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
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…
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!!!
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!
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.
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.
In the prison yard with Brett. Great place. Brett said he'd never seen it that empty before.
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.
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 ;)
I have enormous hope for the future!! :)
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - under pressure for 6.5 years without quitting.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga