A bad situation under good conditions (still in Hong Kong)
Day 2,333 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).
Fear travels much faster than common sense
I obtain that most people anywhere on this planet are good and well meaning. And I am always ready to defend that people are just people. Unfortunately I am in great fear that most people, while kind, peaceful and helpful…simply aren’t very smart.
Hong Kong Feb. 2020.
Can somebody please explain the widespread idiocy we are currently observing in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak? You would think that people would have better things to talk about and that the media would have better things to report on. Yet if you were in the surgical mask selling business then your smile would likely run from one ear to the other. I tried to rationalize an argument by looking at the accumulated waste caused by the amount of people unnecessary wearing masks! So I found out that your standard surgical mask weighs between 1-5 grams and figured that I’d go with 2.5 grams for my calculation. Then I said to myself that 5 million people of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population probably use a mask every day. The total weight of “mask waste” would therefore be 12.5 tons per day or roughly the weight of two African elephants. It seems to be a silly amount of waste as we could avoid it by being sensible. However it does not appear to be all that much waste in the big picture.
Hong Kong...life continues.
On February 21st a joint statement by IMO (International Maritime Organization) and WHO (World Health Organization) came out. I’ve read it a few times and you can read it too by clicking HERE. It is well written in an articulate language and takes up the space of about two pages. My much shorter summery of the statement is as follows: GET A GRIP PEOPLE!!! WE NEVER TOLD YOU TO DELAY VESSELS OR THAT THE MOVEMENT OF PERSONEL TO OR FROM THE SHIPS SHOULD BE RESTICTED!! YOU ARE MAKING STUFF UP!!!
Who would have thought you could travel over land and sea through 194 countries to end up playing UNO while stuck in Hong Kong due to a virus outbreak?
Well…you can read it for yourself and see if you agree with my summery. I’m still stuck in Hong Kong and the situation relating to progress has in fact gotten worse since last week. Am I suffering? No not at all…well mentally I’m going out of my mind. However I’m sleeping in a quiet room, in a clean bed and I’m hosted by what must be one of our planets kindest families? I have been living with the Savagar’s for a month now. I have my own bathroom/toilet, I dine with the family on most nights and the family has long ago won their way to a place within my heart. Schools remain closed until April 20th at this point. Companies are carefully opening up but many leave the option open for parent to work from home where possible. Many are excited to get back to work! Living quarters in Hong Kong are often small and the joy of staying closely together in a confined space 24/7 has lost its charm for many. Cabin fever set in long ago and it seems that record many people have taken to hiking. Hong Kong is 75% nature so the hiking trails are plentiful. Leisure activities such as sail sports and horseback riding have remained open throughout. Some tennis courts have been closed while others remained open. Business has been slow for restaurants and factories have been shut down. The air has in return cleared up. There has perhaps never been a better time for hiking in Hong Kong?
Have you ever heard about YPO (formerly Young Presidents' Organization)? It is a global leadership community of chief executives. YPO was founded in New York back in 1950 and today counts more than 28,000 business leaders. It was Michael and Leon from one of YPO’s three HKG chapters that reached out to hear if I’d join their hike last Saturday. They wanted me to speak on the topic of perseverance. As it happens I know a thing or two about the subject and was happy to join. It was a great day in exquisite company hiking through some of Hong Kong’s impressive nature. What some of those business leaders have accomplished was jaw dropping impressive. I’ve come across YPO a few times before. Most recently (September 2018) in Palestine when I met some kind businessmen including a man building A CITY!! That introduction was initially made by my friend Steve Felder who has been supporting the Saga since we first met back in 2016. Steve who works at Maersk is himself a proud YPO member. I originally thought it was through Steve that Michael and Leon had heard about me but it was in fact through the Danish Chamber of Commerce (DCC), which arranged for the talk I did at the Danish seaman’s church on February 3rd. So much has happened since the Saga reached Hong Kong on January 28th – it is almost ridiculous.
Thank you all!! I enjoyed all the conversations, the scenery and sharing the Saga with you all.
The Novel (new) Coronavirus continues to be an overshadowing topic of conversation. I take part in it too. My role in all conversations on the topic has been to limit fear mongering and in spreading factual information. Isn’t it a bit funny how we all learn certain names for things during certain times of our lives? Coronaviruses were first described in detail back in the 1960s. Yet it has only been this year that most people have uttered the word across their lips. I bet that very few people had ever heard about Wuhan City (which is home to 11 million beating hearts) prior to its repeated mention in the media during the first months of this year. The same goes for Hubei province which is one of China’s more than twenty provinces. I challenge you to name five Chinese provinces ;) Well here’s another word for you: comorbidity. I picked up on that word after listening to Dr. David Heymann speak on the subject of COVID-19. Dr. Heymann is a respected and well decorated epidemiologists so I believe we can trust him to be a credible source. He said that “this looks like a very mild disease, like a common cold, in the majority of people”. THAT should be the story the journalist report on. Unfortunately that is not fear based. And these days most journalist appear to create fear based journalism. Health workers are of a greater risk to the virus than the average man and woman. Most people have an immune defence which would be able to fight off a virus attack from COVID-19. However health workers are in some cases exposed to the virus again and again which can eventually overpower their immune defence. The elderly and those with comorbidity are also at higher risk and therefore the ones we should be focussing on. Comorbidity means that you have a health condition prior to getting infected by the virus. As such you may be diabetic, have a Cardiovascular disease or a Chronic respiratory disease which complicates your situation if you are infected with the virus. That is called comorbidity. You are however VERY unlikely to get COVID-19 and VERY likely to survive it.
I suddenly realized that all the information I have been sharing about the COVID-19 outbreak in the past blogs is useless if people don’t even know how the virus spreads. And every time I ride the metro and look at all those mask covered faces I get reminded that people most definitely do not know how it spreads. So let’s take a moment to learn something about that. Can you get COVID-19 by standing next to someone who is infected? No you can’t. Not unless it is transferred to you through a bodily fluid. If you are kissing someone with COVID-19 then there is a risk. If someone infected coughs on you or sneezes on you then there is a risk. If an infected person picks their nose and shakes your hand…and you afterwards lick your hand, pick your teeth with your finger, scratch your eye etc…then you are at risk. That is why washing your hands is so important. Does the virus spread from people who are infected before they show any symptoms? Well, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms…however people who are not showing symptoms do not have runny noses and are not coughing or sneezing…SO CALM DOWN!! ;) The virus is for the most part spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. I frequently travel with Hong Kong’s fabulous buses and metros (MRT) and have NOT ONCE experienced anyone sneeze or cough publically. However I had to sneeze while on the MRT and did my best to suppress it but it was futile. I blasted out a massive “ATCHOO!!!” The entire train jumped :)
I do not wear a mask when in the MRT. I also do not wear a parachute, a helmet, a bullet proof vest or safety shoes ;)
Keep in mind I am not a health professional and while I am associated with the Red Cross I am expressing my own thoughts when I say: the way people are handling the COVID-19 situation seem ridiculous!!! IT IS NOT A BIG DEAL! I’m fed up with the fear mongering, the misinformation, the negative speculation, the doomsday scenarios, the click bait and certainly the very fact that I am stuck in Hong Kong because of it!! At this point I halfway wish that I would get infected so that I could run a day by day video report on how little a deal this outbreak in reality is. Just wash your hands frequently with soap and cover your mouth/nose when sneezing/coughing – and get on with your life! Sure it is spreading to other countries and sure people are dying. However reporting on the few deaths we have confirmed in the past few months only appears to be of interest because people have no idea how many people die from other stuff each day. The seasonal flu kills more than 300,000 people each year globally. Malaria kills more than 400,000 people annually. Millions die each year due to unsafe drinking water. Millions! The insane thing about that is that it is preventable!! Shout out to Danish Charlie from Walking for Water and also to all the people within the Red Cross and Red Crescent which I have met over the years, who have dedicated their time to WATSAN (water and sanitation) and WASH (water, sanitation and health) projects around the world. COVID-19? Well…it is no Spanish Flu. The fear has been spreading a lot faster than the virus and it is doing real damage to people’s lives. To revive the economy Hong Kong’s government is handing out HKD 10,000.00 to every permanent resident (7 years) of above 18 years of age. Tens of thousands of employees across Hong Kong have been asked to take time off without pay during the virus outbreak. That is arguably worse than lying in bed with the flu.
Young people night fishing in Sai Kung.
Let’s move on from the virus talk because I’ve really got nothing else to say about it. And you must be well aware at this point that I am not at all concerned. I am however concerned about the Saga. Much is good so let’s start with that. My hosts are fantastic!! I cannot praise the Savagar’s enough! If they were to kick me out of their home tomorrow then I would still be eternally indebted to them. In fact I might need to look into if some Himalayan Sherpa’s would be willing to sing songs about the Savagar’s until the end of time. Cassie is from Dalian in China and James is from York in England. They are both well-travelled people and have many kind words to share when it comes to my homeland of Denmark where they have both lived. York was actually a Viking city for several decades so perhaps a little Viking blood runs within James’ veins. Denmark is on a side note quite well represented in Hong Kong. Apart from the massive Maersk engagement (Danish shipping company) I have noticed lots of Arla Foods (dairy) products and plenty of Danish Butter Cookies from Kjeldsens. Cassie and James’ youngest son (Harry) was learning about Vikings through his online schooling and Poul whom I met with last week invited me for lunch at the same Danish restaurant (the Ugly Duckling) where I first met with Svend earlier this month. This February has 29 days so it is a long month as far as February’s go. James asked me to bring back some pork loin from the restaurant. Both Cassie and James speak highly of Danish food. Yup…I’m well taken care of in Hong Kong. So far so good. The Savagar’s even permitted me to cook for them one night which was the first time in many years that I cooked for an entire family. I rolled out my pasta and meat sauce skills and was scored by each family member on a 1-10 scale with ten being the highest: Harry: 8, Cassie: 9, Edward: 10 and James: 9. I’ve still got it! ;)
Edward getting a head start on my pasta and meat sauce.
Yes – the setting of the Saga’s predicament is good. And as people frequently state: Hong Kong is not the worst place to be stuck. Furthermore the Savagar’s are a nice family to be around. There is plenty of laughter and games. Being stuck with limited options left is however nothing to laugh about. I am not willing to offer unlimited time to complete this project. I have plans which involve family, friends and Denmark. The longer the Saga takes the higher the risk gets that something happens to someone I care about back home. The worst case scenario would then be that I would have to choose between completing the Saga or returning home. I also risk that some joker has been flying under the radar all these years and sweeps in to become the first person to reach every country without flying ahead of me. I would also like to start a family of my own and the biological clock is ticking. I already have friends who needed to get medical assistance or seek out adoption. Going overland through China is as an option currently off the table. There are no borders I would be able to cross overland. In addition to that most shipping companies have announced that they are not willing to take anyone on board who is not essential to the ship. Crew changes are even limited. There are still some options and I have been networking to the extent that I could.
Three others arrived for the showing.
Sometimes I need to escape all of this. The Saga is so immensely all consuming. It has been my life for six years straight and it is still not done. Crazy! When it gets to be too much I search out a bit of escapism. Movies seem to do the trick. I can completely fall into a movie and forget about time and place. As such I found my way to the cinema for the second time while here in Hong Kong. This time I was going to see The Gentlemen. As per my first visit I needed to wear a mask to enter which they kindly gave me before tearing my ticket. I entered a completely empty 7:30pm showing. Business in Hong Kong is suffering. Supermarkets appear busy enough though. Those who believe there is no toilet paper or that there is a shortage of food are fooling themselves. This is Hong Kong! The land of plenty. A trade station for many years. The reason Hong Kong ran out of surgical masks is political if you believe the local drums. I heard someone say that a local manufacturer got to produce them over ordering supplies from overseas. I personally think Hong Kong is amazing. Of course I don’t need to deal with living costs and rental prices. However as a visitor it is a very interesting part of our world and it feels both friendly and safe.
Quite the view of Hong Kong!
Networking, networking, networking…my days have been full lately. If I can’t find the solution to a problem then I look to the people I know. If they can’t find the solution then I need to meet more people. The Saga has always been a people project. I was once stuck in Lebanon as the authorities would not let me leave on a container ship. I thought I had exhausted my options but it turned out that a friend of mine happened to have an ex-general as his uncle. You never know where help is going to come from. Some of the people I meet enjoy their privacy and I respect that. So I will leave out a lot of details. However I am grateful to Michael and Jin for a lovely evening in great company and plenty of delicious food. Thanks for the invitation. You cannot go wrong with a foodie behind the stove.
Ole and I at the laksa place :)
I got to meet up with Ole again who attended my talk at the Danish Seaman’s Church. Ole is great company and wanted to know if I was craving any type of food? Hong Kong has got EVERYTHING. I have actually been craving a solid bowl of laksa and Ole knew just the place! We met up and had a bowl each and it really hit the spot. Laksa is a spicy noodle soup popular with Chinese descendants across Southeast Asia. I got hooked on that stuff back in Malaysia last year. Ole works for Röhlig Logistics which is a large family run freight forwarding company which was established in Germany back in 1852. I too have my roots in freight forwarding so conversation wasn’t a problem…although it rarely seems to be these days.
Discovery Bay. The first beach I've seen in Hong Kong.
Ole dropped me off at pier three from where I took the ferry across to Discovery Bay. They also call it DB and sometimes jokingly refer to it as “dogs and babies”. Discovery Bay is a mostly residential area near Hong Kong city but far enough from the busy buzz for the shoulders to come down and the shorts to come on. I headed there on an invitation from Leon and Lucie whom I met at the YPO hike. I have never seen Leon not smiling. They are both super kind and welcoming people from Czechia (formerly Czech Republic). Leon founded Lasvit in 2007 which is an exceptional glass and crystal manufacturing business. If you want to understand why I wrote exceptional then you only need to watch this short 1 min video of their dragon creation in Saipan: watch video here. We had a really nice evening at Hemingway's before I returned with the ferry and made my way back to Sai Kung. That made three days in a row where I got to bed after 03:00am. Hong Kong is not a big place but it does take some time to get around. And I mostly use public transportation which adds to it. It had however all been worthwhile, as people know people and a new door has opened. Besides…these were all fun people to hang out with.
Returning late to the Savagar's.
It is such a crazy thing that the Saga got stuck in Hong Kong. The odds that this would happen are incredibly small. And when we add to it that Hong Kong was by no means a scheduled visit but simply a place of transit…a fancy bus stop. Simply crazy! A month here. The suffering within this is all mentally. You would have had to have been in my shoes for the past six years to understand why this is hard. Because on the surface it looks wonderful. My clothes smells fresh, my stomach is full, I’m surrounded by kind people, I am safe…just smile and wave. Media has been kind lately, I’m in good health, social media has been growing…just smile and wave. The Saga’s financial partner Ross DK and Geoop (40% of the budget) recently attended the fourth annual geothermal conference at the Danish Parliament. I heard it went well. The potential for geothermal energy in Denmark is huge. Geoop’s vision is to make geothermal energy available as a heat source for society. It is nice with visions. We need them. Thanks to Ross, Geoop and everyone else for believing in the Saga and keeping it afloat.
As such this entry comes to an end. I hope you have learned something. If you are feeling anxious and afraid about a looming pandemic then you are not alone. Many do and it is natural. Hopefully this entry has helped you understand the situation just a little better. I am by no means afraid of the virus and find no reason for anyone else to fear it either. People often fear that which they do not understand or do not know. The same goes for people, culture, religion and more. If you are still not at ease regarding the COVID-19 outbreak then seek out more information from WHO or CDC. Those are reputable sources. Don’t believe all the doomsday nonsense and click bait stories. This is not bad. This is just life on the pale blue dot. We have survived far worse and this too shall pass. Just look at this photo of parents pushing their children at a swing in Sai Kung. People are just people…and life must go on.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Do not fear. Live!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga