While I wait for COVID-19 to release its grip | HKG day 137
Day 2,438 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 Hong Kong
Family and friends, lives that matter, the Danish Red Cross, Seamen, Immigration, the God of Thunder, the green Hong Kong and keeping it all together
The Saga began on October 10th 2013 at 10:10am. There were only three of us present. My father was there, my childhood friend was there and I was there. Nobody from the Danish Red Cross was there. A camera crew from TV2 Syd had been there shortly before but had to leave for another engagement. So they quickly filmed my departure a little ahead of time with my father and childhood friend making a fake countdown from ten. At 10:10am they made the real countdown for me and I was off. The Saga has since enjoyed a lot of attention from media and many of you may have found your way here due to that. I have rarely read an article or seen a report on the Saga which was 100% accurate. And I suppose 100% accuracy would be hard to get. In a great 6.5 minute report, which HK Apple Daily recently delivered, there was also a small mistake. Within the graphical footage an arrow points out on a map for the viewer’s, that I am in Hong Kong, and then connects Hong Kong with Peru as my next destination. Small error within a 6.5 minute footage. Peru…Palau. They both begin with a 'P'. Also not long ago I read a formidable article about the Saga in which I was 35 years old when leaving Denmark. I was actually 34 but that is not important. However these mistakes naturally make me wonder about all the other information we receive from around the world and how accurate it may be?
I think I liked Hong Kong better when the streets were empty. This queue!! But I have to say that public transportation in Hong Kong is generally really good.
I am unable to leave Hong Kong as per now. The borders remain closed. Even the border to Macau (pop. 632,000) remains closed and I have long speculated that it would be the very first border to open around here. Hong Kong (pop. 7.5 mill) has had 1,109 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and there have been four deaths. Macau has had 45 confirmed cases and no deaths. The world has had 7.41 million confirmed cases and 418,000 deaths. To my great surprise I recently learned about the 1968 pandemic? I was chatting with my friend Kendra (USA) whom I met in Iceland back in 2014. Kendra now works for the NY Times and in a conversation I repeated what I had already heard so many times before: “well, no one alive has ever seen anything like this before”. Kendra quickly replied that it wasn’t true and referred to 1968. A quick internet search later and I was wiser! The 1968 flu pandemic killed an estimated 2 million people between 1968 and 1969. It was also known as the Hong Kong Flu so you would have thought I had heard about it before? It is unknown if the outbreak began in Hong Kong or in Mainland China but it saw its way around the world: Vietnam, Singapore, India, Philippines, Australia, Europe, USA, Japan, Africa and South America. In Berlin, the excessive number of deaths led to corpses being stored in subway tunnels, and in West Germany, garbage collectors had to bury the dead due to insufficient undertakers. How come this hasn’t played a larger role within the reporting of COVID-19? 2 million dead by 1969 is to be seen in a context where we were only 3.6 billion people on earth. We are now pushing 8 billion! On a secondary note I’ll just add that the 1957 Asian Flu killed at least 1 million people worldwide. We were less than 3 billion people on earth back then.
Ole and his family recently left Hong Kong to go and start a new life in Singapore. I had the pleasure of Ole's company many times and the last time I saw him he handed me some Danish leverpostej. You would have to be Danish to understand how much that means to me :)
It is hard to keep up with information on COVID-19. For me personally because I am tired about it and don’t want to hear anything else than that someone has invented a cure or that it is finally over. The World Health Organization (WHO) has now changed its advice on face masks, saying they should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The center for Disease Control (CDC) have been recommending the use of face masks since early April. So while many of us may have our opinions on face masks I am inclined to follow the lead of the CDC and WHO. The recommendation is for people to wear a "fabric mask - that is, a non-medical mask". And fabric masks should as per guidelines consist of at least three layers of different material in order to be effective. Face masks will not make us bulletproof though. WHO stresses that face masks are just one of a range of tools that could be used to reduce the risk of transmission - and that they should not give people a false sense of protection. Meanwhile I was listening to a podcast with Joe Rogan in which he mused that we have been bombarded with information on hand wash, social distancing, face masks etc…but generally we are not as frequently being told to look out for our immune system (enough sleep, healthy diet, exercise etc). There is plenty to wonder about these days…
I still have the honor of frequenting the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) as much as possible. You can read today's news at the urinal and/or look at a photo from the urinal at the FCC Sutherland House in 1980.
I follow global news loosely. I need to be on top of local news and as mentioned in last weeks entry I am well aware of the conflict between some Hongkongers and Beijing. Locally it is known in colors where Hong Kong is represented in yellow and Beijing is blue. The level of someone’s political activity can then be compared as “very blue” or “very yellow”. I receive several requests online from people wanting me to take a stance and support one or the other side: choose yellow or blue. However as I have already stated I wish to remain neutral. I am just a guest and it is not my place to become politically involved. If you mix yellow and blue then you get green. I am green ;) Internationally the tragic news of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, on May 25th 2020 started demonstrations around the world. Most protest were peaceful and constructive and the ones which were not made headlines. There is nothing new about that approach from media. Even in tiny little Denmark more than 15,000 people took to the streets to protest racism. I am fairly easygoing and I wouldn’t say that there are many things that I hate. However I absolutely detest racism and think it is the motherload of stupidity!! Being north European racism hasn’t been a large part of life however within the Saga I have so definitely felt the burning pain of being judged based on the color of my skin. And few social interactions get more stupid than just that! The genetic similarity between a man and a woman is 99.9%. Between two men it is even more. So while we have nearly everything in common some morons still manage to focus on that impossibly small difference and make it relevant? I’m among the very few people who can say I’ve been to every country in Africa and over and over again I had to point out that there was no difference between the color of my shadow and the person next to me. Likewise we all bleed blood and you won’t notice a difference without a microscope. In relation to blood I always think back on when we took the Saga to Israel and Palestine. The Red Cross there told me that when people need blood they never question who it comes from.
Before I left Denmark the Danish Red Cross made me a goodwill ambassador and as such we have made history by uniting the movement symbolically across 189 countries. I have met with more Secretary Generals in their home country than I can account for. I have met with thousands of volunteers and staff. I have written more than a hundred unique ‘always present stories’ after conducting more than a hundred interviews at the Red Cross, Red Crescent or Red Crystal. As a result I have hundreds of RC contacts in my address book and a unique knowledge about the movement. The movement is an incredible thing which in spite of its faults turns over some spectacular results and makes an enormous difference to the quality of life here on earth. It has been a pain to get in touch with the movement in most countries as the Saga has never been properly announced globally. It has also never been taken seriously by the Danish Red Cross. The Danish Red Cross is a strong part of the movement and carries out invaluable work within the humanitarian sector. I am generally in awe over the dedication of most staff and volunteers I have been in touch with. Unfortunately I cannot say the same regarding the communication department of the Danish Red Cross who in my humble opinion dropped the ball many years ago. I find it rather peculiar that they are not using my efforts for anything visible? The Danish Red Cross was undeniably generous in lending their good name to me as I departed Denmark in 2013. It is therefore rather perplexing to see them wasting this project on its sixth year? They seemingly do not care the slightest for my well being or safety. It may surprise you to learn that I have not heard from the head office in Copenhagen this year. Nothing at all. They have never in all these years reached out to hear how I feel. The last post they created about Once Upon A Saga across their social media was more than five years ago. They take no part in the logistics or finances of the Saga. However they did give me the honor of traveling as goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross. Lately they have been unwilling to reply to any of my tweets (three) in spite of them favoring Twitter heavily and furthermore promoting the Danish Red Cross as #altidtilstede (#alwayspresent). And before any of my friends (whom I know are reading this) text me that I am being too harsh on the Red Cross…I will just once more stress that the Danish Red Cross and the movement in general is doing a formidable job. The Danish Red Cross communication department less so in my opinion. They have virtually offered no other support than their name and as a result we have through the Saga managed to promote and advance the visibility of the movement for 6.5 years. This work is literally invisible within the Danish Red Cross. It is an enigma? Click here to see the Saga’s Red Cross page.
137 days is no small thing. I have good and bad days. So do you I’m sure, but then again you haven’t been away from your home country, family and friends for almost seven years…or have you? I was supposed to be in Hong Kong for transit only and the next ship was intended to take us to Palau after only four days. How long would you wait for something? For anything? I really miss my family and friends and wish that I could be with them. I am not homesick. I am tired. I am tired of the stress which is a part of achieving this highly ambitious goal. I am tired of being locked into the workload which accompanies this all. I am tired of being limited to small finances, a bag full of clothes and a bed which is not mine. I do believe that it speaks to my character that we have been able to turn all of this waiting into something positive and constructive. Motivational speaking engagements, collaborations with schools and organizations, physical accomplishments, new friendships, global interest and interviews, social media growth, exploring nature and a large variety of other things. With the four ultra-distance hikes accomplished I have been searching for a new physical goal to distract me. People have jokingly been suggesting the HK4TUC (Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge). That would be completing all four ultra-distance trails in one go! A total of 298 km (185 mi) distance and 14,500 m (47,572 ft) elevation, to be completed solo and self-supported within 60 hours!! If you complete within 60 hours then you are a finisher. Within 72 hours you are registered as a survivor. Beyond 72 hours you are nothing. That is a good challenge for anyone who wants to train for several years with no social life. My new challenge is of a different character: I want to be able to say I have been on top of Hong Kong’s twenty highest mountains. For no other reason than that.
Hanging out with Pavel, Leon and Brett along with four of Leon's Czech friends! :)
Poul and I have met up several times now. I lost count. It is always good :)
I have made some really good contacts here in Hong Kong. My hosts are both Maersk employees and have forty years of combined company experience. I am in touch with Tim Huxley, Bjorn Hojgaard and Thomas Soderberg who have offered their support and are all highly influential within the shipping industry. And naturally the saga continues to enjoy support from Pacific International Lines (PIL) and Swire Shipping / China Navigational Company whom I speak to regularly. Good people all around and through combined efforts we will get the Saga back on the move whenever it becomes possible. All we need is for COVID-19 to release the world so we can go back to a sense of normal. While I fully understand people’s passion in relation to recent protest against racism I’m not sure it was very helpful that so many people ignored the pandemic and gathered in large groups. A friend of mine who is well read in relation to the latest from epidemiologists and virologists told me that all the scientist expect a second wave to hit the world hard. Possibly much harder than what we have seen so far. People gathering in large groups have just been fuel on the pandemic fire. Meanwhile governments and corporations are pushing to open the world up again. Also not news. When did politicians and corporations last listen to the warnings of scientists? And apparently the global supply chain may collapse if we do not find a way to move seamen to and from commercial ships. Around 80% of world trade by volume is carried on vessels. Many seafarers are currently struggling to obtain entry or exit visas and the suspension of flights is not helping either. Those affected make up more than a fifth of the 1.8 million seafarers that crew the world’s 96,000 commercial vessels. Do we know what the near future holds in store for us? Not the slightest. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I could be in Hong Kong for months to come.
When it rains!! We had more than 200 milometers one night accompanied by 14,085 strokes of lightning!! The second highest amount of lightning on record!!
I am grateful to Hong Kong immigration whom I find professional and highly efficient. So far I am secured up until July 11th 2020 and I feel like immigration would support the Saga if an extension is needed beyond that date. I like Hong Kong a lot and as per usual the longer I stay anywhere, the closer it grows to my heart. The combination between beaches, city life and green mountains within a close proximity is quite unique. Hong Kong is also a very safe place to be. Not just from COVID-19 but in general. Locals look perplexed when I say Hongkongers are kind and friendly. That is not their own view of themselves. However I have been treated with a great deal of kindness and find people polite and nice. Hongkongers have a reputation for being highly competitive and fast to get angry – yet also fast to calm down again. I have experience very little of that and hardly have any competition. If you have never been to Hong Kong then I would certainly recommend to add it to your bucket list. Come for the hiking, come for the shopping, come for the food, come for the people, come for the history or come for the culture. It’s a little big place. In 137 days I still have much to see and learn.
I'm grateful to Ophelia for all her help and support with the "new" uniform. So here I am brushing my teeth and flashing our financial partners + my country ;)
This entry turned out quite well! At least I’m happy with it. And it didn’t go to long. Lots of information for you and I’m sure there was plenty you didn’t know. I’m not at the brink of giving up but keep in mind that a smile doesn’t always equal happiness. I am sometimes struggling to keep it together and I severely need a break. I may take one soon. Lately I have been having a lot of video calls with friends and family. I have so many wonderful people in my life. Some of them are very close. In fact I am living in a house full of wonderful people. 137 days is a good amount of time to get to know someone. The Savagar’s are truly kind and decent people. The parents have a good grip on parenthood and I will someday try to model my own family on how they handle things. The boys are like day and night but equally wonderful. It will be a sad but joyous day when I step on board a ship and leave Hong Kong. For now I praise myself lucky that I got stuck like this.
After my latest hike this appeared? Yeah...I also don't know what it is.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - more tired than last week.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga