. A new timeline such as before and after 9/11. While all of this seems hectic right now I am still leaning towards saying that it is not a big deal in the big picture. However it is certainly a big deal. I have no doubt that we shall overcome and that this too shall pass. The "when and how" of it all is greatly uncertain. I myself must speculate as to how long I can expect to remain stuck in Hong Kong? Long I fear…

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Mette at MJA wrote another excellent article! Within this one the Savagar's made it into the news. I have stayed with many wonderful families over the years but this one holds the all time record for longest stay!

My escape from Hong Kong largely relies on how the shipping industry will react to all of this. The Saga has nine countries left: Palau, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. All of them islands and all of them hard to access without flying. It is no coincidence that these nine are the projects last countries. It is however a heck of a coincidence that the world should see a pandemic just nine countries from completing a project 6.5 years in the working. Alas…such is life. I predict that the shipping industry will find a way. The world relies on the shipping industry and without it society as we know it will collapse. So somehow ships will need to call ports and the brave seamen will need to embark and disembark the ships. Once crew changes become normalized, under some future standard operating procedures, then I no longer see why I shouldn’t be able to embark and continue. And for the most part ships are currently calling various ports around the world keeping the supply chain intact so people can buy toilet paper. Who cares about medicine, soap or canned food? It’s toilet paper which we all crave!!!

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Hong Kong Islands.

Yeah – life continues. Hong Kong is currently experiencing its second wave with several new COVID-19 cases. No big splash in the global statistics as Hong Kong has had a firm grip on the situation ever since it began. However enough cases to make a local splash and have people worry a bit more. I have for 59 days been walking among a masked population. I’d say that at least 99% of the population in Hong Kong wears masks. Normally I would be able to make a visa run by crossing into Macau and returning the same day. That is no longer possible. A week ago my fiancée would have been escorted from the airport to a 14 day evacuation period if she had come to see me. Today she cannot even arrive as Hong Kong has closed its borders to foreigners. As water passes under the bridge these things will once again ease up. I have about a month left on my visa which can be plenty of time or no time at all depending on the outlook. The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health in Hong Kong announced that they are investigating the most recent 43 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, taking the number of cases to 454 in Hong Kong so far. Keep in mind that Hong Kong is among the densest populations in the world with around 7.5 million beating hearts on a tiny piece of land. Hong Kong seems to be among the safest places on earth in relation to the outbreak. Well done Hong Kong!

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I’ve been recovering ever since I did the MacLehose Trail in just three days. I was in quite some pain upon the completion a week ago and the following day also wasn’t a lot of fun. But then I gradually got back to normal again. Since then I have been out running and I have also discovered that Hong Kong has three other major trails: The Lantau Trail (70k/43.5mi), The Wilson Trail (78k/48.5mi) and the Hong Kong Trail (50k/30mi). Temperatures have climbed up to 25 C (77 F) and the rain comes and goes. I’m thinking that if the Saga gets stuck here for the foreseeable time then I’ll definitely get those hikes under my belt. I will in fact no longer be required to network and search for a way out of Hong Kong. That has been the main focus for the past two months but if there isn’t a way out of Hong Kong and waiting becomes the plan then I’ll have a lot of time on my hands. Shipping wise I have networked my way to the top of the pyramid. There is no higher level as far as I am concerned. If there is a ship that can take me somewhere relevant then I believe I will be on it. Can you believe this: I have been here so long that I have now been offered a temporary membership in the prestigious Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC). If that comes into play then it would be an incredible honor as it is considered among the world’s finest social clubs.

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At the bar of the FCC.

Yes – one day takes the next. I went to prison to meet up with Brett again. Tai Kwun is the restored Central Police Station and Victoria Prison compound in the center of Hong Kong. I’ve been there before but since Brett’s podcast interview with me for The Running Klub didn’t pan out the first time we decided to meet there for a retry. And it was successful! You can listen to it HERE. With so many people taking to nature and running these days The Running Klub becomes extra relevant. Did you know that 80% of runners will get injured? The Running Klub’s goal is to create a community focused, online education platform that is accessible by all runners of all levels. Steering clear of injury pitfalls and keeping everyone running longer and happier. This podcast was however about adventure, motivation, focus and getting stuck in Hong Kong. It’s a really nice casual conversation from the former site of Victoria Prison. How symbolic is that location? Follow the link to The Running Klub’s podcast episode 20.

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In the prison yard with Brett. Great place. Brett said he'd never seen it that empty before.

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I also met up with Svend again from the Danish Travelers Club. We had another lunch at the danish themed Ugly Duckling.

As my address book fills up with Hong Kong contacts I have correspondingly had a great amount of meet ups. Lots of good people and interesting conversations. One of these meet ups was with Pavel who is a truly interesting fellow which a rich background. We met at Hong Kong Central station and he showed up wearing a mask and carrying hand sanitizer. The mask is very important for Pavel as his aging mother is in the vulnerable group and could become a gruesome statistic if exposed to the virus. While I remain firm on that the masks are unnecessary for those of us who are not sick, healthcare workers or dealing with the sick…I truly see Pavel’s point of view. He should do whatever he can to ensure he doesn’t bring the virus to his mom. She's in London though and he is here in Hong Kong. From a technical point of view he should probably not have met up with me in the city to begin with if he feels so strongly about containing the virus. But life cannot be brought to a standstill and there is no reason to fear that the virus is to be found everywhere. Wearing a mask in public is not aligned with the instructions given to us by WHO, CDC or any health authorities I am aware of. It is overkill. It may help a little bit but according to expert advice we are not at a point where it is required. Pavel is a really good guy and we had a nice evening at an empty bar which he told me normally would be busy. We had some delicious kebabs and some solid conversations. We tried so hard not to speak about the virus but the darn thing sneaks into every conversation.

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Pavel has quite the background story. Check him out HERE.

I don’t have much to tell you this time. I’m trying to hang in there. The challenge is no longer bureaucrazy or logistics. It is a challenge of mental strength. I need to resist the urge to throw this all away and take the next flight home to end it all. “You have come so far” doesn’t ring clear with me. What kind of nonsense do we still have ahead of us? Will I end up in a life raft due to a typhoon? Why not? I’m stuck in Hong Kong because of a pandemic. It is a struggle which some of you may be able to imagine but which most people do not see. As mentioned before: I sleep in a clean soft bed, I have food in my stomach, I am safe, I live with a loving family, Hong Kong is not the worst place etc…In reality everything I have is a replacement for what I want but cannot have. The replacement is nice and better than most alternatives. It just isn’t what I want. I want to bring this project to an end but not without reaching the final nine. Oh no…not that again…we cannot bring this entry to such an end. So how about I introduce you to two young people who invited me out for a hike/picnic. Rylan and Esmé are both twelve years old and took the lead. How could I say no? We clocked up some 7.5k (4.7mi) across the hills at Clear Water Bay. We made a stop at the Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay, which is Hong Kong's oldest and largest Tin Hau Temple. There is a rock nearby, which was carved in 1274 and bears the oldest dated inscription known in Hong Kong. Rylan and Esmé are friends and were fully capable of lifting a conversation up to a level well beyond their years. It was a quite interesting afternoon in the company of a future veterinarian and a future diplomat. Perhaps future extreme travelers as well ;)

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I have enormous hope for the future!! :)

 

 

 

 

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Once Upon A Saga

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Welcome to planet earth – it’s your home | Hong Kong day 54

Day 2,355 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross). 

Making the best of everything

pano

You are looking at the pandemic the wrong way. This is our finest opportunity to prove that we are strong together.

I have been stuck in Hong Kong for 54 days due to the COVID-19 virus. The media is currently a joke to me. Almost everything is “Breaking News” and most stories are a repetition of what I heard or read more than six weeks ago. I have basically already blogged about nearly everything which westerners are now trying to tell as if it is “Breaking News”. I stand firm of my initial assessment of the outbreak which is that while tragic for some it is not a big deal in the big picture. But leave it to people to create a storm in a glass of water. If this virus was truly a disaster for humanity then we would by now all have known someone who died from it. This is simply not that kind of outbreak. However this is not the time to be selfish. Many westerners are not used to being told what to do and think they know better. This is not the time for that. This is the time to follow the instructions given by authorities around the world. Listen and shut up! You are by all means likely to live through this but others will not and your disobedience should not be the reason why others will seize to live. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, wipe down common points of contact suck as door knobs, cover yourself if you sneeze or cough…this isn’t rocket science. You should have been washing your hands and covering your sneezing and coughing since you were a child. Bacteria is everywhere and much of it is beneficiary for us. Viruses are completely outnumbering us on this planet. These numbers are so vast that neither you nor I understand them but just for fun here you go: In a drop (one milliliter) of seawater, one can find 10 million viruses, one million bacteria and about 1,000 small protozoans and algae. Boom! Mind blown – right? My short calm COVID-19 video of March 12th is still valid because it is common sense. If you have not seen it then I welcome you to do so here:

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Click HERE or on image to play video.

And yes – I’m still in Hong Kong. My goodness that question has become common. It has been 54 days now and where to should I have gone? The situation has gotten far worse. Even if I could board a ship tomorrow then I would not know if I could leave it anywhere. Maersk is a global leader in the shipping industry and they have officially announced that they will have no crew changes until April 14th at the earliest. Think about that for a second. Now, because Maersk announces something doesn’t mean the world follows suit. There is a multitude of ship-owners out there who set their own standards. However what Maersk says and does goes a long way. I am currently getting help from left and right but there is very little which can be done right now. The Saga is left with “just” nine countries and they are all fairly closed right now fighting the pandemic. I incidentally feel a little better now that this has become a pandemic and so many of you have been told to work from home, have lost rights and feel constrained. Not because I want you to suffer. Of course not. However since January when we reached Hong Kong this was my problem. Now it is our problem. And I simply feel somewhat better about being stuck when we are all stuck. I wonder where I would have been stuck if I had reached Hong Kong earlier or later? On a ship? On Palau? In Micronesia? Who can say? I am also curious to see how the outbreak develops. Some countries are bound to fair better or worse than others. It is a well-known fact that when the Europeans arrived to “the new world” hundreds of years ago, they brought with them germs which Europeans were already accustomed too. However the indigenous people of the Americas were effectively doomed. They had never experienced smallpox, measles or flu before, and the viruses tore through the continent, killing an estimated 90% of Native Americans. So who can say how COVID-19 will travel through the world? Perhaps Namibians go completely unharmed while it tears though the small isolated population of Palau leaving no one standing. Are you going to be the idiot who spreads this thing or will you follow the guidelines until we have it under some degree of control? Yeah – that was my two cents on the virus for this week. On to other stories.

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The past days have been filled with hiking. That’s what happens when you are stuck for almost eight weeks in a place which is mostly made up out of nature and mountains. Since January I have had an enormous amount of screen time while doing research and networking left and right. I have been working so hard on leaving Hong Kong and as a result my Hong Kong network is vast today. I still have a lot of meetings and continue to network as you never know where that unlocked door might appear. However the current situation in terms of progress is ridiculous. And yes; Hong Kong is a good and safe place to be stuck in. There have been very few virus infections and only four deaths across 7.5 million beating hearts. Crime is really low, the police is quite outstanding and the demonstrations, while no longer gone, are at a minimum. The family I have been staying with are simply outstanding!! Harry, Edward and their parents, Cassie and James, are like family. I cannot remember that I have ever before stayed more than FIFTY days with a family which wasn’t my own blood? And Hong Kong has entered the list of the top ten longest stays within the Saga. What would this long stay have been like without such a family? Their flexibility is something! I was supposed to be here for a few days and have now been here for nearly eight weeks! That is the true spirit we need to see in this world right now. We are all in this together and none of us have ever lived through anything like it. Let’s get it right.

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My hosts sure know how to throw a solid BBQ! ;)

Cassie is really sporty and invited me to join in on a hike together with her childhood friend Dehua who is also from Dalian in China. We hiked up a portion of stage four of the locally famous Maclehose Trail which virtually goes all the way across Hong Kong. All ten stages measure 100 km (60 mi) together. We didn’t do that much but enjoyed and really nice hike up Ma on Shan (Sai Kung) and clocked up around 15 km (9 mi). Good company. So good in fact that Dehua and I teamed up for another hike the very next day. That is what weekends are like for me. They are those useless days which are ripped out of the calendar of progress. Hardly anyone replies to emails, no meetings and no progress. Thankfully Hong Kong is a hiking wonderland.

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Saturday: Near Ma On Shan with the beautiful Cassie and my new hiking partner Dehua! :)

I wanted to go back up on Sharp Peak to see what it looked like on a day with visibility. The Sharp Peak Trail is perhaps the hardest trail you can find in Sai Kung. Dehua was game so the two of us met up and power hiked the darn thing! Haha! Full throttle!! I figure that it is a psychological coping mechanism for me in these crazy times of being caged. A part of the Peak Trail hike takes place on a section of the MacLehose Trail. It is generally a little difficult not to cross paths with the MacLehose Trail when hiking in Hong Kong as it is as long as it is. Oh yeah Hong Kong…you are a beautiful thing, you are.

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Sunday: Dehua and I with Sharp Peak behind us :)

When the weekend came to an end I had a few meeting in Hong Kong Central and also found time to pay a visit to the Kowloon Walled City Park. Until I visited the park I basically thought that the Walled City was simply a reference to a highly dense neighborhood with tall buildings, which was demolished in the early 90s. That much is true. However as with many things the story runs far deeper than that. There had been several attempts to demolish the Walled City throughout history. It grew to become a real life “Sin City” with illegal housing, crime, poor hygiene and unsafe living conditions by the 1980s.

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Kowloon Walled City as it looked before demolition in 1993.

The history of the walled city can be traced back to the Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE), when an outpost was set up to manage the trade of salt. A small fort was established around 1810 which gained significance in 1842 when the first opium war ended with the British Empire and Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain. The then Qing authorities felt it necessary to improve the fort in order to rule the area and check further British influence. The improvements included a formidable defensive wall which was completed in 1847. Hence: The Walled City. The years passed and history unfolded. In 1898 Britain was handed “the New Territories” (which they are still called today), and China was allowed to continue to keep officials at the walled city as long as they did not interfere with the defense of British Hong Kong. But the Qing dynasty ended its rule in 1912 eventually leaving the walled city to the British. The walled city was just kind of left lawless after that and only housed around 400 residents in the 1930s. But by the 80s it was home to some 40,000 people and buildings had reached 16 stories. Today it’s a park and sort of free land museum which I very much enjoyed visiting.

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What the walled city may have looked like 150 years ago.

Then at some point I decided I was capable of hiking the entire MacLehose Trial in just three days. I had done little research on whether that was something considered common practice? I simply researched the individual ten sections and planned out how I could accomplish it by sleeping at camping sites along the route. I knew about the Oxfam Trailwalker challenge which is a team event where the goal is for four team members to cross all ten sections in less than 48 hours. And I knew that the fastest time on record is an insane 11 hours and 1 minute!! That is as crazy as Eliud Kipchoge becoming the first to run a full marathon in less than two hours. They are not people. They are machines!! Surely I could hike it in three days? Well rather than telling you about how it all unfolded I would much rather invite you to what my very first documentary! I have named it as such because it is a 47 minute video where I have paid special attention to video footage, sound and music. I hope you will enjoy it as I am quite happy about certain parts of it (teaser: day two may surprise you).

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Click HERE  or on image to play video.

Oh well…upon my return I discovered that most people who opt to hike the MacLehose Trail in one go actually choose to do so in 4-5 days. In fact a highly confident and self-declared very fit young man set out to complete the trek in three days but failed and later shared this within a forum:

"I've been meaning to reply to this thread... I couldn't get it finished within 3 days (although my execution certainly wasn't perfect). I'm going to head back to HK in the future and finish it off over a weekend.

 

I'd say you probably need 4 days to do it at a push, and you need to get started as early as possible in the day.

 

I was staying in ShaTin, and the commute added an easy couple of hours onto my morning which wasn't ideal. The terrain was also tougher than I was expecting, and I'm in good shape (I ran a marathon last weekend).

 

If you go for it, good luck - but I'd consider adding an extra day in for insurance if you have the time. And don't underestimate the task & terrain, it's definitely hard going."

Reading that made me feel a lot better about my accomplishment. Somewhere else I read: “We did this in one night and four days although 3 days is achievable for the super fit”. Yup – so consider me “super fit” and with a "perfect excecution" from now on ;) Kidding aside I have since last year suspected that this project is making me less and less empathetic. I do feel that I have seen too much. I have learned too much. I have met too many people. I have experienced too much. Not in general but in a much too short amount of time. The Saga is full power even when I try to take a break which has proven to be impossible. My beard grows long and we are no closer to completing this project than what we were in January this year. No wonder I do crazy side projects. Thankfully I am receiving support from left and right. I could not possibly cope with this project if the planet we share wasn’t full of good well-meaning people and the constant love of mothers from one border to the next. Yeah…and I was in a great deal of physical pain upon completion of the 100 km (60 mi) trail…and also not doing to hot the following day. But it passed and I’m back. On another note we don’t know when this pandemic will end. However it will. That we do know. Over and out.

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If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga needs funding. Thank you :)

 

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Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - on this pale blue dot with you.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

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