There are no stupid questions? (Hong Kong continued)
Day 2,857 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).
Is it ever enough?
The similarities found between people are plentiful. Of course, we differ in some ways but in the big picture we are strikingly similar. And for many, it seems, more is never enough.
Last week’s entry: What happens when I don’t care anymore? (Hong Kong)
I suppose that many of you would have seen the cartoon drawing of a man walking down the street, who envies the person on a bicycle. Meanwhile the cyclist is in envy of the one who has a car. The one in the car wants a nicer car. The one in a nice car wants a driver and the one with a driver, dreams of having a private airplane. On a side note, a saw this analogy with a twist not long ago. Towards the end it included a boy in a wheelchair who envied the man with good strong legs who could walk anywhere. While the boy in the wheelchair goes to prove that things can always get worse…the overall story is about always wanting more. Why do people dream of having more money than what they can spend? If you already have millions then why do you need billions? Social media is a bit similar to that. The one with 200 followers dreams of having 1,000. And then 10,000 etc. And for years having a lot of online followers hasn’t been enough. Engagement is more vital. Afterall, what is the point in having a million followers if you only have a hundred people engaging with your content? Low engagement rates are common on many social media accounts. Often due to algorithms which limit the amount of people who can see online content. As such it is not uncommon to see content on an account with 50,000 followers receive a few hundred likes or less. It is such a weird and meaningless thing. If you are making money from having millions of followers then it makes sense. But if you are only looking for endorsement then why would you want to have it from thousands of complete strangers?
I asked this question on IG and Twitter and a lot of people voted. A friend of mine wrote me: a question is never stupid if the one asking learns something. Touche! I would however argue that there are certainly lazy questions.
Anyway, I’m not sure why any one person might be following Once Upon A Saga. It could be for a number of different reasons. It could relate to the humanitarian angle of all which we have achieved while acting as a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross. But I personally think that relates to very few. Some are interested in the Saga because of the access they gain in learning about places, people and cultures. Others are more interested in the overall progress of reaching more and more countries. It is difficult to assess how many might be tagging along for the inspiration and motivation which can be derived from setting a goal in life and fighting hard to achieve it. But there are certainly some and I really appreciate that. Then there are of course friends and family who simply care about me and take interest in what is going on in my life. Whatever the reason is, it amounts to a certain pressure to deliver content. And this week I just wasn’t up for it. So, what I went ahead and did was I shared a series of food related pictures with some descriptive captions. All the photos were of local food which Ultra-Wifey and I had back in June and I was able to schedule all the posts last weekend so that they went online automatically. Not representative of what was going on in my life but content nonetheless. And people seemed to like it and engaged with it. Food is such an easy and universally understood topic. Here in Hong Kong, it might have served as a source of pride or plain recognition. For people around the world, it might have evoked curiosity or inspiration. Who knows…
Hong Kong is full of good food.
Over the past year and a half in Hong Kong I have shared a lot of content. Recently I recycled some content and nobody seemed to notice. In light of the political situation, I seek to share what I deem as ‘safe content’. Content which will not upset too many people and which will not generate huge political waves. With only nine countries left within this project I am more on watch than ever in relation to what could go wrong and foil everything. It isn’t unlike building a card house and reaching the top layers. Could you imagine spending nearly eight years of your life on something and then seeing it crumble immediately before fruition? At any given time, I’m essentially just a deportation away from being escorted to the airport. One flight is all it takes to make the card house fall to the floor. Is it likely that I would be deported and forced on a flight? No – I don’t think so. Is it a risk which exists? Yes – it is. Far worse than a deportation would be if something should happen to someone I care dearly about. And statistically the longer the Saga takes the higher the risk becomes of that. So, eat healthy, exercise and be smart people!! I want to see you all when I get back home.
My feet and legs have been through a lot in Hong Kong!!
The New Zealand Red Cross has asked for more. Team ‘Once Upon A Saga in HK’ and all of its supporters has done really well!! We covered more distance and raised more money than what we sat out to do. In an email from New Zealand Red Cross they have thanked us for our amazing efforts but also pointed out that their target with the campaign was NZD 50,000 to help refugees and the work carried out to support them. Accumulated the teams and individuals who participated managed to raise NZD 45,882. So, we got quite close. And if every team/individual manages to raise an additional NZD 14 (USD 9.88) then we would meet the target. Now, it is almost a fact of life that everyone is not going to do that meaning that the rest of us would need to raise more that NZD 14. And when is enough, enough? Well, in my eight-year experience with the Red Cross it is never enough!! The movement seeks out to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable people across our planet. “The most vulnerable” is a noble but poorly defined group of people. And once we get to the most vulnerable and improve their conditions, then someone else will categorize as ‘most vulnerable’. It really appears to be like fighting against a sandstorm. We are close to eight billion beating hearts across our globe and most are doing just fine. However, dealing with such a larger number just means that those who suffer still count millions. MILLIONS! Does it even matter if we help? Afterall, what is NZD 50,000 (USD 35,000) amongst millions? Well – one thing is for sure: it doesn’t help to ‘not help’. And within big goals you can get lost in looking at the big picture. Sometimes you need to break it down into smaller pieces. We did not reach 194 countries (without flying) by thinking about it as 194 countries. We got this far by going from one country to the next. It’s how you solve a large puzzle, it’s how you pay back a loan – and it will be how we continue to improve this planet of ours. Afterall, most things have gotten better of the past twenty years. It did not change on its own. It has changed because we worked on it. Anyway – that’s my bid to make you donate NZD 14 (USD 9.88). Thank you for your contribution.
I'm privileged to see so many different sides of Hong Kong. This week I picked up some frozen meat for the Seamen's Church at a local warehouse. Sounded simple. Reality was different. But certainly an experience.
Lately I have been thinking about how the Red Cross has had an impact on the logistics of Once Upon A Saga. The movement hasn’t been overly active but there are some key moments to look back on. I’d argue that the first time the Danish Red Cross actively stepped up and made a difference was in 2014 when Randi Bjerre, who back then was the HR-Advisor for the Danish Red Cross, made contact with Maersk on my behalf to hear if they would help me cross the Atlantic eastbound. And that did indeed become the first time I traveled on one of Maersk’s container vessels. The second time the Red Cross got involved in a significant way was back in June 2015 when I was in Liberia. West Africa had been hit hard by an Ebola epidemic which was still ongoing as I on July 5th 2015 entered Guinea Conacre. A few days later the Saga reached Sierra Leone and a few days after that we found ourselves within Liberia. We had our ducks in a row with all the visas and paperwork we needed to cross the border into Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). However, out of fear of Ebola spreading into Côte D’Ivoire, they would not let me cross the border. With my limited French I tried my best but it was a tough situation with me on one side of the bridge leading across the water, and the armed guards gesturing to stay away on the other side. I eventually managed to get in touch with Fansu Kone at the Côte D’Ivoire Red Cross who took affair. We learned that the border immigration, the border police and the armed forces would let me cross if I could provide signatures from the Minister of Health, the Ebola Committee, the Ministry of Defense and the Prime Minister of Côte D’Ivoire!! A pretty tall order! Impossible some would say. But one should never underestimate the influence of the Red Cross and Fansu Kone delivered (after several days). I eventually crossed the border and the Saga reached country number 87: Côte D’Ivoire.
Hong Kong is currently receiving a lot of rain! this is a road - not a river.
Crossing the Congo River from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) proved to be a true bureaucratic nightmare! Here I received help from the French Red Cross in Brazzaville as well as in Kinshasa to solve the madness and reach country number 101 during March 2016. In Ethiopia I remember spending an evening around Christmas with Signe Yde-Andersen, who was the Danish Red Cross delegate in the region back in 2016. This neither solved logistics nor bureaucracy but it was a moral booster and good company in a foreign country far from home – not something to be underestimated. In March 2018 a Danish Red Cross delegate in Lebanon, who quickly became very dear to me, liaised with the Syrian Red Crescent in order to grant me a visa, which enabled us to enter country number 144: Syria. So yeah – the Red Cross has helped out now again. I suppose I’ve been thinking about this lately because we now find ourselves within a global pandemic which remains far from over. And New Zealand Red Cross may enter this select list of National Societies who helped make the Saga possible. Let’s see…it remains far easier to say no here in life than to say yes and make a difference. And in the words of Dale Carnegie: “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no help at all”.
I had a pedicure and a foot massage together with the lovely Anita. It was accompanied with the mandatory dumplings. Great tradition we have created.
Will we be going to Palau anytime soon? Well, it ties well into what I just wrote: it remains far easier to say no here in life than to say yes and make a difference. We know for a fact that our Dutch friend Roel has been working hard on helping the Saga reach Palau. The very first thing we need is an invitation letter from the Palauan Government but that needs to be signed by someone. For some people signing a document becomes problematic as it requires taking responsibility. For others it is within their nature to take the lead and make things happen. The letter of invitation has been making its rounds amongst ministers who have all found that it should be signed by a department other than theirs. Ah – the bureaucrazy of the Saga. Meanwhile avid traveler and successful YouTuber Drew Binsky has arrived to Palau. Palau has opened up for the USA if you are fully vaccinated and can deliver a negative PCR test. So, Drew is now enjoying the Paradise which is Palau. Well, as the workaholic he is its more likely that Drew is chasing around from one location to the next filming and editing material. He is likely making a huge splash amongst the locals. Drew has more than 3 billion video views. I have 374,323 views on YouTube. Small potatoes is what I am. However – reaching Palau, and many other countries, is far more of an accomplishment when you’re not flying. So - from a travel technical perspective: I’m one up on him ;)
Well done Jakob! And Thanks to Jesper for joining us on the final stretch! Good stuff.
Finally, in a brief update from the week which went, the big events have been conquering the Hong Kong Trail together with Jakob in 8 hours and 18 minutes making it a personal best for him! Well done! And it became the fifth time I made it through the trail during July which left me exhausted and in pain. Before we reached the final trail marker a headache had developed which I couldn’t shake. I suspect it developed from tension. Meanwhile blood vessels once again burst on both legs in what’s known as “Disney rash”. And while it wasn’t the end of the world it sure stung, especially when touched! And to top things off I had a nasty five-minute cramp in the trapezius (yes, I looked it up) which is the muscle between your neck and shoulder. It stayed sore for half a day after that. The headache stayed with me for a few days. Ah yes – good times. But then I also had the pleasure of revisiting the good ship Nakskov Maersk which called Hong Kong again. And she is quite a remarkable ship! Just a few months out of the shipyard and equipped with modern facilities. Captain Jensen gave me a guided tour from top to bottom and I really enjoyed speaking with him. So much in fact that I stayed onboard for more than two hours. When I returned to the car the batteries had died out because I left the lights and the rotating beacon on the roof on…but the engine off. I always switch the engine off when I go onboard as I find it environmentally friendly. And I’m usually onboard the ships for 10-20 minutes so it’s normally not an issue for the battery. Yeah – there I was inside the Port of Hong Kong at 01:30am with a dead battery. It’s not like you can just call a friend. I do not speak Cantonese but managed to flag port security who sent someone to get the engine going again. People are usually friendly and helpful as long as you approach them in the right way. And Hong Kong is a good and efficient place to be.
My very own Nakskov Maersk cup!! :)
Nobody feels smart when the battery dies out.
I love how the guys at the port got the car started and then just drove off again! :)
Other than that, I have had a few video calls, a few interviews, a bit of work for the Danish Seamen’s Church, I’ve managed social media, I wrote this entry for you and I went hiking with the boys in pouring rain. The weekly Thursday Hike is something I always look forward to. Last night we (Kenneth, Poul, Jakob, Jesper and I) ended up at my place, had pizza and watched the handball match between Spain and Denmark. It’s another sport I have no real interest in but most Danes do. I at least feel a sense of national pride. And we won which means we are playing in the finals this Saturday! Denmark has already won eight medals with two of them being gold. Hong Kong has also done well with five medals, one of them being gold! As you would expect its China and USA who are sitting on the motherload of medals and Russia would have been up there too if they had not been suspended due to the doping scandal which went on from 2011 to 2015. However Russian athletes have managed to compete anyway under the acronym ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) and have now won 58 medals with 16 of them being gold. Oh the controversy…
Hanging with da boyz!! Best part of the week! :)
News (of any kind) will never be the same for me again. Not having been to all of these countries. My heart bleeds for Afghanistan. I’m so sorry. Hey, how about those NZD 14 to team ‘Once Upon A Saga in HK’ in our efforts to help refugees? Thank you.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - thank you one and all.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga