Leading by example (from Hong Kong)

Day 2,892 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).

We’ve got to keep on keeping on

pano

There is very little here in life, if anything, which we have achieved completely on our own. We have all been educated, inspired and set up to succeed by others. You did not know English when you were born. And here you are reading it.

Last week’s entry: In spite of the rain… (Hong Kong continued)

There are three people who I rarely mention within the blogs. Yet, they were all responsible for getting Once Upon A Saga up on its feet back in 2013. Ann-Christina Salquist, Parth Nilawar and Søren Vestergaard, along with myself, became the ‘project group’ in 2013. They are all featured on the ‘About’ page on www.onceuponasaga.dk. The idea of Once Upon A Saga came after my father sent me an email with a link to an article about Graham Hughes. Graham intended to visit every country without flying, however as Graham flew several times and returned home several times - he never quite made it. That sparked the idea to go out and get it done. But the push came from Ann-Christina on a beautiful day when we were having brunch in Copenhagen. I told her about the idea to go out and visit every country without flying and Ann-Christina got really excited! “DO IT! It could motivate and inspire a lot of people and we will DEFINITELY be able to find sponsorship!!” I had been worried about having the costs covered but with Ann-Christina’s confidence the deal was nearly sealed. And true enough…Ross DK and later on Geoop came onboard as financial partners. Today they have covered some 60-70% of the Sagas expenses. My friend Søren was the next to offer his assistance and together we began to develop the overall concept. The website came online, a twitter account was created and I was shown how to enter a blog post. Back then the thinking was that Facebook had already peaked and would become irrelevant. I guess we were wrong :) Instagram and YouTube were later attached. I met Parth in Bangladesh back in 2011 and in 2013 he was temporarily living in Copenhagen. We met up for coffee and soon invited him to join as well. Parth has a brilliantly creative mind and is also very design technical. That formed the project group which still exists today. My then girlfriend and now ultra-wifey was and is naturally likewise a large part of it all. My good friend Kuno, who’s a Chartered Accountant, has always kept the books for the Saga and my father has since the beginning acted as a sort of “super secretary” whenever something needs attention in Denmark.

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Happy birthday Frank! He's such a kind and good hearted man. Grateful to be invited to celebrate his birthday along with a bunch of good people :) 

And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Because in reality Once Upon A Saga has always been a people project. The support has truly been endless. All the kindness shown from strangers across far more than a hundred countries. Many strangers turned into friends. A cup of coffee. A translation. Directions. A place to sleep. A meal. A contact. An invitation letter. Encouragement. Thousands of people have played a part of moving the Saga forward to where it is today. And where are we? Well, geographically we are still in Hong Kong. And come September 19th we will have held out for 600 days here during the pandemic. Ah – the pandemic! Such a topic. Every once in a while, I create a post for social media which relates to the pandemic, the virus or vaccines. It is such a wasp’s nest. After doing some research I scheduled this post to go online on Facebook and Instagram two days ago:

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WHO media briefing on COVID-19.

 

IS THE PANDEMIC OVER?

The answer isn’t simple. Because for some it seems to be, while others are still in the thick of it.

When people tell me “It’s a small world” I’m quick to say no! I guarantee you that it isn’t small. But it is well connected.

In Denmark (where I’m from) the government has declared that COVID-19 no longer poses a threat to public health. 73% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile there’s a zero Covid strategy in Hong Kong, China, New Zealand and most of the small pacific island nations in between.

In Denmark nobody wears masks anywhere anymore.

Here in Hong Kong everyone wears mask everywhere.

In Denmark you’re free to travel internationally and you MAY be required to isolate (at home) for ten days on return. This isolation may then be broken after obtaining a negative PCR test on the fourth day after entry.

In Hong Kong there’s a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine on arrival which in some cases stretches to three weeks.

40% of the world has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Countries such as the U.A.E, Uruguay, Qatar, Malta and Singapore rank at the very top with more than 70% of their populations vaccinated.

Unfortunately, there are at least 30 countries which haven’t reached 2% at this point.

So, you might be living as if the pandemic is behind us. But as long as there are BILLIONS of unvaccinated people out there, the virus will continue to mutate, and mutate, and mutate, and mutate, and mutate…on a LARGE scale.

Eventually we’ll get a variant which will set us all back.

GET VACCINATED IF YOU CAN!

It’s not the full solution. But it’s a large part of it.

Thor.

 

The post was popular and was shared multiple times. As expected, some did not approve of the message and commented with the usual rhetoric one would expect from people who do not want to get vaccinated or do not believe the pandemic, virus or vaccine is real. And so be it. In this world we need to lead by example. I received my first vaccine dose against COVID-19 on March 17th and received the second on April 7th. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is in line with the recommendations issued by the Red Cross, WHO, CDC, ECDC and just about any health organization one could think of. So, of course I got vaccinated as soon as I could. And I have been public about it. Unrelated I have not paid out any bribes at any point throughout the entirety of the Saga. Again: leading by example. Within the Saga we have raised money, awareness and advocated for becoming a volunteer within the Red Cross Red Crescent movement. There has always been something nice to say about each and every country we have encountered and the many people, cultures, regions and societies. And throughout all of this, all the gordian knots, all the insane bureaucrazy and all the mind-bending logistics…I have not quit and left the project once. Not once. Leading by example.

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Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong.

 

Another social media post from this week got even more traction than the above mentioned one. A lot more in fact!! It went like this:

 

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve looked up at an airplane and questioned what I’m doing with my life.

But when I hear how much it all means to many of you, how you feel inspired, how some of you draw strength, how some of you derive motivation, and how some of you have changed you perception of places, people and countries - well, how could my life be spent any better?

I could easily give up and head home. But I feel like we are getting closer to reaching the next country. And I’m not the type who quits.

Have a great day wherever you are.

Thor.

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Yeah – we may be getting closer to reaching a new country. And that country would ideally be Palau. It is somewhat frustrating to see so many people traveling all around the world with seemingly great ease…and yet…not having had an opportunity to do so for nearly 600 days. It goes to show that traveling without the convenience of flight is infinitely harder. And far harder during a pandemic. The plan is still to get on one of PIL’s (Pacific International Lines) containerships to Palau and after some time, return back to Hong Kong again. Ideally ultra-wifey would then be able to join me in Hong Kong for a while before we find our way to New Zealand. Ultra-wifey would return home to Denmark before the Saga heads to New Zealand. I often hear people ask if ultra-wifey could join me in reaching the final nine countries. That would be nice. But she couldn’t. She has a serious job in Denmark and apart from that it is hard enough to get one person passage on a containership. Well, there has been great progress in the plan and I have been requested not to reveal any details at this point. But I can tell you that we are currently waiting to hear back from PIL, whether they can bring me to Palau and back – or not. We have traveled with PIL three times before onboard the good ships Kota Nebula, Kota Hakim and Kota Hening. I’m confident that PIL will help us out once again if they can. But that all comes down to what fleet management, crewing and the agents have to say about it. If regulations prohibit a passenger from Hong Kong from boarding or disembarking a containership during pandemic regulations then it all falls apart. Well, we got this far – let’s see how it turns out.

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Some of the donations to the Seamen's Church.

The week has nearly come and gone once again. That’s good, because it means were still alive. This week has been a mix of work as always. Work for the Danish Seamen’s Church in Hong Kong and work within Once Upon A Saga. As the Danish Seamen’s Church is slowly preparing for the annual Christmas Bazaar, I have been busy collecting donations from various companies. Here in Hong Kong we drive on the left side of the road and I have quickly become accustomed to Hong Kong traffic as I race around collecting toys, carafes, ornaments, summer dresses and more. It’s nice to see all the support which exists for the Seamen’s Church. On a daily basis I stay updated on which ships arrive to Hong Kong and communicate with Captains at sea. I run errands for the ships and purchase whatever they might need. While quite time consuming it’s still interesting in a “treasure hunt kind of way”. I certainly get to see a lot of Hong Kong.

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Donating 450ml of A+ blood. They say that 1 donation saves 3 lives.

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Kenneth! :)

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Received another pin for the worlds most unique Red Cross pin collection.

This week I also got to donate blood for the second time here in Hong Kong. While that’s pretty good I’m a little annoyed that I didn’t get started any sooner. Anyway, this time I brought my friend Kenneth who has tried before but never succeeded due to strict rules. Apparently, the rules (which remain strict) have now been altered allowing Kenneth to donate. The donor center is operated by Hong Kong Red Cross and Kenneth and I met up a few days ago at the Tsuen Wan Donor Centre. Unfortunately, Kenneth sustained a minor injury during football and had taken some painkillers within the past seven days. He was told to come back another day. Good intentions though and we’ll get some blood out of him! ;) We had lunch afterwards and then strolled around in Tsuen Wan for a while, which is another really fascinating part of Hong Kong.

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The nutcases minus Poul. "let's go to work".

Well, last night was Thursday and that meant hiking with the nutcases followed by socializing. Thomas went to Denmark but has already returned. Now Poul is in Denmark and will soon enough be “enjoying” a two-week hotel quarantine on his return to Hong Kong. We’ve got to be at the end of this pandemic – right? I mean, this can’t be the beginning anymore? And we must be more than halfway? Who the heck knows? the "tail" of this thing will most definately be long. Stay safe and sane out there.

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Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - not quitting yet

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

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