Clickbait works really well (Hong Kong continued)

Day 2,878 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 tunnel keeps getting longer

pano

It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s Hong Kong. The pandemic might be nearing its end but the tail will likely be really long. The world is a much better place than most people are aware – and what else is new?

Last week’s entry: Bound is the boatless man – (still in Hong Kong)

This week has been stock full of work and I also managed to get drunk three times. We have 24 hours within a day and if you sleep for 6-8 hours every night then you still end up with 16-18 hours of being awake. That is a lot of time! Especially when you are living alone!! Even if I find myself working 10-12 hours a day there is still time left for other things. A lot of my life has become utter routine and I can almost drive from my workplace to the port with my eyes closed. I also know every step of the way from the office to Lai King station, the stops to Sham Shui Po and the shops which I need to satisfy the seafarers requests. During the pandemic seafarers have not been able to leave their ships when arriving at a port. If they are signing off and heading home then everything is highly controlled between the transfer from the ship to the airport. And shops in airports are generally closed. So you can imagine how hard it would be to acquire the simplest of items during these times. It appears that the Port of Hong Kong has been gaining a reputation as a place where seafarers can get things done. Crew change operations run fairly smooth in Hong Kong and for the Danish flagged ships they have the assistance provided by the Danish Seamen’s Church (DSC). Within my temporary job as an assistant for the DSC I email the captains, informing them on what we can provide, and then wait for a reply. Sometimes they don’t reply, sometimes they reply they do not require anything and sometimes they request for something. Since December 2020 I have been the only employee at DSC apart from Anders who comes in to do the bookkeeping once every month.

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At least I get to use my logistical mindset now and again. The good ship Susan Maersk wanted to off-load 14 boxes of books in Hong Kong. I reached out to the good ship Nordborg Maersk which I knew was brand new and lo and behold - they took the books. Lopgistics is nothing more than the right amount of information to the right people at the right time ;)

Within my time at the DSC I have certainly noticed a general trend of more and more requests from ships. Hong Kong gets called by anywhere between 2-15 Danish flagged ships every month. This month it has been 8 and we have provided service to all 8. It’s more work than most seem to think but it’s not complicated – just time consuming. And in the big picture it is an honor to be servicing seafarers. Throughout Once Upon A Saga I have had the pleasure of traveling onboard twenty-five containerships and through my work at the DSC I have been onboard an additional thirty ships here in Hong Kong. So, at this point I am somewhat experienced with life onboard. Unknown to many we will need to board an additional 12-14 containerships in order to complete Once Upon A Saga. Try to imagine the bureaucracy and logistics which needs to fall in place for that to happen. We are by no means close to the end of reaching every country. We are closer than ever before but by no means close.

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Captain Paraschiv to the right and Chief Engineer Nielsen in the middle. On the good ship Sovereign Maersk. Once the worlds largest containership.

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Working with ships is at times unpredictable. It can be any time around the clock. Here with the good ship Sovereign Maersk. 

Apart from the work with the ships I also manage the DSC’s Facebook account which is in Danish and is a lot nicer than managing the one for Once Upon A Saga. Mainly because it cannot be about anything and it always needs to be uplifting. On the Saga’s social media, I sometimes permit myself to be moody. I sometimes let people know if I’m not feeling well and I sometimes underline what’s hard and complicated. But the DSC account is a professional workplace account and does not relate to feelings. As such the frame is much smaller: its always about seafarers or DSC activities, post only appear 2-3 times a week, and its always upbeat. The results have been positive as well and the DSC account has received far more followers as well as engagement. It’s great practice for how I wish to manage social media for the Saga once I return to Denmark. Many years ago, I was told that I needed to post content every day in order of pleasing the algorithms. Algorithms change all the time and it might not be relevant anymore. But I still do it most weeks. 2-3 posts a week is obviously much easier to manage. But on the Saga’s FB account that would account for ‘Throw Back Thursday’, ‘The Friday Blog’ and ‘RC Sunday’ alone.

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There are about 1,100 cows in Hong Kong. They walk about freely and are a remnant from when they were farm animals.

Yeah – in addition to the work with ships and social media I also run the online shop which offers seafarers and Danes in Hong Kong alike, the opportunity to by typical Danish delicacies. Mostly candy but other things as well. As such I receive the orders, pack the items, community with the customers, receive payment and hand over the items. Now, when I say I’m the only employee then I also need to mention that there are several volunteers, which chip in on a variety of tasks. Anders has e.g. handled an insurance case, Anita, Winnie, Lene and Christina are currently working on creating the next order from Denmark for the online shop and everyone takes part in events such as Junk Trips and the annual Christmas Bazaar. And preparations for the Christmas Bazaar have already begun. During this week in particular I have collected a large amount of toys for the bazaar. A Swedish company in Hong Kong donated the toy samples and I made five runs from their office on the 17th floor to the DSC – each run with a car completely full of toys. Hong Kong is different like that. You can find supermarkets in Hong Kong which are located on the fourth floor. Factories and storage facilities are often found several floors up. Back home in Denmark supermarkets are found on ground level which makes it easy for everyone. It’s easy for the supermarket to take delivery and it is easy for the customers to carry groceries out. But Hong Kong has limited space so things go up, up and up. I would have hired a truck to transport the toys in one load but I just couldn’t see how the logistics of it would work? I have no idea how they got all of those toy samples up on the 17th floor. But it was a hassle to bring them down.

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First load! Imagine getting pulled over by traffic police and having to explain that you're not crazy! :)

First off, I had to park the car two levels below ground. Then go to the nearest elevator and head up to second floor. From there I had to walk across to tower 6 where another elevator shaft got me up to the 17th floor. Within the office a young fellow named David helped me place as many boxes as we could on a trolley and then took them down a service elevator to the “podium” which was basically the third floor. We stacked up about four trollies worth of boxes near a fire escape. At this point David would stay behind while I would return to the parking garage, retrieve the car, drive up to ground level, enter a ramp to the podium, make my way around the building while on the podium and park near the fire escape. Then David and I would rapidly load the station car until we couldn’t fit a shoebox and I would drive back to the DSC. At the DSC I would reverse the car as close as possible to a ramp, then offload the boxes onto trolleys, push them across the lobby and into an elevator, then bring them up to the 1st floor where we have been given some temporary storage within the office complex. Afterwards I would make my way back to Tsim Sha Tsui (8.2km/5.1mi) where the office was, and start all over. There was no way we could have fitted all the boxes near the fire escape so I think these five runs were the most optimal solution. But not as efficient as having a loading ramp at the end of an elevator shaft which lead directly to the office on the 17th floor. Yeah – that operation took some time. And there is lots of other obligations at the DSC but they key ones have been mentioned.

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A picture from the Danish Travelers Club event in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Interviews and online engagements remain a part of my weekly routine and this week I got to participate for a bit at the Danish Travelers Club’s twenty-five-year anniversary, which has been combined with a book launch. The club has some 700 members by now and aspires to promote an active lifestyle full of travel. As such the members are often happy to share stories, contacts and tips about a wealth of destinations. I have been fortunate to cross paths with several members over the years and it has always been interesting. My membership number is 762 and I have contributed with one of the many stories within the twenty-five-year anniversary book trilogy. My friend Lars bought the first book and said it was very well done. The club has its own café in Copenhagen and I look forward to visiting it someday. Someday indeed.

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Out hiking with Poul. Surprised to see so many Hongkongers out there in the heat. They were classically hiking with umbrellas to get some shade.

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Yeah, we had five of these - each.

With all the physical activity within July I chose not to do any hikes or runs for the first two weeks of August. The only exceptions have been the Thursday hikes with the nutcases. Thursday last week I might have had a bit too much to drink afterwards but had a great time. Last Friday I was invited to join a function which ended really late and once again I went to bed fairly intoxicated. I’m not much of a drinker and have a relatively low tolerance for alcohol. So, two nights in a row was sort of filling my quota for a while. But then after a really nice hike together with Poul last Sunday we ended up at a café for some lunch and a beer. And then another beer, and another, and another, and another. Three large beers are in principle enough for me. Five were somewhat over the top. Poul helped me get home in a taxi and then left me on the parking lot. I stuck my hand into my pocket and realized there was no key? Then I tried the other pocket with the same result. “Oh? I’ve lost my keys” I thought to myself. The building had been abandoned for the day and I had no idea how to get inside it. I did however manage to make a few drunken Instagram stories while on the parking lot. And being someone who has slept on the ground several times throughout the Saga the idea wasn’t far away. It was warm enough and most good ideas had left my head. But after about forty minutes as the sun had sat, I suddenly remembered that I never placed the key within my pocket. Before I left home, I placed it securely within my backpack – which I was still wearing. And thus, I made my way inside the building. I then proceeded to cook a drunken meal while entertaining some unknown sized audience through a live Instagram video. The video was unfortunately deleted afterwards ;)

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Found them!

The escape from Hong Kong is a tough one. I have come to love Hong Kong and I have many dear friends here. But I would leave in a heartbeat if I could as any progress would be progress towards completing the Saga. You know, relieve the stress and pressure , see family and friends, be free again. My visa needs to get extended one again as I am coming towards the end of my original contract with the DSC. However, the contract has been extended with a full year and I have been paying the Immigration Tower a few visits. My first visit was simply with the letter from my employer in Denmark, which is DSUK (Danish Seamen’s Church and Church Abroad), my passport, my ID card and a few passport photos. What else would you need to extend your visa? Well, immigration wanted a cover letter and also, I could not begin the process until 30 days before my visa expired. So, week later I returned with a cover letter from DSUK (this week). Now – Hong Kong Immigration is nothing less that amazing, streamlined and efficient in my experience…but, everything has to exactly by the book!! While I had brought all the required information it wasn’t all compiled within a single letter. And it did not matter that I had brought my contract…my salary had to be on the cover letter. It also did not matter that a separate letter from DSUK had the information relating to the contract’s extension – no…it also had to be on the cover letter. And the most annoying element of all was that they really pushed for a stamp on the letter. I tried to explain that Denmark isn’t a “stamp country” like Japan or China and that a signature sufficed where I come from. But they really wanted a stamp or chop as it’s known around here. More so, immigration couldn’t accept that the letter had been digitally signed and wanted a “proper” signature on the letter which then had to be posted from Denmark to Hong Kong. Bureaucrazy at its finest. Well, we didn’t cross hundreds of borders without learning a thing or two. And with a lot of support (thank you) from DSUK I managed to return the following day and have immigration accept the application. I should be able to pick up my visa on September 10th. Fingers crossed. It all plays into the logistics of reaching the next country.

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On and off I find time to watch a movie. And I usually set it up on the large screen within the DSC. My sister recommended this one.

The next country is of course optimally Palau. Just take a look at a map and you will realize why. By the way, as per the last two blogs everything written above this paragraph was done sober. Now I am under the influence of an undisclosed amount of beer. Not hit as hard, however, as when I couldn’t find my keys the other day. On another topic I sometimes remind people that things are going in the right direction. Maybe we need to hear that now. A lot of people in e.g. Afghanistan would currently disagree and I have chosen not to write about Afghanistan this week. I think we need more time to call the outcome. But the world! Oh yes, the world. The world has improved vastly over the decades with far less people losing lives due to natural disasters, with more children in schools, with far more girls getting educated than ever before, with extreme poverty being more than halved, with scientists developing vaccines for COVID-19 in record time, with pandas no longer being classified as vulnerable, with tigers growing in numbers for the first time in a hundred years, with child mortality being at an all-time low, with wild polio eradicated from our planet, with child labor on the decline, with health expectancy rising, with peace and security rising dramatically and with alternative energy getting cheaper. I’m sure that there is much more but these were just off the top of my head. And all of it is verifiable. The media is run by numbers and fear sells!! So, you get to hear a lot about horror and it has to be said that it definitely exists. It’s just pretty rare in the big picture. Take it from a guy who has seen more of the world than just about anyone alive today. I have a few scary stories to tell but in the big picture they are not representative of my experience. So, the media can go and [insert word] itself (you can complete that sentence). My father doesn’t like it when I swear within the blog. My mother is more indifferent with that kind of stuff :)

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Getting creative with the toy samples. It took ten minutes to set this up :)

Many people were in large surprised when Robin Williams took his own life back in 2014. Why would someone so successful and so funny end his life by his own hand? It took me a while to realize but I have come to understand that there can be a huge difference between a public image and reality. Even amongst friends and family we can play a role which fools our surroundings. And then in private we can be caught within a completely different mindset. As I told you in an earlier entry, I was offered to see a psychiatrist pro bono while here in Hong Kong. I accepted the offer and sat through five sessions. Afterwards I was offered more free sessions but declined. I did not feel like I was getting anything substantial out of the sessions. But the psychiatrist was both nice and professional. It just wasn’t for me. I find that I have always been good at speaking with my friends about even the most tabu issues so that I’m not left alone with them. And I have always been fortunate to have the kind of friends who would listen. Back then the psychiatrist asked me if I had considered suicide and it was a strange question to get? I am not committed to ending my own life but I am aware that the option exists and as such I have thought about it. I certainly feel that I am living a stressful and difficult life which people could not possibly relate to. And I am often frustrated. But at the same time, I am playful and creative. I have a sense of humor and often joke around. My default setting is to smile and I try to be optimistic about life. Except when I am not. All in all, I feel an uneasiness and almost anger just below the surface which can show its face at a moment’s notice. And I don’t think that people see that…

This week I heard the following and it rang true with me:

“The single-minded ambition that it takes to be successful can create a disconnect from your closest friends and family members”.

It made me think of all the friends and family members I haven’t seen for years. All the times people have had their birthdays without me sending them well wishes. All of my friends’ children who are growing up without me being present. All the graduations, weddings, anniversaries, parties, funerals and other events I have not been there for. But thank goodness for development. At least I have access to high-speed Internet and video calls. Last night I got to catch up with my father who is doing well after his hip surgery. He’s 73 and recently got to meet up with friends he’s had for fifty years.

I sense that there is progress for the Saga. We may slowly be getting closer to reaching a new country. However, I’ll update you further in due time. For now, it’s just: Keep on keeping on!

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My first bowl of "koldskål" (cold buttermilk soup) for more than eight years. Thanks to Christina! :)

P.S.: last week I might have written something nice about the guys I meet up with every Thursday. But forget that. They are all dumb witted morons who would fair less intelligent than a wet piece of cardboard in a test for a three-year-old. Oh well, they can’t all be winners. I guess I’ll meet up with them again next week ;)

 

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Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - at least there's still light.

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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