In prison with the key in hand (Hong Kong day 178)
Day 2,479 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 which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
We all try. Succeeding just isn’t guaranteed. Try harder.
My goodness there is much I could say. I could pour out my heart. I could illustrate the magnificence of Hong Kong. I could easily tell something motivating or inspiring. I Could just ramble. What will I write this time? Maybe something about the DKK 21,129.00 (USD 3,250.00) we collected for the Red Cross…
If you missed last week’s entry then you are in luck. Just tap the link. And yeah, so in a (by now) classical “the Saga is not easy to pull off” rant I’m somehow still here. Remember that time I quit the project because it got too hard and I went home? No?! Well neither do I because it never happened. And I suppose that is worth being proud about. No matter how tough it ever got I never packed up and ran away. Naturally I had the strength to stay strong due to the influence of thousands of amazing people along my way. I have many great Hong Kong stories but the greatest must be the Savagar family that took me in and hosted me for five months!! What a remarkable family. And I miss them. We got close over the course of five months but saying farewell is and has always been a huge part of the Saga. Tens of thousands of hellos and just as many farewells. Fun? Not so much. Some I will see again someday. Some I probably won’t. I’m sure people have no idea how much I think about them. This big melon on top of my shoulders is full of memories with people from all over the world and these memories pop up randomly. I think a lot about people I have met, what they have said and what I have learned. And thanks to ‘oh so many’ people the Saga has become a highly successful project. There isn’t a single border we have not crossed, not a single stamp we did not get, not a ship we did not find and no checkpoint we did not pass. 194 countries without flying and still counting…although stuck without a projected date for release.
The beauty of nature can only be understated.
Yes…Hong Kong is an absolutely amazing host! Just today I walked past a banana plant with low hanging bananas. I bet most of you had no idea that bananas grow in Hong Kong? Well, Hong Kong is home to many surprises. I recently had a skype call with my father and he told me about his visit to Hong Kong in 1982. Just imagine that! 38 years ago! That would have been a completely different Hong Kong. No Facebook, no Instagram, no Google, no Lonely Planet guidebook (almost true), no World Wide Web, no computer viruses, no smartphones and no ‘many other things’. My father came for a business meeting and told me a bit about that. But then he asked me if I had been to the “James Bond bar”? A quick google search later and I was aware that Hong Kong once had a bar called ‘Bottoms up’, which featured in the 1974 James Bond film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. My father put on a cheeky smile. He had been there and there was something particular about the place. Alas…his innocent son will “never know” as the final version of ‘Bottoms up’ closed down in 2009.
“Why is Hong Kong an amazing host Thor?” I would simply answer: opportunity. Networking opportunities seem inexhaustible. My goodness the amount of people I have met here and the doors which have opened. I’m particularly found of the Hong Kong Tourism Board whom I have been collaborating with for a while. They are really nice people and have been greatly beneficiary to the Saga. Overall, I think the Saga’s social media has grown with more then ten thousand people while we have been stuck in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a big-business kind of place and I haven’t dived much into that but I’m sure opportunities are there. I have, as you know, been very invested in the 75% of Hong Kong which is nature. All the hiking, trekking, trail running etc. Good stuff. It feels comforting to be out there under a green canopy surrounded by the sounds of nature and nothing else. Well…the occasional airplane does cross the sky but it is so rare that the ones which fly are noticeable. They mostly carry cargo these days. When the Saga eventually lifts anchor and sets sail again there will be much to say farewell to here. I have walked the streets, tasted the fruits and met many, many new faces. I have made good friends too.
I finally made it to Lamma Island on a day-trip with some very friendly Danish Vikings!
Will we be setting sail anytime soon? I really don’t know. I have been trying to leave for 178 days and we are still here. However, Australia may grant me permission to enter if they find my reasons compelling. One could hope that they would. I have been in touch with Bjorn Hojgaard from Anglo-Eastern and they are certainly doing their outmost to find me suitable passage. Let’s see where it leads. In case I’m still in Hong Kong by August 3rd I’ll be participating in THE ULTIMATE STEP CHALLENGE! Yes indeed! And this time we are going BIG! It is expected that the winner will take more than 500,000 steps within a single week so it will be quite the spectacle! It will all play out across Once Upon A Saga media on a day to day basis. We are again hoping to raise lots of funds for the Red Cross which I find to be a noble cause. I can tell you about Nigerian Red Cross volunteers who were digging in rubble with their bare hands until they bled…and then continued. This was after a bomb attack on a building and they were the first responders. There are devoted EMS (Emergence Medical Service) employees at the Lebanese Red Cross who with a straight face have told their family that the job comes first and that family comes second. Because it must! Young teenagers with the Syrian Red Crescent drove ambulances in and out of conflict zones without hesitation. Teenagers! And in spite of running low on supplies they did it anyway. Why do I know such things? Because I have met these people and have looked deep into their eyes with bewilderment and awe. We will never reach the last of my Red Cross stories because they have been carefully collected by personally visiting the movement across 189 countries (which is historically unparalleled). Just trust me when I say donating is the right thing to do. This new charity step challenge will specifically go to fund the support of the world’s most vulnerable people. And while less people are suffering year for year, we still have a long way to go.
This challenge will be properly announced on Monday July 27th!
“So, what about the last step challenge?” It went well! Thank you so much for your kindness and contributions. We reached a total of DKK 21,129.00 (USD 3,250.00) which were transferred to the Danish Red Cross last Monday. That is equivalent to 160 days in the Saga’s budget to put things into perspective. While the world is a tragically corrupt place the Saga simply isn’t. I haven’t paid out a single bribe anywhere in the world and I can guarantee you that every coin went uncut to the Danish Red Cross (I even added a little myself). The Danish Red Cross is a good place to send the money as they are actively involved across roughly 45 countries in the world. You may also want to consider that any Red Cross or Red Crescent is a mirror of the country it stems from. If you, as an example, generalize Germans as precise, hardworking, efficient people then you’re almost guaranteed to find that the German Red Cross is also precise, hardworking and efficient. They certainly are in my experience! Denmark consistently ranks as the least corrupt country in the world and therefore it is safe to assume that the Danish Red Cross is among the least corrupt National Societies in the world. Which better place to send the money and expect great results? The people who donated to the last step challenge were: Jakob, Thomas, Poul S, Poul K, Kenneth, Louise, Mette, Kathrine T, Laila, Elizabeth, Siv, Morten, Charlotte, Naja, Karin, Lisbeth, Hanne, Elin, Angela, Bo, Thorbjorn, Anne-Mette, Le, Roar, Annika, Birthe, Noenne, Eija, Ulla, Susanne, Rasmus, Kathrine M, Brett, Robin and Margaretha. Thank you once more! The breakdown is: DKK 17,533.00 (USD 2,724.00) came from the five (Jakob, Thomas, Poul S (Jointak Group Limited), Poul K and Kenneth) who pledged an amount per step. DKK 423.00 (USD 65.00) came from PayPal donations and DKK 3,173.00 (USD 493.00) came from MobilePay. Amazingly the Danish Red Cross was so ecstatically grateful that they posted the results all over their social media in pride over their accomplished Goodwill Ambassador and everyone who joined. Just kidding…they did no such thing. But they did email me a heartfelt message thanking us all for our efforts. Kidding again…they didn’t do that either. But they did continue to ignore me as they have so excellently done throughout the entire year. Not kidding. I wonder what is up with that? Maybe I’m not posting enough photos of crying children? One can only wonder. One thing is for sure: the Danish Red Cross has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity when it comes to the Saga. Why break that tradition…
This is the image that meets you when you visit the Danish Red Cross. The text reads: "Hunger is killing in Yemen!" It's like screaming: "It is your fault! Feel guilty!!" I guess we see the world in different ways.
Ups!!…I cannot write that about the Red Cross and then leave you hanging. I genuinely think the Red Cross is a blessing to out planet and the amount of humanitarian work carried out by some 13 million volunteers globally on a daily basis can never be fully measured. It is IMPACTFUL! These days the movement is naturally also actively dealing with COVID-19 in a variety of different ways. No – my issues with the Danish Red Cross are with elements of the administration and how they have been treating me throughout the years. Nine countries from now they will be receiving a highly accomplished Goodwill Ambassador in Denmark and it will be interesting to see if they feel they have nurtured their investment to a degree where they in good conscience can pluck its fruits. The one good thing I can always say about the Danish Red Cross is that they invested in the Saga before it even existed. Oh yeah…and they do some mighty fine humanitarian work too.
Proof of transfer to the Danish Red Cross.
Do I feel alright? Am I doing well? Well…that depends on where you want to focus? I’m in Hong Kong and that is pretty great as far as places go these days. I’m healthy, I’ve got friends, I’ve got food, I have things to do etc. I am however also stuck and mentally tortured by not knowing when I will be able to go home. A home which I have not seen for nearly seven years. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I am essentially in a prison cell while holding the key to the door. Using the key has real consequences but I am free to do so anytime I would like. The airport is right there! However, the Saga and everything we have worked towards for years would immediately be thrown away. My situation is not unparalleled to that of the many seafarers who are stuck at sea. Sure, I haven’t seen home since 2013 but I can climb a mountain. Sure, they have only been stuck for months but all they have is the ship and each other. Kate Whitehead nailed it in this article: ‘Prisoners at sea’: ‘stuck on board cargo ships, crews find their mental well-being under threat’, which she wrote for the South China Morning Post. It was published in early May but it is as relevant as ever today. If the supply chain breaks then the world will truly suffer. We need immediate solutions for travel during COVID-19.
We all have bad days. Some just feel it worse than others.
Another thing I have mentioned before which deserves repeating is that waiting it out in Hong Kong is not a long-term sustainable solution. We are closing in on six months now and I will not wait forever. Besides the kind Hong Kong Immigration may not extend my visa indefinitely. I once wrote that I feel like I am in a boat with no oars drifting down a river towards a waterfall. I do not know how far ahead the waterfall is but once I go over the edge it is over. I truly do not know if I am willing to give this a few more months or a few more years. I do however know that the edge of the waterfall is somewhere out there.
This is where I have been living since the beginning of July. The apartment belongs to Thomas who lives nearby. I often have dinner with him and his children (Natali and Luis). Really goodhearted people.
I will leave you on a positive note. My fiancée and I are doing well and continue to grow stronger in spite of the distance. I was hoping that we could find a way to bring her to Hong Kong but it has recently become much harder with the new cases. It has become a monster of a long-distance relationship but we are managing it. This week I have also had video calls with both my sisters who are dear to my heart. Amazing times we live in when we can connect as such by the click of a button. And I’m also all set up to move out of this apartment and into a new one. A remarkable apartment as it happens! There is nothing wrong with the one I am currently staying in throughout all of July. It is in fact a really nice apartment but it has been rented out to someone starting August 1st. The Danish Seafarers priest however just left Hong Kong and that apartment is now empty until a new priest is found and non-residents once gain can fly into Hong Kong. So, I will be taking over for a while. Not as priest…but as tenant ;)
I do like my own cooking! :)
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - perception is reality
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga