Darkest just before dawn? – Hong Kong day 283
Day 2,584 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).
Perspective is a valuable thing
Most of us have more to be thankful for than what we generally acknowledge. Is the key to observe what we already have or to generate more to be grateful for?
Last week’s entry: We need more tolerance – Hong Kong day 276
Reading ‘Endurance’ (Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage) really helped adjust my perspective on things. A hundred years ago those seafarers had to fight for their lives under conditions most of us couldn’t possibly imagine. And they didn’t seem to complain much about it. When they did complain it was often done in a subtle and dignified way. ‘Endurance’ was the name of their ship but it also turned out to be a fitting word for what those twenty-eight men had to go through. Perspective is always a good thing to have. It is strange though – because there will nearly always be someone that has it worse than you. It is doubtful that the mother who lost her son would find comfort in hearing about the mother who lost two children. Pain is pain. When people have nothing more to give then they have nothing more to give. Regardless of people’s individual levels we should always respect that their best is their best. And on that basis, anyone’s best is equal to everyone’s best. I was brought up with the words: “if you have done your best then there is nothing more anyone can demand of you”. I guess the problem is that most people have no idea where their limits lie and therefore claim “their best” or “their limits” have been reached before they actually have. I wonder how many people in my place would have quit and gone to the airport by now? I wonder how many people would last longer than me? 283 days is a long time. Is daybreak on the doorstep?
Unfortunately the Museum of History had already closed for renovation! I thought I had until the end of October (photo from October 30th).
It appears to me that many people think I am hanging out in Hong Kong because I want to rather than because I got stuck during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and haven’t been able to leave since. And once again I must admit that it was a lucky break getting stuck in Hong Kong and not on board a ship or a small island. While the people who think I have a choice in the matter probably aren’t the same people who spend any of their time reading my blogs, I’ll still clarify the situation with a few points:
- Only residents can enter Hong Kong so if I somehow left then I would not be able to return.
- Hong Kong Immigration as well as the Marine Department are not allowing passengers to board container ships due to the present situation.
- It is currently extra difficult getting passage onboard ships as they fear getting the virus onboard.
- Of the remaining nine countries, eight have prohibited entry.
- Palau appears to be open for tourism however not if you have been in Hong Kong, Macau or China within the past fourteen days. (edit Nov. 6th 2020 11:05pm: I received an email confirming that Palau is hermitically closed).
Yup, that’s the situation and it has been like that for a while. I do wonder if I would be able to reach Palau? Let’s say there was a way to do so - would it then be a good idea? It would first of all change the countdown from nine countries to having eight countries left, so that counts as progress. It would also offer some welcome change albeit I believe the change would be short lived. Without a plan for leaving Palau and without the option of returning to Hong Kong it could be a bad choice. I am sure Palau is wonderful but if I was destined to be stuck for another six months would I then prefer Palau over Hong Kong? Unlikely. And furthermore, immigration in Hong Kong has been very forthcoming. It is impossible to say how immigration in Palau would react if I had to extend my visa several times. You know what you have. You do not know what you are going to get.
I love my fiancée. Thanks for the care package! :)
A few days ago, I went to request for yet another extension of my Hong Kong visa. It has so far been a smooth process but I detected some attitude this time. Not surprisingly as Hong Kong Immigration must first and foremost govern Hong Kong’s borders and ensure that nobody overstays. When the Saga reached Hong Kong on January 28th 2020, I was automatically given three months. Since then my visa has been extended every two months by sixty days. The process has always been super easy and top efficient and I have never had to bring any additional paperwork other than my passport. This time the immigration officer questioned why I had been in Hong Kong on a tourist visa since the beginning of the year. He wanted to know if there were no flights back to Denmark. I replied that I’m sure there are flights to Denmark and proceeded to explain that I was nine countries from becoming the first to reach every country completely without flying before I got stuck in Hong Kong. The officer repeated his question regarding flights to Denmark and showed no sympathy. Somewhat surprised about the change in attitude I calmly explained who I was and that I have had the support of Hong Kong Immigration ever since we did the TVB Pearl interview in June. Furthermore, I told him that I also had the support of Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), which the Saga continues to have an ongoing collaboration with throughout our unintended stay. The officer wanted to know if I had any proof of what I was saying? I handed him a business card which the Chief Immigration Officer gave me in June. HKTB has written and signed a support letter but I did not have it along with me. The officer left with the business card and returned minutes later telling me that I cannot continue to extend my tourist visa and that the extensions will become shorter and shorter. He then handed the business card back to me and told me to return ninety-minutes later. When I returned my application had been processes. I was told to pay and soon after received a forty-five-day extension which expires on December 23rd. I find myself in a strange position. I fully understand how Once Upon A Saga is none of their business and that a made-up rule about not flying isn’t their concern especially when there are flights back to Denmark. If I could leave today I would but leaving on an airplane would terminate the project. When/if the time comes to extend my visa once more then I will bring all my paperwork…just like in the “good old days”.
I walked all the way to immigration: 12km (7.5mi). I am finally halfway in the Sydney to Melbourne 1,000km (620mi) in 100 day challenge.
When is a pandemic over? I have been looking into definitions lately and the answer appears to be that the WHO will likely declare the pandemic over, once the infection is mostly contained and rates of transmission drop significantly around the world. Globally most nations are currently in the process of delaying the spread, thus buying scientists more time to develop vaccines and a cure. As we know it is also about ensuring that the healthcare system doesn’t collapse. It is anyone’s guess when the pandemic will be over but I’m thinking it may be around March 2021. Meanwhile I’m hoping for more borders and travel bubbles to open up in early 2021. If I had to go somewhere and risk getting stuck for several months then I would prefer it to be in Fiji, New Zealand, Australia or Sri Lanka as those four countries offer sound logistical connections as well as rich opportunity. Well, one can dream – right?
The US elections are racing as I’m writing this. No matter the outcome, hundreds of millions will be disappointed. It is an important ordeal for the USA but for the rest of the world as well. How that country is lead has a profound impact on the rest of the world as well as our environment. We are going to be okay – right? The Rolling Stones said it: “You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometime. You'll find. You get what you need”. One leader or the other: it is going to be okay. This planet has been hit by asteroids, deadly pandemics and ice ages. We are still here. And while COVID-19 is a virtual nightmare for most of us I have investigated what the positive effect are…because there must surely be some? First and foremost, there have been reports that climate change has slowed down (a bit) as the use of fossils fuels have been cut dramatically. And COVID-19 might also have benefitted the image of female leaders around the world! It seems that some of the best results during the pandemic have been created in countries lead by women while the worst outcomes have all been in countries with male leaders. Another byproduct must surely be that we have discovered how vulnerable we are and one might hope that it would lead to better preparation before a really serious virus breaks loose. I imagine that the general attitude towards healthcare may also have improved globally. For many people the pandemic has also been a time in which family has been brought closer together, which in many cases (one would hope) has generated closer family ties. And finally, I can mention that I have personal experience in observing many people finding great appreciation in the outdoors. Yeah – but overall, it sucks! October 2020 should have been the month in which the Saga would have reached its final country if the pandemic did not get in its way.
Lions Rock Head, Hong Kong. I passed by it on a solo hike (25km distance | 991m elevation gain | 5hrs and 26min)
It feels like a thousand years ago but it was actually earlier this year. When the Saga first reached Hong Kong I almost immediately spoke at the Danish Seamen’s Church for an almost exclusively Danish audience. We aren’t many Danes in Hong Kong but we are some ;) It now feels like the circle is almost complete as I have met nearly everyone from the church council by now and I have even volunteered to assist during this years Christmas Market. The priest (Margith) recently returned to Hong Kong and is currently in quarantine. Frank is the chairman and I have met him on several occasions. Thomas (from the legendary Andersen Clan) is secretary. Anders, whom I recently went hiking with, is treasurer. Then there is Anita, who made me a homecooked meal after our foot massages, and Lene whom I only recently met as well as Kasper whom I have met a few times. They are all volunteers when they can spare the time. Lately Lene and I (mostly Lene) have been putting a lot of effort into clearing the so called ‘Danish Room’ which is located at Mariners Club. The very same Danish Room I spoke at on February 3rd. Imagine that? I spoke there in early February thinking that I would have left Hong Kong a few days later. And now, that I should have returned home victoriously after seven years, I am on my knees cleaning the very same room. “Life is like a box of chocolates…”
The blue building is Mariners Club in Kwai Chung.
Well – if you happen to be in Hong Kong then it is already now possible to order Danish “Christmas products” and see the schedule for Christmas services, the Christmas market, Christmas events etc. It is meant for the Danes so it is all in Danish. But I am sure everyone is welcome. The Danish Seamen’s Church was an initiative which began already in 1867 when the first Danish priest was sent out into the world to service the Danish seafarers. The earliest destinations were Hull, Newcastle and London in England, Hamburg in Germany, Sct. Peterburg in Russia, and Buenos Aires in Argentina. Denmark has for many years been a leading seafaring nation measured on tonnage as well as ships registered in Denmark. The Seaman’s Church function has always been to service and comfort Danish seafarers. It is particularly valued by many seafarers that someone is thinking about them and that they can get a short break from life at sea. The Seaman’s Church supplies seafarers with Danish products, Danish newspapers, a chance to speak Danish, a chance to speak with an outsider and generally getting some assistance when needed. These days seafarers are often busy when at port and do not have time to leave the ship. So, the Seaman’s Church also offers to come onboard and bring a variety of products with them. COVID-19 has complicated things in 2020 and in most cases, seafarers cannot leave the ship and the Seaman’s Church cannot come on board. And while there are still many Danish ships the tendency is that there are fewer Danish seafarers. Danish Room is as mentioned located inside Mariners Club which is shared by the Mission to Seafarers in partnership with the Apostleship of the Sea, the Danish Seamen's Church and the German Seamen's Mission. Honestly, I miss life at sea…I have had the privilege of travelling on board twenty-five container ships and have made friends with many seafarers. Unfortunately the industry is struggling HARD under COVID-19.
Ironically these are busy days for the shipping industry in this part of the world. China’s exports are booming while the USA is importing much of it. How’s that trade war going?
Plenty of laundry and air-conditioners.
That is the end of this entry people. I hope you are holding your heads up high in spite of everything which is currently going on. I am grateful for the many people I have met here in Hong Kong which I can continue to meet up with. And very grateful to the Saga’s project partners for sticking this out as the days continue to blow off the calendar. Overall I guess I’m doing well given the circumstances. Let’s hope that “daybreak” comes sooner than later. Let’s keep on keeping on.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - The beard has got to go soon.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga