2021 – same same, but different (Hong Kong continued)
Day 2,640 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).
And the beat goes on…
Imagine if we added the same value of a new year to the beginning of a new week. Nothing really changes – does it? Well, the age old “what did you get for Christmas this year” joke is back: “nothing, it hasn’t yet been Christmas this year”.
Last week’s entry: Luck, love and the Hong Kong police
As humans we value symbolic meaning. New Year’s Eve is a great example of that. One would almost think that our planets journey around the sun halted for a brief moment as we made our countdown from ten to one. Afterwards our pale blue dot, which spins silently in the vast openness of space, “leaped” into the new year which, according to the Gregorian calendar, is now 2021. And Happy New Year to you all. Our friends in Kiribati once again made it first as their pacific territory lies furthest to the east and closets to the international dateline. Globally we have accepted the Gregorian calendar as the international civil calendar, which makes life on earth a lot easier. Imagine if we all went by our own measurements and completely ignored everyone else. The first day of the Chinese New Year will not be until February 12th when we enter the Year of the Ox. The Hindi New Year is set to start on April 12th. The Islamic New Year will begin in the evening of August 9th and ends in the evening of August 10th. Jewish New Year starts at sunset on September 6th and ends at nightfall on September 8th. And on September 11th our friends in Ethiopia will celebrate their journey into the new year. But which year is it? Well, that completely depends on which calendar you are using. A few you could pick from would be the: Assyrian, Hebrew, Chinese, Julian, Buddhist, Gregorian, Hindu, Islamic, Iranian and the French Revolutionary calendar. Good luck.
Taking the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island.
The week which ran up to New Year (civil calendar) wasn’t uneventful. The Saga continues to see a lot of media coverage and a few interviews per week isn’t uncommon. Social media has accumulated reached about 70,000 accounts with Facebook in the lead (34K). It was really nice to get all the many birthday and Christmas greetings in December and now also New Year greetings from all around the world. It is quite a diverse community we have created within Once Upon A Saga. While the social media of the Saga reflects certain snapshots of where I go and who I meet, there is naturally much more which goes on in reality. Everything takes time right from having a shower to walking to the grocery store. On and off I still get recognized. Not long ago I was standing in the metro minding my own business. When the train stopped a woman standing a few steps from me walked towards the door to exit but briefly stopped and said: “I enjoy your content on Instagram. Thank you.” And then she left. That was very kind of her. However, it is a rather strange feeling to know that someone standing across from me knows who I am while I have never met them before. The next thought I had was in regard to how I behaved while in the metro! Did I pick my nose? ;) Later that day I was meeting a couple of friends and after a while a lively couple steered in my direction and engaged in conversation. I first thought they had recognized me as well but it quickly became clear that they had no idea who neither my friends or I were. They were simply spellbound by my beard. The man wanted to know for how long it has been growing to reach such a length and the woman wanted to touch it.
Paing for my haircut with my multi purpose Octopus card. It is used for all transportation as well.
Well, here we are. It is 2021 and how will this year be different? I will not get to see home within 2021 but I have high hopes that I will be seeing my fiancée and hopefully also a few new countries. 2020 was the year in which we became familiar with COVID-19 and experienced all sorts changes to our lives. 2020 also became the year in which scientists developed a variety of vaccines for us. I have been blessed with a guest membership in the legendary Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) here in Hong Kong. It is a really cool hangout in the Central District, which I often use as a place to meet people. My guest membership all came about after I met with Tim Huxley back in March last year. Tim is mildly spoken a man of many talents but among other things he is the Second Vice President of the FCC. I recently met up with Rupert McCowan at the FCC. Rupert is the Director of the Royal Geographical Society – Hong Kong (RGSHK), and has led an interesting life of cross-country adventure. In his early twenties Rupert was exploring Central Africa and traversing vast countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. On November 17th 2020 I had the pleasure of delivering a WebTalk for the RGSHK and I was recently given permission to upload it to the Saga’s YouTube channel where you can now see it! (Click HERE to see RGSHK WEBTALK).
The reception of the FCC has been decorated for Christmas with gingerbread.
Lunch with Jakob. With three out of FCC's four chefs being Indian, the Chicken Tikka Masala is always great!
Last beer of the year. Hanging out with Michael at the FCC.
Last week I also ended up doing a three hour long-form video podcast interview for 'The Stewart Mackenzie Indaba’. Stewart is a great guy who originates from South Africa and has now been living in Hong Kong for thirteen years. The inspiration for Stewarts long-form interviews comes from ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ in which each episode is listened to more than ten million times. That is not quite where Stewart is at this point but there is nothing wrong with the format: I was offered sushi and a beer as soon as I walked through the door. The talk with Steward is unique from other talks as a large part centers around the global engagement of the Red Cross. It is often an overlooked topic in interviews but Stewart really found it fascinating and I happen to have an extensive knowledge – I think? I may need to listen to the talk and hear what I said :)
At M-Labs with Stewart after a marathon of an interview.
Later that same day the prep work began for a live interview I had been invited to do durring Danish prime time TV. It is a bit of a novelty for me so I was happy to stay up until it began at 01:30am Hong Kong time. Interviews with Danish media are not for reach but for the home base. Once Upon A Saga is primarily followed by people in the USA which is the worlds third most populous country and the following from my home nation is somewhat humble. However, it is home :) Live TV doesn’t faze me at all. The prep work started with a skype call at 9:41pm in which we did a pre-interview in case something would go wrong later on. We also set the parameters for what I could say and what I couldn’t say. I wanted to briefly mention that Ross DK and Geoop have kindly contributed with more than 45% of the budget, but I was told that it was too closely related to advertising.
My view of the TV2 interview. Natasja Crone at the desk.
‘GO’ Aften Live’ (Good Evening Live) is a Danish show on TV2, which is a national TV channel. The Saga has felt a lot of love from TV2 over the years and in the beginning of 2020, I was fortunate to meet a top reporter for the channel, Rasmus Tantholdt, who was briefly in Hong Kong for work. Rasmus is in a relationship with Natasja Crone who happened to interview me for ‘GO’ Aften Live’…so now the circle is complete. About 40 minutes before the interview, we did a quick video and sound check and Natasja and I had a few minutes to go through the questions. At 01:26am I came online and was given about four minutes to explain what it is like to have COVID-19 get in the way of completing the Saga so close to the goal, why we are still stuck in Hong Kong, what the next destination is, how much longer I am willing to give the project, to describe a photo I had chosen for the interview and finally my thoughts on if Once Upon A Saga will be completed. You can watch a handheld recording of the interview by clicking HERE. It was generously filmed by the masterful sister of my fiancée :)
The view from home of the TV2 interview. The end of a long day for me.
On the very last day of the year, I was offered to take a COVID-19 test which became my very first throughout the entire pandemic. Hong Kong residents are offered free tests but my status has so far been that of a “visitor” so for me it comes at a cost. However, that cost was covered. I did not suspect I would test positive but there is always a risk. I remember traveling to Libya for work some fifteen years ago. Back then, the company I worked for, had me take a test for HIV before going and I was furthermore tested for Tuberculosis within a few days of arrival. That was standard procedure and I expected to test negative on both accounts. But while I was waiting for the test results of the HIV test, I was still worried because of the “what if” factor. It came back negative. I had a similar feeling here in Hong Kong where testing positive comes with consequences! From what I hear, an ambulance would then pick me up and take me to a large warehouse in which I would be issued a bed with drapes around it. Instant fourteen days of quarantine. Also, the prospects of testing positive would mean that I had been jeopardizing the many people I had been meeting with. I was feeling fine but could have been asymptomatic. The results came back by email on December 31st 2020 at 8:00pm: SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Not Detected.
Strange traveling by public transportation before knowing the test results.
So far so good. I once had cholera which I wouldn’t recommend. I also had cerebral malaria which you should also try to avoid. I travelled through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia during the height of the Ebola outbreak and through Angola during a mass Yellow Fever outbreak. Now I find myself dealing with a pandemic of an acute respiratory disease previously unknown in the likes of mankind…and this challenge is one I share with you. We are not over the finish line yet. Strap your helmet because the ride is about to get bumpy! Knowing a little bit about people I don’t find it hard to imagine a post-holiday wave is about to hit us. Vaccines are coming but it will take time, effort and caution. Let’s stay cautious together and make 2021 a good year.
Bamboo scaffolding done right.
And as for my New Year’s Eve…it was unorthodox just like anything else this year. I sat alone, had a nice homecooked meal and watched about half of ‘The Godfather’ from 1972. And that was just fine by me.
Happy New Year and thank you for everything.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Grateful for your love!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga