Lebanon - am I pregnant? Soon.
Since October 10th 2013: 143 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
Time doesn’t pass - it comes
Oh the amount of things I’ve read. The amount of people I have spoken to. The things that I have forgotten. I thought the Saga would get easier over time? Now it appears that the only thing which has changed is me... I had an ultrasound yesterday. More to follow...
Last weekend I received an invitation from George to go hiking in the north near Laklouk. I was happy to accept that invitation and along with Jad and Mike we set off in the morning to go and hike our way through the snow to the mountain of the cross. George, Jad and Mike are all people I know through Maersk (www.maerskline.com). I can tell you a lot of Maersk stories by now but the real connection to the Saga is that I’ve spotted a Maersk container in 143 countries out of 143 now. Yes, I even saw one in the Vatican back in 2013. A truly global player...
Photo by George, @hellolebanon961.
George is very passionate about promoting the beauty of Lebanon. He goes hiking nearly every week and takes some great photos which he posts to Instagram (hellolebanon961). I’d really recommend you follow him if you have an account. It was a real boys trip into the snow. We were joking and laughing throughout much of the day. Before we began hiking we stopped to shop for provisions and we had a king's meal on top of the mountain with a spectacular view.
These jolly guys are (left to right) Mike, Jad and George :)
When George first asked if I was up for the hike I didn’t know. I really wanted to but I had been in excruciating pain a few days before. I told George that I had some “back pain” but in reality it was something else. It was nearly two weeks ago and George ended up postponing anyway so it all worked out. I’m sure you’re wondering what caused the pain? I will tell you the short version. I woke up one night with some pain in the right side of my scrotum. I didn’t think much of it, adjusted my underwear and turned to go back asleep on my other side. The following morning I woke up and still felt some pain. I then had breakfast as the pain rapidly increased. My right testicle along with everything around it had swollen to the size of an egg. The pain increased significantly as it continued to grow to the size of half a tennis ball! TRUST ME! I tried a lot of things. This particular morning from the bottomless pit of hell had me in severe pain throughout the better part of two hours. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t lie down: I was out of options! I eventually discovered that heat was good and you can now picture me in boxer shorts, cursing, with one leg on either side of a mobile radiator.
A leg on either side.
As the pain decreased and became bearable I was able to move to the bathroom and have a hot shower. After about seven minutes of hot water I felt like something released and the pain almost entirely went away. After another 24 hours my bits and pieces were back to their normal size again. There was no longer any pain although it was still quite sensitive. As the days progressed and the sensitivity decreased I figured it would go away by itself. It didn’t however and a few days ago I was talking to my friend Art in America.
Art and I met on a train from Washington DC to Chicago and have been friends ever since.
I told him the story and his face twisted in pain. Art asked why I hadn’t seen a doctor? I replied that the consultation alone would be around $100. Art nearly screamed at me: “GO TO THE DOCTOR!! I WILL PAY!!” :) So I eventually went to the doctor and he believes that it was testicular torsion. Try doing a google search for that!! The doctor examined me and I appear to be fine now although lucky he said. Apparently 90 minutes could have been enough for me to lose a testicle. I bet you didn’t think you would be reading about this today :)
Photo by George, @hellolebanon961.
That story is a great segue to what I’m now about to tell you. The Saga has brought on a lot throughout its four years across the world. There isn’t much which I’m afraid of and some degree of pain has become normal from time to time. I have recovered from cerebral malaria, I have slept in dodgy guest houses, I have walked on dark narrow streets at night and I have traveled through epidemics and conflicted countries. I’m pretty tough - hey? Not at all! I cower at the feet of dentists! Thankfully not all dentist are vicious sadomasochistic monsters? I trust my dentist in Denmark who I used to see every six months. However I haven’t seen a dentist since the Saga began more than four years ago so it was now about time and I’ve been saying that for a few years...
Cécile the dentist :)
“You have good saliva” is not something you hear everyday! Cécile also told me that I have good oral hygiene. It’s hard to be afraid of such a kind dentist as Cécile. However my fear isn’t rational. Cécile was top professional and put me at ease. She found some minor stuff and said I could fix it now or wait another few years until I get home - the choice was mine. I chose Cécile and that was a very good call! If you’re looking for a good dentist in Beirut then I recommend Dr. Cécile Wadih Freiha: +961 70 952 577. She even sang along to Rihanna and Katy Perry ;)
Crosses on mountain tops aren't only found in Austria :)
Do you remember the Sama Beirut from last week's entry? It’s Lebanon’s tallest building and I was invited to see the $27,000,000.00 penthouse along with the view from the top. It reminds me of when my Sudanese friend Dafaalla invited me to his workplace in Khartoum. He works in Sudan’s tallest building. I’ve now reached the top of two of the tallest buildings in two countries. That’s my ladybug gene at work :) I call it that...for whatever reason I like being up high and enjoy good views. My own country (Denmark) is beautiful but flat as a pancake. We have a bridge which is taller than the tallest geographical point. Now I’m thinking about when I summited Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa’s tallest mountain) with Ann-Christina long ago (find Ann-Christina by scrolling to the bottom of About). All of this also reminds me of getting down on one knee on top of Mount Kenya (Africa’s 2nd tallest mountain) and asking my beautiful woman to marry me. That was back in 2016 during the Saga. This brings me back to my testicles (sorry) because yesterday I went back to the hospital and had an ultrasound done. They were very professional but it’s still strange to have strangers look at your private parts. The good news is that it might not have been torsion after all. I’m fine and it was some sort of inflammation. I’m all set and ready to start a family with my wife to be. Some day. Soon? 60 more countries to go.
My ultrasound: it's a boy! ;)
People are increasingly asking me why the Saga is not moving on. Today marks 56 days since I applied for my Syrian tourism visa which is a definite record within the Saga. I haven’t waited this long for a visa in any country. Mind you we have 143 countries behind us. Can the Red Cross help? Perhaps. The Danish Red Cross is present in Lebanon and has been very supportive. Soon. I’m networking all I can trying to reach the Syrian tourism ministry, the Syrian Ambassador in Lebanon and different promotion groups of Syria such as “Like.Love.Syria”. Something is going to work sooner or later. Soon? I know that there is a war in Syria. Who doesn’t know that? Media is full of it. Just don’t think for a second that Syria does not possess normality. Parents still tuck their children in to sleep. Couples fall in love and get married. Selfies are taken and posted to social media. Someone in Syria is playing football right now. I will show you all the culture, history, food, people, weather and what not when I get my chance. Soon. Soon is such a general term but that’s all I hear from everyone these days. I did an interview with Tele Liban last week and I’ll get the link soon. I wonder if there is a way to reach out to the Syrian Ambassador in Lebanon? The reply is at best: soon. I’m often in contact with the Syrian Embassy, which always replies soon. They are surely doing a good job in there but the decision is made in Damascus (Syria) so there isn’t much the embassy can do here in Lebanon. Soon.
My childhood friend, Kristoffer, proudly displays his lastborn. The adorable little Lina :)
Life goes on here in Lebanon and I’m trying to think of things which I haven’t told you in the past blogs? Lebanon is a very modern country in so many regards. You can live here and not miss anything from the world. There’s a shop for everything. Bullet holes on buildings are not rare in Beirut. It takes time to rebuild a city and although the civil war ended more than a quarter of a century ago I’m happy to say that bullet holes are the exception and not the rule. Modern buildings, glass facades and sidewalks are common around here. My host lives in a semi posh neighborhood and there’s dog poo all over the sidewalks. That’s kind of a good sign in a bad way? It’s because so many home owners have dogs and their maids walk them up and down the streets. A maid obviously doesn’t care to pick up a dog's droppings since there is no consequence for leaving it behind. Sanitation workers take care of it sooner or later. Soon. My host is absolutely wonderful and I’d tell you much more and post a picture if it wasn’t because my host wishes to remain anonymous. Can you imagine living in someone’s guest room for more than a month? That is a true testament to what I always like to remind you: a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before :) Now, although the apartment is located in a nice neighborhood, something is still quite different from back home. You wouldn’t notice from being inside the apartment as it’s quite modern. However there is a water tank in the basement and a smaller water tank on the roof. The pump in the basement leads the water up to the tank on the roof and when you turn on the faucet you have water as long as the truck has filled the tank in the basement. That’s a bit odd to me in a city with two million people living right next to the mountains? Especially as Beirut is believed to originate from the Phoenician word ‘be’erot’ which means wells. Electricity is something else. The apartment is connected to the city grid and has power for 21 hours each day. The remaining three hours are supplied by a generator. It works really well and there is even an app to tell you what time of the day the switch to the generator will occur.
I don’t imagine that’s the case inside the Sama Beirut. Lebanon’s tallest building which opened up for sales of apartments in 2016. I made a short video for you guys to see what the penthouse looks like before it’s sold. You’ll also have the view from above Beirut.
$27,000,000.00 penthouse video: https://youtu.be/L-Yz7YGNEV8
I watched 'Snowden' with Joseph Gordon-Levit. Interesting to get some background on Edward Snowden. My pasta was good too.
Sometimes I like to dance all on my own. When my host is out I have the apartment all to myself and then I’m free of prejudice. I’ll close the blinds and turn up the music while busting my best moves. Nobody will ever know (except for the thousands who will read this blog)? I don’t like dancing in public. I don’t have the confidence and I feel like everyone is judging me. Behind closed blinds I'm a regular superstar!! :) While waiting in Lebanon I have managed to see a number of movies and in addition I’ve completed season 1-6 of Suits. Suits is a television series about a law firm in New York. The series features a lot of good music which I have been adding to my play list. I stumbled upon Cat Power singing ‘3, 6, 9’ which goes like this:
“I feel , I feel tired
Awake all night
Heads so heavy like a waste basket…
3 6 9
You drink wine
Monkey on your back you feel just fine...”
Then I discovered Lee Dewyze and the ‘Blackbird song’:
“Pack your things
Is over now”.
Music speaks directly to the soul. Doesn’t it? A good melody along with a few words can change your mood dramatically. Jonny Scott Blair from ‘Don’t stop living’ reached out to me for an interview. Jonny is an avid traveler and features a series on his blog with various travelers of various sorts. Jonny has been battling depression and writes openly about it. I feel him because I’ve been flirting with depression myself. He seems like a really good guy and wrote:
“I see you managed all of Africa - some real tough nuts in there with Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Algeria so well done. I'm heading back there soon to visit some more obscure countries. But I often fly in to countries these days as depression kicked in during my long term overland backpacking jaunts and I didn't enjoy it any more”.
I certainly know something about overland travel having put 190,000 km (118,000 mi) behind me across 143 countries. I’ve got to be careful. It’s a really good interview so I hope you’ll enjoy and give Jonny a follow: http://dontstopliving.net/world-travellers-thor-pedersen-from-once-upon-a-saga/
Jonny isn’t the only one who interviewed me. For whatever reason interviews have been picking up lately from various countries. It’s nice! :) I’ve got something to tell the world and I certainly have the time for it right now. The Saga has featured in media across roughly half the world's countries. Mostly the questions are quite good but very common. Once in a while the questions are deeper and I really enjoy that. I had a really deep interview with a Swedish journalist this week and I’m excited to see the results when it gets published. A Norwegian journalist and a South African journalist reached out as well. Interesting stuff!
George, Mike and Jad dancing down the mountain :)
My friend Marc is flying in from Denmark to visit me next week. That’s going to be amazing. We will have three days together and I can’t wait!! We haven’t seen each other for a long time and he is tons of fun! You’ll hear more about that next week ;)
Elon Musk has an eye on the future! He is behind PayPal which made him a millionaire. He is also behind Tesla (electric sports cars), SpaceX (rockets and space exploration) and the Boring company which is about making a cost efficient drilling machine for underground tunnels. You must have heard about Elon? In any case I’m quite taken with the latest achievement of SpaceX. The company just had a successful launch of the world's most powerful rocket: the Falcon Heavy! This opens the gateways for space tourism, visits to the moon and colonizing Mars. I have a feeling that none of us will be able to comprehend the world we will be living in just 30 years from now. Automated electric cars, people on Mars, toilets that tell us if we have cancer 20 years before we get sick, real artificial intelligence and much more. Well, for now we have a sports car floating silently in space. Elon Musk made sure the Falcon Heavy carried a Tesla Roadster with it along with a mannequin in a spacesuit! It’s currently on its way to Mars and then the asteroid belt :)
I’m going to round this blog up with my answer to Rita who asked:
“I would really like to know; how did it all start? From you got this, let's call it extraordinary, idea, and until it became reality, what preparations and planning did you do?”
- Rita Elin Fjeldbo
I guess I should tell you a little about what I’ve done prior to the Saga. I am fortunate to have gained plenty of varied experiences both professionally and in life. I believe in loyalty and hard work which has helped me reach many goals. "Life" is a subject to be discussed by just about anyone. However most would agree that we are all responsible for the footprints we plant and our actions determine what will happen next. In my personal life I had already achieved the following goals:
- summited Mt. Kilimanjaro
- trekked up to Everest Base Camp
- completed 3 full marathons
- paddled 300km around an island on a solo kayak trip
- motor biked 13,000km over 4 months in Asia
- motor biked from California to Panama City, 9 countries, 31 days
Before the Saga began I had already been to 54 countries. Countries which I will visit again throughout the Saga. I have work experience from countries and regions such as Libya, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Greenland and the Arctic Circle which has all helped develop my personal skills and prepared for various challenges. It was back in early 2013 when I returned to Denmark after completing a logistical project that my father sent me an email with a link to an article about how Graham Hughes (https://www.theodysseyexpedition.com/) had become the first person to visit every country without flying. I was intrigued!! I grew up feeling like everything has already been done. I often felt like I was born too late. In 1520 the first circumnavigation of the Earth was completed. By 1909 we reached the North Pole. The South Pole was conquered in 1911. The summit of Mount Everest was reached in 1953. Back in 2013 I was reading about Graham Hughes and I was kicking myself for not thinking of it myself!! I just thought that someone had already achieved it. Once I learned that Graham had interrupted his project to fly home, fly on vacation and fly to get visas I saw the game as open again! A flightless journey to every country in the world must be exactly that. By Graham’s definition he has been to every country in the world without flying. I disagree and have my own definition which includes no flights. Sounds logical but it’s a debate with two camps.
Anyway, I began toying with the idea. Could I pull it off? Was I too old? Did I have the necessary qualifications? Was I willing to offer several years of my life? “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy...” (quote from Inception). The idea grew and grew and I began planning. It took about 10 months. Less serious in the beginning and very professionally towards the end. I turned down a few projects back then. When I turned down a really lucrative project in South America I knew I was completely onboard with the Saga. Meanwhile I worked night shifts at a homeless shelter in Copenhagen. It wasn’t my intention but it developed my skills for coping with and understanding a variety of people I might ordinarily be afraid of. I bought a map and two markers. A red and a blue marker. One to see Graham’s route and one as I planned my own. Ross Offshore (http://www.rossoffshore.no/) came onboard as the financial sponsor and a few other partners followed. I eventually reached out to the Danish Red Cross to see if they wanted to take part. The Red Cross could have the project for free.
Back in 2013 when the Saga began it was a different project. I didn’t care much about countries, people or the Red Cross. That quickly changed. As I saw how poorly countries around the world were represented through cliches and negative media I began to take up the fight. Every country deserves the right to be the best country in the world and even the “worst” country is the best country to someone! Also as I sat down with the Red Cross in more and more countries the humanitarian efforts began to resonate deeper within me. Today I’ve forgotten more about the Red Cross than most will ever learn ;) So the Saga changed. I raced through most of Europe clocking at least 24 hours in each nation before moving on. Fewer pictures, less devotion to the Red Cross and in reality far less purpose. I’d say that all began changing within the first three weeks of traveling when it became clear that ‘a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before’ was far more than a motto. And that’s how it all started...
101 on selfies: check your teeth for chocolate first! ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Soonish.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga