Table for one please… (Hong Kong)
Day 2,815 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 flies - I don’t
My wife spent 101 days within my company here in Hong Kong. She fell in love with Hong Kong as so many before her. Now I am surrounded by people but alone.
Last week’s entry: Ultra-Wifey’s last week in Hong Kong
Loneliness. We all feel it from time to time. Sometimes when we are misunderstood. Sometimes when we are chosen last. Sometimes when we are left behind. Once Upon A Saga has more than 100,000 online followers which is an achievement with today’s algorithms, all the online content which is available everywhere and certainly without paying for a following. It is volatile. Any account can be closed tomorrow. Fellow traveler Dan Herszberg has close to 60,000 followers on Instagram now. He creates great content through his Instagram stories. Not long ago his Instagram account was shut down for no good reason. He was fortunate to get it back online after more than a month. I love reading your comments and I know that all of you are following and supporting by your own will. Thank you.
An online community is one thing. There is no physical engagement. I have good friends in Denmark where I’m from. I miss them. I am fortunate to have good friends around the world. Until recently I would go to bed and wake up next to my wife. Now the bed only hosts me. I should be fortunate to have a bed. But that is momentarily secondary. Now I wake up alone. I made breakfast for Ultra-Wifey neatly every day. Now I just prepare breakfast for me. I shop for groceries alone. I look out the window and see the rain falling. Once Upon A Saga has always been lonely in its own way. Sitting in busses, checking into hostels, applying for visas, eating meals… Here in Hong Kong I have also been fortunate to find friends. I am not alone. But these days are rough. I feel lonely. Having the woman I love next to me was real. Now she is back in Denmark. I dropped her off at the airport last Sunday and drove away. When I looked in the rear mirror, I could still see her standing there. It was hard to hold my tears back.
The first few days were really tough.
Loneliness is a growing problem on planet earth. Children grow up with their parents at work. Maybe they only have one parent. Couples grow old but eventually lose their life partner and go on alone. The youth spends so much time online updating social media and miss out on forging real relationships. Yet, I have been to so many countries where loneliness is almost unheard of. Countries where families have tight bonds and live together. Parents, children, grandchildren and the extensions. The Red Cross in Denmark works with loneliness among many other things. They help forge human connections. That is important. Maybe more so now than ever.
Ultra-Wifey presenting The Bones of Miss Willy. Ta-daaa!
My last days with Ultra-Wifey were not uneventful. In fact, our 101 days together were quite busy. While both working full time jobs, we managed a lot: hiking, socializing, exploring, dining and growing closer together. During the last two days before she boarded the airplane, we had her tested for Covid-19. She got vaccinated in Hong Kong but procedures are procedures. Afterwards we headed all the way out to Cape D’Aguilar to see The Bones of Miss Willy. While Hong Kong isn’t a large place it was a time-consuming hassle to get out there. And why go there? I’m not sure why the skeleton is there? It’s not even real bones. It seemed to me that the derelict skeleton was made of glass fibre. No one seems to know the true story although one version states that the skeleton is that of a female orca which used to perform at Ocean Park. Perhaps? The nature surrounding the area is beautiful and there are a few caves and WWII batteries as well. Go if you like.
Dining at Sorabol! Soooooo gooooood!!
We stopped by at a Starbucks’s on Duddell Street near the staircase with the gas lamps. It’s an interesting Starbucks’s as it has been decorated in old Hong Kong style. We saw Cruella in the cinema. A new adaptation of 101 Dalmatians. Good movie. And we had South Korean BBQ at Sorabol which is yet another of Hong Kong’s Michelin recommended restaurants. Ultra-Wifey loves a good meal. Who doesn’t? Remarkably we ran into the Savagars on the street that evening?? That’s the family which so kindly hosted me for the first five months here. What are the odds? Well, I find that it happens a lot that I bump into people I know in this part of the world with more than 7.5 million beating hearts. Go figure?
Our VR experience. Don't worry: the planet is safe now.
The last day together we indulged in a Virtual Reality experience. Brave new world! Our experience took place in 2088 where we had to defend some sort of shipment from an alien attack. Brave new world! Then we followed that up with a full body massage and Michelin recommended dumplings.
Soon after it was time to pack and send her off on her way home via Doha. The convenience of flight. Trucks used to depart the UK and drive to Doha via Turkey, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The world has changed a lot in the last four decades. Farewell Ultra-Wifey. I left the airport and headed to the port where I boarded the good ship Charlotte Maersk which flies a Danish flag and has her home port in Fredericia, Denmark. A couple of seafarers needed new phones and I showed up with a Samsung and an iPhone. A seafarer’s life has never been easy. These days it’s harder. Times have changed for them as well.
Spotted this Praying Mantis crossing the road.
Monday came. My first morning waking up alone. Not fun at all. The show must go on. We keep on keeping on and A stranger is a friend you’ve never met before. After breakfast I found my way to The San Wui Commercial Society YMCA of Hong Kong Christian School in Sham Shui Po. Sham Shui Po was once the bustling center of Hong Kong where ships would arrive and shops would cater to them. Times have changed. Eoghan (pronounced Owen) Young had invited me to his school. He’s a great guy from Cork in Ireland. What’s not to like about the Irish! We dashed from one classroom to the next as I answered the student’s questions. That never gets old. I love interacting with the youth and I have often wondered if I should have been a teacher? It’s such an honourable job passing information on to a new generation.
Children are the future. And it is our job to keep them inspired. Thanks for having me :)
It was a short visit at the school which counts students from more than twenty-five countries. I had to make my way to the Tsuen Wan Doner Centre. It’s run by the Hong Kong Red Cross. For a while I’ve been stating that I wanted to donate blood. I kept my promise. It was easy. I booked it online and showed up. At arrival they took my temperature and then I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork. I’m no stranger to bureaucracy but this was fortunately of the sensible kind. Once the paperwork was done, I was seated for a while and asked to drink more fluids. I’ve donated eleven times in the past so I was well aware and already drank a bottle before I arrived. The last time I donated was with the Nepalese Red Cross.
A nurse consulted me with some additional questions and then I was ready. I was seated and they drew 350ml from my left arm. That’s the arm I always use for blood donations. A standard line to recruit donors is that it’s an easy way to save lives. And it is. This became my twelfth donation and who knows in which bodies my blood flows? Racism, class differences, religion, nationalities, sexual orientation, age, ethnicities and so much more. When people need blood, they don’t seem to care who it came from. It’s such a symbol of coexistence to me.
Easy!! You should really go out there and get started.
You’re supposed to take it easy after donating blood but I needed a run! Running centers me. So, in the evening I headed out to Kwai Chung Sports Ground and did 6.4km (4mi). It became my new distance following the Goggins Challenge earlier this year. The week continued. Rain kept falling. Hong Kong’s beautiful lake like reservoirs have been in need for rain for some time. The symbolism of rain! It began raining when Ultra-Wifey left and has continued ever since. A coincidence of course. My friend Dehua and I had planned a hike together last Wednesday. But man, it was pouring down!!
Superstar Harry Savagar. When I arrived he began watching the Once Upon A Saga channel on YouTube. Why? I was right there :)
Our hike was set in Sai Kung where we planned to do MacLehose section 3. A tough hike which I’m very familiar with. Dehua is from mainland China and is returning to Beijing for three months this weekend. He’s a great guy. Sensible too because he quit the hike and begged me to do the same. I’m not as sensible. I dropped Dehua off at the Savagars and went on to do the hike alone. It was obviously a wet hike but beautiful, quiet and serene. Afterwards I joined him at the Savagars for a lovely dinner. I had a change into some dry clothes and it was just like the good old days. Back when we thought that the pandemic would be short lived.
Paying the good ship Charlotte Maersk a visit and delivering two phones.
I can’t see my way out of Hong Kong and into any of the remaining nine countries. These times are tough. I’ve been reaching out to friends around the world. Ben Braham in Tunisia, Cam in Australia, Inger in New Zealand, Roel in Palau, Craig in Australia, Pacific International Lines in Singapore, Maersk in Singapore, the Felders currently in Greece and many more. I believe that our best options are to reach Palau, New Zealand or Australia next. It’s very complex though. The path home is incredibly complex. I’m hoping that the governments will look kindly upon receiving me. However, governments are naturally concerned with the spread of the virus. Things are looking better many places and particularly in the EU. That seems to generate a lack of understanding for the situation elsewhere. Covid-19 is still raging ahead many places and life is disrupted. I wish it wasn’t.
Today, Friday June 25th, is the Day of the Seafarer. I owe so many of them so much.
The next stage of the pandemic seems to be a “bubble world”. Some countries are uniting in creating bubbles between them making it easier to travel. Let’s see those bubbles grow and unite. We need to see the other side of this for everyone’s sake. It requires work though. We need to remain cautious and vigilant in relation to this virus. It has mutated again and again making it so much easier to spread than last year. Fortunately, we have the vaccines, masks, hand sanitizer and knowledge. Let’s not waste it.
Denmark won the match against Russia! Here you have Treadmill-Poul dashing off to get some "goal beers". The Danish matches have been shown on a big screen in Danish Room at the Danish Seamen's Church.
And this is where this entry comes to an end. Yesterday my childhood friend Kristoffer called me. We have been close friends for most of our lives. It’s nice when he sometimes calls me out of the blue. I also got to do a video call with Helle who has likewise been a good friend for several decades. I wouldn’t really want to live on this planet without good friends. Trees, lakes, mountains and what have we are nice. The relations we forge between people are paramount. I have made several friends in Hong Kong which have now left. I miss them and their company. Ole Sander left Hong Kong to go and live and work in Singapore. He brought his family and they seem to be doing fine over there. Ole recently reached out to hear if I was willing to present the Saga for VL. Ole quickly asked me if I’ve heard about VL before? I had not. It’s a networking group for Danish leadership which exits across multiple platforms in groups of 30-40 members. While Denmark is a small country it is home to some huge international companies such as Maersk, Carlsberg and Lego. I was happy to contribute. Ole and his family have been very kind to me and if there’s anything I can help him with then I will try my best. Besides, there’s no harm in catching the attention of a few VL members ;)
A good bunch of people those VL'ers :)
While stuck in Hong Kong for what feels like forever, we are actually in a good place. Once Upon A Saga is about more than reaching every country without flying. It’s just as much about promoting the Red Cross, creating positive content in relation to countries, profile the kindness of people, and lately also about inspiring people to fight for their goals – especially when it seems hopeless. My goodness things look hopeless right now. But do you see me packing up and leaving? The Saga has several strong partners which you can find here below. In Hong Kong I have everything I need. Mentally it’s a struggle but you won’t see that as long as I smile. Some day I will look back at “the Hong Kong chapter” and question if it was really all that hard? To my future self: trust me – it was hard! But congrats on pulling through!
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) - let the beard flow
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga