Hong Kong’s most traveled man – day 1 gazillion!
Day 2,731 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).
Time is relative
Have we been stuck in Hong Kong for 430 days or has it been a lifetime? I had a videocall with my friend Lars in Denmark. He said that if I ever got a world record then it should be for endurance. Yeah…maybe.
Last week’s entry: The people we care about – and more Hong Kong
Life has slowed down for me lately. It is funny how it comes in waves. My job as an assistant at the Danish Seamen’s Church has been a little quiet compared to before. Lately I have been spending a lot of time on placing a large food order in Denmark and organizing its delivery to the Seamen’s Church. The Seamen’s Church is pretty much self-sustainable and survives on social events (which 2020 wasn’t a great year for), the Christmas Bazar (which was limited last year), on donations and on the web shop. The web shop primarily sells Danish food products/delicacies but has been running low on stock for a while. We’ve however got plenty of powdered baking ammonia (hjortetaksalt) if you’re craving some? I took the car to get it washed. It has recently been repaired as the central locking was out of order. All I needed to do was coordinate with Mr. Chan who’s the preferred mechanic. It took a while to get the spare parts but once Mr. Chan had them it took less than a day for him to install it. The Seamen’s Church is in an industrial area located right next to the international port. It’s a dusty place! The car needed another wash only a few days after it had been cleaned. It’s also my job to keep the “Danish Room” clean and tidy. It’s a large room used for various events, gatherings, lunch arrangements, and as a general hang out for seafarers. “Danish Room” has been a pretty quiet place throughout the pandemic as seafarers have not been permitted to disembark their ships except during crew changes. However, I get to communicate with the Danish flagged ships and help them out if they need anything. In early March it was quite demanding as several ships had some very specific requests, which had me running all over Hong Kong. Quite time consuming but interesting nonetheless. Lately there have hardly been any Danish flagged ships. And the ones which arrived to Hong Kong have been very easy to service. They mostly just wanted news papers in various languages which I download and print for them.
Ready to hand over newspapers and mosquito traps at the gangway of the good ship Susan Maersk.
There have been a few interviews here and there but not what I expected. I thought that the story of how my wife and I got reunited in Hong Kong would have received more attention. It was reported on by Mette who writes for a Danish newspaper (MJA). She did a great job as usual. Mette has written several articles about Once Upon A Saga. “getting stuck in Hong Kong nine countries from reaching a unique goal” equals newsworthy. “getting stuck in Hong Kong nine countries from reaching a unique goal and spectacularly getting reunited with wife after nineteen months apart through an online marriage in spite of a global pandemic and a year long entry ban on Hong Kong” – not really newsworthy? Who would have thought? But at least it’s nice that it has been quiet for a while. It has offered us more time together with less interruptions. Getting wifey to Hong Kong was a major bureaucratical accomplishment. And a huge headache!! That too took a lot of my time but it’s also behind us now. And I’m not running any crazy physical challenges right now so that also frees up lots of time. Social media also seems less demanding. There’s still about a thirty-hour workload per week but that is nothing when sixty is the norm and crazy times are way above. So, it feels a little odd with the extra spare time. But good.
Last weekend wifey and I hiked up my favorite mountain in HK: Ma On Shan.
It is quite the climb - but well worth it.
I used to be nicknamed “the only tourist in Hong Kong”. The borders have been closed for non-residents since March 2020. Personally, I have never viewed myself as a tourist but it’s a cute nickname. Now that I hold a Hong Kong ID, a Hong Kong driver’s license, a work visa and a job, I am no longer a “tourist”. I figure I’m likely Hong Kong’s most traveled person. It was never a goal within Once Upon A Saga, but having reached this many countries without flying has placed me among the three hundred most traveled people in the world. What are the odds that someone within Hong Kong outranks me? Titles and nicknames. They have their functions in this world of ours. For a while I have been calling my wife for ‘wifey’. I think it sounds cute and I’m not sure where it came from. It sounds somewhat Australian to me and I do have several Aussie friends so that could be where I heard it. 4-5 people have now written to let me know that it is a derogatory term. Is it though? I needed to do some research and the first search result on google clearly explained it was derogatory. Okay – then it must be. Or…perhaps it depends on where in the world you are? Maybe the word has changed its meaning over time? Could there be more to it? I looked deeper and found this in the urban dictionary: ‘wifey - The girl that is always there for you. The one that you were destined to be with.’ Now that’s more like it! The meaning of several words has changed over time. ‘Awful’ used to be synonymous with awesome. ‘Fantastic’ used to mean something which was imagined. ‘Nice’ was a negative term for a stupid, ignorant or foolish person. The list goes on. In recent years some of us Danes have been giggling over the term ‘bae’. It usually refers to a person's romantic partner, especially a boyfriend or girlfriend. However, in Danish ‘bae’ means poo. While researching the term ‘wifey’ I came across this blog by a fellow named George who has been calling his wife for ‘wifey’ for more than three decades. George has come across much of the same material as I have in his research. And George has done a very fine job writing his blogpost. My wifey knows that when I call her as such, then it is a term of endearment. Because she knows that I love her very much.
Wifey got her first haircut in ages! Restrictions in Denmark have prevented it.
We caught a free concert at the Xiqu Center with artist playing the Guzheng.
The Saga has enjoyed a collaboration with Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), aka Discover Hong Kong, ever since Kate Springer wrote her excellent article for CNN back in April last year. That article was a huge boost for this project and also caught HKTB’s attention back then. Within Once Upon A Saga, we have always been shinning some positive light on our surroundings which serves several purposes. First of all, it’s only fair to be kind to other people’s countries – and the material is often rich and easy to come by. More importantly I find that there is a false narrative being promoted globally and that this world, while not perfect, certainly has a lot more goodness within it than what most people seem to believe. And finally, it just makes everything a lot easier. If the Saga was a negative place where we pointed out hot political topics, mass corruption, inefficiency, death and destruction…then we might not have had access to several collaborations, the support from international shipping companies or a number of the visas which we have obtained. With that in mind I have been very kind to Hong Kong and China since we arrived on January 28th last year. And there is truly plenty to be kind about! Hong Kong is a fascinating corner of this world which a lot to offer. So much more than mere shopping. Wifey has from afar learned a great deal about Hong Kong but now she is here and discovering this pearl on her own. And she often says: “Hong Kong truly has a lot to offer”. I think she is right. Being stuck certainly doesn’t agree with me but at least we got stuck in the right place. And this week I got to take part in the first ‘Hong Kong Super Fans’ event. It was a virtual cocktail party and a huge success. Good fun. We are about 230 “super fans” with less than half of us being inside Hong Kong. Events will continue throughout 2021 on a biweekly basis.
Following the mixologists direction during the virtual cocktail.
Conquering the aptly named 'Bride's Pool Nature Trail'. Stunning views!!
I might not know what the “Brooklyn of Hong Kong” is or where you’ll find the best shrimp paste. But I can name a fair amount of Hong Kong’s peaks just by looking at them. Hiking has been my escape from reality since the early days of the pandemic. No matter the restrictions or the opening hours of restaurants, cafés, offices or museums – the mountains and trails have been there. And it is somewhat meditative and calming to walk in nature. As such it is good for both physical and mental health. Besides, Hong Kong is a lot more beautiful than what most people realize. Not long ago, wifey and I had lunch with Vivian who works at HKTB. I casual asked her why they don’t spend more time promoting the nature aspect and Vivian almost seemed frustrated as she answered: “we do!”. The case being that it is hard to change an image. Most people’s image of Hong Kong is the skyline of the sometimes impossibly tall skyscrapers. Hong Kong has over 9,000 high-rise buildings, of which over 4,000 are skyscrapers standing taller than 100m (328ft) with 480 buildings above 150m (492ft). In Denmark we have five building which are taller than 100m with two of those being tall due to towers/spires. Reality is that HKTB has been promoting the nature aspect for more than a decade but people still think of the city when they hear about Hong Kong. Oh well, perception is reality. The first time I heard someone say “perception is reality” was when Lars Andersen said it many years ago. Lars Andersen is along with Claus Pedersen the founders of Ross.dk which has been the Saga’s project partner since day one. Perception is definitely reality.
Plover Cove Reservoir as seen from the Bride's Pool Nature Trail.
My goodness I’m grateful for being stuck in Hong Kong where it is easy to come by highspeed internet. It has made it so much easier to have videocalls with friends and family. Something which has made a huge difference to my wellbeing. Lars Thuen and I have been friends since we met in the Danish army back in 1998. We nearly always have a laugh when speaking together and can at times get unreasonably silly. But we also cover some deeper and sometimes dark aspects of life. I also had a chance to get online with Helle and Pernille this week. We meet a business school back in 1996 and just connected. We’ve now been friends for more than twenty-five years! A lot of water under the bridge… I’ll be catching my father on skype tomorrow. Amazing times when we can connect face to face with a loved one across the planet. It’s not exactly like being together but it is fairly close. Nothing beats the real thing though. Wifey and I have been frequenting the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) a few times lately. It’s a member only club with historical and political significance for Hong Kong. And it is technically a journalist club while two-thirds of the members aren’t journalist. But we did run into one last time. The one and only Johan Nylander of Dagens Industri, where he works as their China Correspondent. He’s written a few books as well and has been a good friend since we met last year.
In front of the Joe Honda photo exhibition at FCC with Johan Nylander.
I should be getting my second jab next week. Some people believe it is an elaborate hoax. Some people are worried. Some people are true believers. The pandemic has existed for more than a year now and people’s opinions vary. Everyone has something to say on the topic and few are wearing lab coats. It reminds me of Tour de France. Every year when Tour de France comes around, millions of “experts” appear. I’ve had my own opinions about COVID-19 and some of them have held true while others have been debunked by time. There’s a reason why experts study for many years: the complexity and depth of certain subjects cannot be understood by reading an article. I trust that the vaccine they shoot into my arm is well tested. Sure – we don’t know what the long-term effects might be but I must assume that we know enough when the experts deem it safe. And what is next? Well, hopefully the vaccination will help to normalize this world of ours to such a degree that we can begin traveling as normal again. It seems that there are several travel bubbles being discussed and even our old friend Palau has now opened up for tourism again. So, if you are willing to hop on an airplane then go and enjoy Palau. It will be some time before we can reach such countries without flying but I sense that we are heading in the right direction.
What a night!! Great company!! From the right around the table: Le (wifey), Jesper, Thomas, Poul, Amy, Jakob, Kai, Rose, Kenneth and yours truly.
And finally, easter arrived. That means wifey had a few extra days off from work which in turn meant a few more full days for us to enjoy. For a long time now, I have been hiking for two hours every Thursday evening together with “the boys”. We’ve called our small social hiking group a few different things over time and it’s always good to get out there. The concept is that about 5-6 of us meet up, hike for about two hours and then continue to socialize around a homecooked meal and some red wine. Given that it takes place on Thursdays it’s usually not a wild affair as people need to get up and go to work the following day. Besides, my party-night days are a few decades behind me and I’m the youngest one in the group. But this was easter and we had Friday off. Jakob was hosting the homecooked meal and his lovely wife Kai (from Thailand) cooked the most amazing Thai meal you could ever imagine!! Jakob is a great guy who always wants the best for his friends. And given that Friday was a day-off, Jacob had several times announced that “the bar” was fully stocked. It was a special night as we had invited the wives to join as well. All in all, a very lovely evening in great company. But in spite of a good hike, a spectacular meal, outstanding company and an overall successful night…I decided to get sick on the floor of Amy’s Maserati as she offered us a ride home. Oh Amy!!! I am soooooooo sorry!! So, so sorry!! Wifey had a more “adult” approach that evening and mostly drank water. So, she has been caring for me. ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…’
‘wifey - The girl that is always there for you. The one that you were destined to be with.’
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - grateful.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga