Hong Kong’s new honorary guest - my wife!!
Day 2,710 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(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).
The big secret revealed!
In order of knowing what people are thinking, doing, feeling and working on, you need to communicate with them. Anything else is, at its very best, like staring through a keyhole.
Last week’s entry: 400 days in Hong Kong
My goodness I have had a lot on my desk for months now. There have been several large interviews, many small ones, some new collaborations, several ongoing collaborations, a high influx of new accounts across social media (welcome!), various physical challenges, social engagements, I started a job and…oh yeah…I got married to my fiancée in Denmark who’s now here in Hong Kong alongside me!!! SURPRISE!!! :) For years I have been going on and on about persistence in obtaining what we want here in life. My analogy is often a long wall with a locked door. What you want is on the other side. What do you do? Knock on the door, look for a key, wait in hope that someone comes to open it… That could work but it could also go on forever. What I say is: “chose to go left or right and look for another door”. The first door you find may also be locked but then you have to go out and find more doors. If you try enough of them then one will eventually open and you will walk through to the other side. Sometimes in life you only need to try a few doors. Sometimes you need to try thousands!! And while the sun shines on your face on the other side of that wall, and your body fills with joy…know this: there will definitely be more walls. The difference between success and failure is how many doors you are willing to try.
Getting my Salomon pants zipper fixed. I have been zipping and unzipping them for years now. Great pants!
On March 25th 2020 Hong Kong closed its borders to nonresidents. I reached Hong Kong on January 28th 2020 which is fortunate. Because if my ship had arrived two months later then I would not have been let in. Ever since the 25th of March I have also been aware that if I attempted to leave Hong Kong on a small boat and something went wrong…then I would not have been able to return. And I have also been painfully aware that my lovely fiancée had no way of paying me a visit. But back in March 2020 we never expected that it would last this long.
A resident of Hong Kong is able to reunite with a wife/husband by applying for and providing her/him with a dependent visa. Unfortunately, my fiancée and I were not married and I was not a resident. But in November 2020, I was tipped off in regards to a sort of loophole. In Utah, USA, there is an agency which marries people online. That was not the kind of wedding we were hoping for but we had not been together for more than a year at that point. We investigated further and quickly found that an online marriage would not be accepted in Denmark where it would be deemed invalid. However, it is both legal and valid in Utah which is good enough for Hong Kong. So, we began the first stage of a two-stage plan: A) to become husband and wife, and B) to make me a resident of Hong Kong. My wife got married on December 19th 2020 from her apartment in Denmark. That happened to be on my birthday. It was her idea so that I would remember it in perpetuity. I got married on December 20th due to the time difference here in Hong Kong. It wasn’t completely straight forward but we managed the logistics and bureaucracy of getting married online and weeks later I was holding the original marriage certificate in my hand.
Mocking about with the beard! The top right is my favorite ;)
On January 18th 2021 I received my employment visa and a week later I received my Hong Kong ID. That was also a long journey of bureaucracy which required many visits to Hong Kong Immigration. I was offered the job already back in November 2020. On paper I became the Assistant to Chaplain at the Danish Seamen’s Church in December 2020. I was however not permitted to carry out any work until my job had been approved by Hong Kong Immigration. While bureaucracy in Hong Kong can be rather heavy, I find it quite efficient. All you need to do is follow the playbook and then things will eventually get sorted. Sometimes it’s a demanding job to collect the documentation required and a great example of that is found in when I had to apply for my wife’s dependent visa. Apart from standard documents such as the marriage certificate, copies of passports, my employment contract and my newly acquired ID card, they also wanted photos documenting that we had a long-lasting relationship. It was easy to provide photos of us together as she had been out to visit me twenty-one times all around the world already. It was much harder to provide pictures from the wedding and from our life together after the wedding. Especially as we were not physically together at the wedding nor had been after. Immigration also wanted birth certificates, bank records, pension plans and a lot more. A LOT MORE. We had to document that we had longstanding communication between each other. Immigration suggested letters or phone records. But this is 2021 and that’s not how we communicate. I looked at our WhatsApp account and found a way to save our correspondence as a file. The file contained eighteen months of text messages (no photos) and once I had it on a computer, I pressed print. To my surprise the printer read: “printing page no 1 of 472”
Bureaucrazy!! This is a small part of what it took. Check out the large pile of WhatsApp transcripts.
If I had handed 472 pages of WhatsApp correspondence over to a government office in Denmark then I’m sure I would have upset someone. As a friend here in Hong Kong joked: it would have been the equivalent to paying a parking fine in coins. Hong Kong is however very far from Scandinavia and odds were that they would like it and welcome the paper as a gesture of honesty. Either that or get upset and request that each page would be translated into English which could have been expensive. It went well and on February 10th 2021 Immigration wrote that I could collect her visa. A week later she received the visa by currier in Copenhagen and on February 18th her airplane landed in Hong Kong. She soon after began the twenty-one-day long quarantine period and got released on March 10th at midnight. And that concludes the end of nineteen months of beard growth on my part!! Because I only shave when I get to see her.
Getting a foot massage and pedicure (!) together with Anita. Great tradition we have together regarding the massages. This was my first pedicure though. Nice.
As you can imagine I’ve been living a bit of a double life since November. There was SO MUCH which could have gone wrong along the way!!! But everything fortunately turned out right. Personally, I have been worried that since this wedding is not accepted in Denmark, Hong Kong Immigration might have deemed it invalid as well. Fortunately, they didn’t. I didn’t think there was a high risk of the story going viral – but I did see it as a potential risk. I’m by no means famous or even well known. However, I have a public profile and a truly unique story. It wasn’t hard to imagine that a journalist would pick this story up as a shinning beacon of true love and persistence in a time of darkness and frustrations for many. And my concern was that if that happened before my wife and I were standing beside each other, then the “getting married online angle” could become a high-profile case and deemed as a loophole which needed to be closed. I wasn’t paranoid about it but I wasn’t going to roll the dice. So, we kept it a secret and only shared it will a very select group of people. Some personal friends and close family on both parts.
Hours after the online wedding on December 19th 2020, I was joined by these amazing people to toast in champagne! From left to right: Anita, Winnie, Camilla, Frank and Christian :)
My wife and I met at our friend’s wedding. My friend Lars was getting married to Le’s friend Annette. We were seated across from each other and soon after became friends which turned into a relationship. Yeah, my wife’s name is Le. She has a wonderful twin sister named Pil and they both live in Denmark. Le and I had been a couple for about a year when the Saga began and I left Denmark. The first day of the Saga was Thursday October 10th 2013. Back then we thought I would be home again no more than four years later. Le and I have many remarkable memories from around the world where she has been out to see me twenty-one times already. On her tenth visit I got down on one knee and presented her with a ring. Fortunately, she said yes. That took place on top of Mount Kenya back in November 2016. We never thought that we would get married online. And as we are not married in Denmark, we know that there will be yet another wedding at some point. Perhaps something slightly more conventional. In fact, we looked into the prospect of getting married here in Hong Kong in a way which would be valid in Denmark. As it turns out it is not possible because we are already married and cannot get married twice :)
SHE IS HERE!!! :)
It is hard to predict the future during this pandemic. But we hope that we will be together here in Hong Kong until at least May. My wife (in Utah and Hong Kong) works for a pharmaceutical company in Denmark and has been allowed to work from Hong Kong as long as the office in Denmark is closed. But should things turn around and if her office opens up again, then she will be required to return for the sake of synergy. Let’s see. If I was offered a free pass to get on a boat tomorrow and enter one of the remaining nine countries then I would decline. I have been trying to leave for more than four-hundred-days but now it is time to stay for a while. It would seem that the world will slowly open up and that things will graduate get better. So, getting on a boat now only to get stuck somewhere else is worth less than spending some time with the woman I love. And then once the world begins to opening up the Saga will be ready to continue again.
It has been a crazy thing to be here in Hong Kong and know that she was just thirty kilometers away (19 mi) from me?! Especially during video calls. She showed me her view and I immediately knew which mountain was in the background. Quarantine in Hong Kong is a full twenty-one days! I don’t know that I am aware about anywhere else with such a long period. Hong Kong however remains to have a good grip on the pandemic and numbers are low. We fitted my wife’s hotel room with a treadmill (thanks Thomas) and a fan. She was not allowed to leave the room or even open a window. The room was also equipped with two computer monitors (thanks Jakob) so that she could work efficiently while quarantined. I wasn’t the only one who did the Goggins Challenge I’ve been telling you all about. I dragged my wife into it as well :) The Goggins Challenge is to run 4 miles (6.4km) every 4 hours for 48 hours. So, twelve runs in total adding up to 48 miles (77.25km). I did it out under the open sky and she did it on a treadmill in a confined hotel room. Because of the four-hour limitation you can maximum get three hours of sleep between runs for two consecutive days during the challenge. And the body can barely recover. It’s an interesting challenge as it deals with both physical endurance as well as sleep deprivation. We both made it though and I suppose that it will be my last challenge for a long while as I now have something completely different to focus on.
Looking back, I really liked the Goggins Challenge. While in it, I had had a lot of regret though. I find that I regret a lot of the physical challenges I embark on. I’m not sure why I always make it through them? In some ways I feel like I’m preparing myself for harder times. Or as a bare minimum I’m maintaining a toughness required to complete this project. Because I’m not very bright, I consciously added both distance and elevation to the already demanding challenge.
Hiking the Hong Kong Trail with Jakob, Kenneth, Jesper and Poul.
The boys and I had planned on conquering the 47km (29mi) Hong Kong Trail together. It would be the fifth time for me, the second time for Poul and the first time for Kenneth, Jesper and Jakob. At hiking pace, it can take anywhere between 10-12 hours to complete the trail and you would be surprised to hear how many utterly brilliant and utterly stupid things can be said along the way. It’s nice to hike as a group because it enables us to rotate and speak to different people along the way. The weather in Hong Kong has gone rather greyish lately with far less blue sky. We are approaching typhoon season but we were lucky enough with the weather. Jesper stomped his toe quite badly and had to retreat before the finish line. The rest of us made it and rejoiced! Well – this hike happened to be on the same day as the Goggins Challenge kicked off. The five of us set out around 6:45am and I had to do my first run at midday. So, at noon I left the boys and began running. I had an uphill start which meant fast hiking and then running down the stairs on the other side. Then some fast hiking uphill again and more downhill stairs on the other side followed by some relatively flat trail running. This is when I began to think about leaving the hike. But I’m just not that smart. After 6.4km (4mi) I stopped to wait for the boys to catch up. Then at 4pm it repeated itself again but with very little elevation gain.
Victory at the end of the Hong Kong Trail!! Well done!! :)
I made it home after the hike around 7:40pm and did my third run of twelve at 8pm. Then the next one at midnight, at 04:00am and so on. My overall goal was to run all of it and avoid any walking. The weather stayed fair most of the time and I got a lot of 1–2 hour naps in between runs. I had prepared some meals that I could heat in order of saving time. A ship arrived which I had to service so some of my precious resting time was spent on driving to the port, climbing the gangway and delivering newspapers. Fairly sleep deprived and physically exhausted my third last run took place at midnight. I was running along Hong Kong port in an industrial area and there was little activity around me. I felt absolutely paranoid and every little sound from a crane or truck would startle me. While running I was aware that I was paranoid and that it was likely due to my condition. The second last run was by far the hardest! It was the second 04:00am run and I was hungry as I set out to cover the distance. About two thirds of the way into my run I struggled immensely not to give in and walk. I felt very weak and a voice in my head was doing a good job convincing me to stop running and start walking. Another voice kept me going. Sometimes I look back at my life and value the three years I served in the army. It might be twenty years ago but elements of it persists within me. At 04:40am I was done running, went inside, stretched and ate and drank as much as I could. My final run was at 08:00am and it was relatively easy. In fact, I felt like I had reached a point where I could have continued to run every four hours if only I ate and slept enough. But I didn’t have to! I was done. Not “only” the 48 miles (77.25km). With the Hong Kong Trail my legs had brought me across 124km (77mi). Then it was time to shave…
Maxime from PacSafe dropped by to film the event. Nineteen months of beard gone in minutes.
I sometimes like my face. But currently I think I look a little strange without my beard. It sort of looks like some of my face is missing. Oh well…that’s how I will look for now. We will get used to it. It’s great being back together again and we have a lot to talk about and catch up on. We have been communicating almost every day for years but it’s different being face to face. So far I have been showing her the local area and we have been talking about simple stuff which becomes interesting between us…like how to hold chopsticks: high or low? I know Hong Kong incredibly well after all this time and look forward to sharing this special place with her. I’m fortunate to know many different people across Hong Kong and would love to introduce my wife to everyone. We could have decided to take some time off here at the beginning but we have decided to build up a routine first and then take some time off afterwards. That means that we have most mornings and early hours of the afternoon to ourselves and then around 2-3pm she needs to log on and work until about midnight due to the time difference between Denmark and Hong Kong. And then we have weekends together as well except if a ship arrives which I need to service or if she has an office emergency. Last night she finished her first workday from her home office in our Hong Kong apartment. Meanwhile I went on an urban-hike with Thomas, Poul and Kenneth, which as per tradition ended up with a meal, something to drink and Retro Radio playing in the background. Good times.
Poul's "Thursday Hiking Meals" never disappoint! Neither does the company.
Believe it or not there is more good news! Because of my job at the Danish Seamen’s Church, I am considered a priority to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here in Hong Kong, we can choose between Sinovac and BioNTech. So, I went with BioNTech and will get my first jab on Wednesday! That fast!! The second jab 21 days later! I trust Sinovac as much as I trust BioNTech. My choice fell on BioNTech for one specific reason: I think it is more likely to be recognized by Australia and New Zealand. And while I’m looking forward to some quality time with my lovely hardworking wife – we are not losing sight of the remaining nine countries. And also not on promoting the best of people, countries nor that of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. However, you’ll forgive me if I reallocate some of my resources to Hong Kong’s new honorary guest – my wife! ;)
On duty for the Danish Seamen's Church servicing Maersk vessels weekly.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - a married man (in Utah and Hong Kong).
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga