Tragedy or celebration – a year in Hong Kong
Day 2,668 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).
Time flies – I don’t
How long would you wait for a bus or a train? How long would you wait for anything in life before you give up and abandon hope? At which point would you settle for average? How much do other people’s opinions mean to you? How important is your opinion about yourself?
Last week’s entry: 25,000+ new friends within a week / Hong Kong
My goodness – that was a year without any geographical progress. We are certainly left with the same nine countries we had when the Saga reached Hong Kong on January 28th 2020. Back then I had immediate hope of finding a solution and getting on a vessel to Palau or perhaps New Zealand. These days I am far more pessimistic. We as people are not managing this pandemic very well. Thank goodness the virus isn’t more deadly than what we have experienced so far. I wonder how much death we might have seen if we did absolutely nothing since the beginning? The world now has more than 2 million COVID-19 deaths, which isn’t a big deal across a year in a population which is pushing 8 billion. If we had done nothing since the beginning would it have been much different? No extra handwashing, no masks, no social distancing, no quarantine, no regulations, no contact tracing, no shutdowns…what would it have been like? 5 million deaths? 20 million deaths? Nobody has the answer – it would however be very nice at this point to have someone step up and say: “you’ve done a great job! Your actions have saved many lives! What we are doing is working”. Wealthy nations are hoarding vaccines. Of course they are. Look at wealth distribution anywhere on the planet and see if it seems fair. If you have power and money then you rarely go to prison – or at least not for a very long time. It is good to be wealthy. It comes with a lot of advantages. I’m not surprised that wealthy nations have been hoarding vaccines. It sounds like human nature to me.
The majority of COVID-19 deaths are to be found in the USA, Brazil and the UK. The deaths of course, are not the full story. The real damage lies within a crippled healthcare system which is struggling to keep up with all the patients. Where the heck are all of those vaccines, they promised us? Take it easy Thor…they are coming. Have patience. Virus mutations? Yeah sure – of course. Hoard immunity? Sure – why not. I’ll take two please. Apparently, Israel is racing ahead with the vaccines. Good on them! Can we learn from their success? And I hear that the vaccine program might be a bridge between Israeli / Palestinian relations. That would be wonderful. Mistrust in various COVID-19 tests? Yeah sure…why not. A COVID-19 passport? Who should get vaccinated first? When will they start vaccinating in Hong Kong? I bet once they start vaccinating in Hong Kong it will be super-efficient! Hong Kong is generally a really efficient part of our planet. I also hear that the companies which were supposed to deliver all of these vaccines cannot keep up with production and distribution. How wonderful. This is moving so much slower than what we hoped for. I really don’t understand why we cannot travel during the pandemic? If we are willing to get tested before and after the journey as well as quarantine for several weeks on arrival…then what is the problem? Have you noticed how every conversation at some point turns into one about COVID-19? Of course you have. It has been our lives for the past year now.
Yesterday marked one year in Hong Kong. A full year! A FULL YEAR! When we reached Hong Kong a year ago I didn’t even know where Wuhan was. I looked at a map and upon discovering that it was 1,000 km (620 mi) away I figured it would never have anything to do with me...but I was wrong! Soon people started hoarding masks and toilet paper. The western world was laughing at us. We laughed back when they a few months later did the same. It has been a year of challenges and frustration for many of us.
Hiking the 50k (31mi) Hong Kong Trail with Poul - and some Mexicans.
Within the Saga, the past year has been one full of collaborations, interviews, exploring, hiking, step challenges, speaking engagements, content creation, social media and friendships. On a personal level it has been a highly stressful year with many difficult decisions, great frustrations, collapsed illusions, heartache and loss...it has also been a year full of victories, priceless moments, great beauty, spectacular meals, wonderful friendships, lots of achievements, solid support, remarkable insight and personal growth. One side of life compliments the other. As many of you know, I have been wanting to go home since 2015. We are now more than seven years into the Saga and the last of the final nine countries cannot be reached any earlier than 2022. I miss my home, I miss my family and I miss my friends. But I am still here!!! And we will keep on keeping on!! If that is not endurance, determination and dedication - then I do not know what is. Fingers crossed that it will not be yet another year.
My job is going well. I delivered some newspapers to the good ship Maersk Edmonton and received a souvenir mug in return :)
And now to something completely different…
I have had a really busy run for the past two weeks and now it is finally calming down a bit. When I say busy then we are in the vicinity of 70-80 hours of work per week. It is coming down to 40-50 now. This past week we have knocked out some more interviews. Some which reach a few thousand people and some which will reach many millions. The Nas Daily video blew all expectations!! When the Nas Daily Team approached me, they estimated their video would reach 6-8 million people. Their post has now surpassed 16 million views on Facebook alone. In addition to that it also exists on other social media platforms so who knows? It certainly went far which is great proof of the value which lies within Once Upon A Saga. It is all about telling the story through well crafted content. I am no genius when it comes to content creation. I am foremost an adventurer and modern-day explorer. Anything else comes behind that. With your help we can get the job done! And by that, I mean: reach every country in the world in an unbroken journey completely without flying. Within that task is where my strength lies. Creating amazing content…less so. The Nas Daily Team has flair for content creation. And so does someone like Drew Binsky. I can deliver the stories – but I need someone else to create the content. Like so many other things it relies on collaboration. People working together. Synergy. That is by the way our true strength as humans. We are NOTHING on our own. From the day we are born we are highly dependant on other humans for survival and that goes on for years! In our adult lives we are also quite limited without others. You needed someone to build the car you are driving, make the roads, produce the gas, distribute gas to petrol stations etc. Try building a skyscraper on your own. Try building anything on your own. Can you even make a fire? We need other people, collaborations and synergy. And we sure as heck need it too to fight the pandemic.
The plan is somewhat ambitious. It may take longer...or even not get completed at all. However, it could also stick! ;)
On a much smaller level I need some help from a few friends here in Hong Kong. Today is the day. Today is the day we have been preparing for. The locally famous MacLehose Trail in less than 24 hours. Can it be done? Absolutely!! The fastest known time (FKT) is a mere 10 hours and 38 minutes. Can I do it in less than 24 hours? Well, that remains to be seen. I think I have a shot at it. I get by with a little help from my friends. In fact, I had more friends offering to help than what I needed. In the end all I required was a three-man team: Anders, Kenneth and Poul. The MacLehose Trail has more than half of Mount Everest’s elevation gain, which adds for a much tougher challenge than simply covering the distance. The trail is named after Murray MacLehose, Baron MacLehose of Beoch, the longest-serving governor of Hong Kong, who established the Country Parks and was himself an enthusiastic hiker. The MacLehose Trail was officially opened on October 26th 1979 in a move to protect Hong Kong's countryside and open it up for recreation. It consists of ten stages and my team will support me across all of them. Anders will join me as we cover the first six stages during the evening and night. Then Kenneth will show up with breakfast and cover the next two stages along my side. Finally, Poul with turn up with lunch and drag me across the final two stages until we reach trail marker number 200. And then I imagine I will take it rather easy on the physical front for at least a week after that.
I will be dressed in Salomon from top to toe thanks to their support and energy consumption should be high!
Looking back at the past seven years I can say one thing for sure. People are just people and a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before. The overwhelming kindness and hospitality I have been received with has been overwhelming. People are amazing! Whenever I wonder if all the hassle, the time, the resources and the hardship has been worth it – then I just need to look back. Our very first country after Denmark was Germany and I was immediately received with kindness. A hotel in Hamburg offered me a complimentary breakfast upon hearing about the project and the next day in Bremen I was hosted by a wonderful young man who gave me a guided tour of his city. Later on I made friends in Iceland, I made friends on a train traversing across the USA, a man in Brazil helped me out when my bus left with my luggage and me on the parking lot, in Saint Vincent “BT” took me up on a hill to show me his island and shared his culture, in Nigeria Future brought me to the equidistant point of his country, in Cameroun Abdel Karim saved the project by cheering me up when I was ready to quit although we didn’t even speak the same language and the list goes on and on. There is hardly a country in the world where I wouldn’t be able to contribute with a story about someone who showed kindness.
I have some dark stories as well. Some really dark stories! I almost cried the other day while recording an incident from years ago for a media corporation. I have seen things no one should see. I have heard stories and looked those affected deep into their eyes. I have been sick and in pain. However, in hindsight the darkness is overwhelmingly illuminated by the light of all the goodness, kindness, the laughs, the smiles, the meals, the sights, the awe and every time someone went above and beyond what could ever have been expected. I don’t care which country you might point towards on a globe. There are people who love that country within it – and with good reason. “Shithole countries” do not exists and neither do dangerous countries. The world has some dangerous people and a few countries have more than others. But in the end most people are not violent, hateful or sadistic. I have an abundance of proof to show that most people offer kindness before they offer anything else. It could be small or large but it is always constructive. And most people across the world live their lives with many similarities. We stand in line, we take selfies, we play games, we use social media, we enjoy good food, we protect family and friends, we get stuck in traffic, we fall in love, we fight, we make up, we work, we rest, we dream… The number of conversations which are had across this planet regarding weather or sports is not insignificant. And the same can be said for conversations about food: “what are we having tonight?” Well, last night I cooked some pasta and meat sauce for Thomas, Kenneth, Jesper and Poul, and called it a “pasta party”. We have somewhat developed a tradition where we hike for a few hours every Thursday evening and then rejoice around a meal. What are we as people on our own? We need each other – let’s not forget that.
Pasta party with Thomas, Kenneth, Jesper and Poul.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - a person.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga