Hello! And welcome to the Saga – we’re still stuck in Hong Kong
Day 2,654 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).
History repeats itself
I’m happy to see you here!! Not everyone gets around to reading these entries and those of you who do will be much wiser than the rest. So, sit down. Enjoy a nice cup of something and here we go!
Last week’s entry: Snapshots from another week in Hong Kong
Have you heard about Nas Daily? That isn’t a person. Nas Daily is a concept which has more than 33 million online followers. “Nas” is Arabic and means people. And the man behind it is Nusuir, which most people may know as “Nas Daily”. However, Nas Daily is now an organization with more than fifty employees and as they put it: “A force for good”. I think they are right. Nas Daily reached out to me as they wanted to know if I was up for making a video. That is their business. They create content and deliver a new video every day. Nuseir became world famous when he created a one-minute video every day for 1,000 days straight. Not about nothing! He is a highly talented man and gained online success. In last weeks entry I called them “Badingadoo” but now the cat is out of the bag. The video has had more than TEN MILLION VIEWS!!! (on Facebook) I guess that goes to show that the Saga has real value but that I’m no great content creator. Nas Daily is!
Filming for Nas Daily with Woods, Michael and Kim.
Thanks to Nas Daily the Saga now has more than 15,000 new online followers and most of them are found across Facebook which has gone from 34,000 accounts to beyond 49,000. Welcome one and all! :) I’m from Denmark which means that you can trust me. It also means that I am quite direct and almost blunt sometimes. I’m a pretty thinly worn traveler at this point who really wishes that the Saga (as we like to nickname this project) had come to an end long ago. I am also a man who is fairly hard to defeat as I’m quite unwilling to give up. You would not believe the obstacles we have overcome over the years!! I usually say “we” because I am well aware that I did not reach 194 countries in an unbroken journey completely without flying on my own. It took a lot of help from a lot of people. Once Upon A Saga started out as a country project and quickly turned into a people project. For the same reasons you will often hear me say that “people are just people” and especially “a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before” which happens to be the projects motto.
Mongkok, Hong Kong.
It sounds like a dream to travel to every country but in reality, it is hard work and demands a lot of discipline as well as determination and sacrifice. That said, it also comes with a truly remarkable amount of unique experiences and life changing encounters. Reaching every country in the world (no matter how you do it) is an incredible education. And getting a huge boost from Nas Daily is a blessing!! It wasn’t the fist big boost we have experienced. Back in 2014 there was a hugely successful Reddit AMA which attracted a lot of people to the Saga. Then there was the Drew Binsky video and later on the CNN article. Every time the Saga gets a massive boost and sees a large increase in online followers it is followed by a huge amount of online activity in the form of praise and questions. It can be quite overwhelming and delighting at the same time. It is usually also followed by several interviews. This time was no different and it increases the workload for me. You should also know that the Saga has a lot of routine and traditions. Across social media Thursdays are days when I share a post from a past blog in chronological order – but only on Facebook. The Throwback Thursdays run about two years behind the actual blogs. And the Friday Blog is posted every Friday (surprise, surprise) across all social media. I am a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross and have uniquely reached, visited, engaged with, and promoted the Red Cross Red Crescent across 189 countries so far. The current posts reflect the seven fundamental principles of the movement and after them – well, we will see. Those posts are across social media every Sunday as #RCSunday (Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal)
Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong - a hugely contrasted picture.
There are three cardinal rules for the Saga: 1) no flight, 2) I must spend more than 24hrs in each country, and 3) I cannot return home until the project has been completed or if I quit. I have wanted to quit several times but so far, I am still fighting. I miss my friends and family back home. My parents are still alive and they are proud of me – I love them. I have two younger sisters and I love them. I have two siblings which are not blood related but definitely related in spirit. I am engaged to a beautiful and highly talented woman back home in Denmark. And I love her too! We have been unable to see each other for more than 15 months, primarily due to the pandemic, and we communicate every day. In fact, living in this modern tech age is great as we can have video calls with people on the other side of the planet with no delay. My fiancée has been out to visit me twenty-one times and I have been away from home for more than seven years. The Saga was initially thought to take between 3.5 and 4 years based on approximately seven days per country. However, it has proven far more complicated than initially thought. And furthermore, who the heck could have predicted a global pandemic?!? COVID-19 has had me stuck in Hong Kong for nearly a year now but things could be a lot worse.
Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a strange size. Some of us love Hong Kong for what it was. Some of us love it for what it is. And some of us love Hong Kong for what it could be. Hong Kong is truly an amazing part of our planet. Foreigners are plentiful and are known as “gweilos” which is really just slang for westerner. Domestic helpers are common in Hong Kong and most are from the Philippines while the rest are usually from Indonesia. Domestic helpers also make up a huge part of the population. Politically people are generally classified as “yellow” (pro Hong Kong) or “blue” (pro Beijing). There are different shades of blue and yellow and there are no demonstrations to speak of today - the world famous demonstrations in Hong Kong took place before I arrived. The Saga is not political and I try to stay out of such matters. Hong Kong is what is known as SAR which is ‘Special Administrative Region’ under China. As such Hong Kong has special rights and is governed in a different way than mainland China. However, down the line Hong Kong is destined to become fully merged with mainland China – and not everyone is happy about that. People are in my opinion not very welcoming of change, which I find ironic as change is constantly around us. Yet, after nearly a year in Hong Kong I understand a lot more than which I share with you all. Life is simple – we make it complicated. In Hong Kong it can be very complicated.
I had the Savagars over for dinner. Such a lovely family! :)
There are two families in Hong Kong which mean more to me than any other around here! First and foremost the Savagars!! I was supposed to be in Hong Kong for four days of transit but ended up staying with the Savagars for FIVE MONTHS!! If that is not a testimony to human kindness then I don’t know what! The Savagars are a Chinese/UK family with two young boys and I love them. The other family is the Andersen Clan - a Danish/Chinese Family. I stayed a month in an apartment near their home and was welcomed by the Andersen Clan as family. We had dinner together several times and the family father (Thomas) has a huge heart which I have felt the impact of more than once. Overall, I can say that I have made a lot of good friends while in Hong Kong and I owe a lot of people a lot. I love Hong Kong and understand why people want to stay here. Meanwhile, I would sacrifice my left arm to be on my way to one of the remaining nine countries which are: Palau, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In reality I have been to both New Zealand and Australia but not within this project. There is no leaving Hong Kong right now without flying. Furthermore, ships are reluctant of taking passengers due to the risk of contamination. Finally, eight of the nine remaining countries have closed their borders and I cannot enter. The Maldives is open for tourism but how the heck do we get there from Hong Kong without flying? Yeah – so I am stuck in Hong Kong and trying to make the best of it.
Hiking with Kenneth and Poul from Denmark.
Hong Kong Immigration Department has been overwhelmingly accommodating towards the Saga throughout 2020 but there are limits. I have had my visa extended a great number of times. As it is not a sustainable solution, I have accepted a job offer in Hong Kong and will become a resident on Monday. The job is as an assistant at the Danish Seaman’s Church in Hong Kong, where I will be servicing Danish flagged ships which arrive to Hong Kong. Much more about that later. You should know that the Saga benefits from several great partners which you can find at the bottom of this entry. I will just highlight Ross DK and Geoop as they have financially sponsored more than 45% of the Saga! No money no Saga! The rest comes from me and your generous donations. Ross DK and Geoop are working towards making the world a more sustainable place by advocating for green energy.
The Danish Seaman's Church before and after the main room was transformed from "Danish Julestue" back to "Danish Room".
Hiking has become a great passion of mine while in Hong Kong. I spend a considerable amount of time on the trails which also helps me to cope mentally. Through hiking I have made a lot of great friends and met some really strong hikers. There are about 400 Danes in Hong Kong but nobody knows for sure. Sometimes life in Hong Kong can get really Danish for me! Sometimes I hang out with my local friends. And sometimes I spend time with friends of other nationalities. It is a big mix out here. Right now, I am focused on my attempt to hike the MacLehose Trail in less than 24 hours. It is a 100km (62mi) long distance trail which under normal circumstances has an annual race but not during a global pandemic. The elevation gain of the entire trail is more than 50% of Mt. Everest’s total height. Healthy body – healthy mind. I guarantee you: you need a strong mind to stay focused for over six years of constantly switching between countries and then getting stuck for more than a year halfway around the world from home. I try to stay positive.
Central Hong Kong. People are getting ready for Chinese New year.
It is my great privilege to have met so many wonderful people here in Hong Kong! Absolutely life savers!! And Hong Kong is that kind of place which offers an endless amount of opportunity if you look for it. I could easily have been stuck on a ship or a tiny pacific island. I was fortunate to get stuck in Hong Kong of all places. Luck does play a part in life. You cannot plan everything.
Night hike with Anders from Denmark.
Mainland China as seen from Hong Kong by night.
The peak of Tai Mo Shan - Hong Kong's highest mountain.
After the hike! Successful! Together with Anders.
Now, my final words will be that there are still many good times to be had here in Hong Kong. This entry was written while somewhat drunk…so how about that! I went hiking with a bunch of good friends and we ended up having some good food together and a lot of red wine!! I got back late and thought: “what the heck! I’ll get this thing written here and now”. I Don’t drink a lot – but sometimes my life begs for it…
Peel Street, Hong Kong - special lighting.
Oh…and the very final words will be in Danish and will only be understood by a very select group:
OST, OST, OST, OST, OST – JEG MÅ HA’ OHOOOST! ;)
"A weapon to be feared... Never short of ammunition". Seen on the wall at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong
If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - completed this entry at 05:10am
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga