How we’ll (possibly) reach Palau without flying (from Hong Kong)
Day 2,934 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).
Slow and steady wins the race
I highly doubt that there is anyone, anywhere, who wants to see the end of Once Upon A Saga more than I do. The difference for some may be that I want to see it completed successfully.
Last week’s entry: Let it burn!! (from Hong Kong)
In a close cooperation with the Palauan Presidency (wow!), we have found a solution to how I can enter their great island nation without flying. The overall complications of course lie within the COVID-19 pandemic which is still very much alive. It is not lost on me that some people think the pandemic is mostly over now. Within my own country Denmark, it is. Life has returned to normal in Denmark and you can easily visit my country, and at least twenty others, if only you are vaccinated. However, if you check in with e.g. Russia or Brazil then you will get a completely different story. Palau has much like Hong Kong handled the pandemic quite well. And Palau is now open to quarantine free tourism if you are vaccinated and arrive on a vessel, also with everyone vaccinated. I received my second jab on April 7th which is six months ago. The Palauan Health Ministry investigated if I possibly needed a booster shot before departure. Hong Kong is currently not offering booster shots and it is unclear when that might begin. Therefore, we agreed that I would need to be tested for COVID-19 prior to embarking the vessel, that the vessels operators (PIL) should provide official documentation on infection control measures implemented for vessel operations, as well as health management protocols for personnel. In addition, I must also complete a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Palau. That all seems doable to me. The reason for all of this is because I will be traveling onboard a containership and the entire crew is unlikely to have been vaccinated.
Having a good time with PIL in Singapore, 2019, "The Penthouse".
That brings us to Pacific International Lines (PIL). PIL is a leading shipping company which has assisted the Saga three times before. PIL committed to support the Saga throughout the Pacific after we had a few laughs together during a Saga-presentation back in 2019. I was invited to speak at “The Penthouse” which is situated on top of their building in Singapore. Once Upon A Saga would likely have reached its final country around October 2020 without the pandemic getting in the way. PIL is currently looking into what is possible. The ship which I will embark doesn’t go directly between Hong Kong and Palau. It goes from Hong Kong to Kaohsiung (Taiwan), Guam (USA), Saipan (USA), Yap (Federated States of Micronesia) and then finally Palau. It is a fifteen-day journey and PIL needs to ensure that none of the ports along route have restrictions prohibiting a passenger being onboard the vessel. Now, we can all agree that it shouldn’t be a problem as I am not disembarking the vessel anywhere else than in Palau. However, we can surely also agree that not everything makes sense during the pandemic. Outside of the pandemic it was already a requirement that I acquired a USA visa prior to being on the ship within USA territory. Yeah – flying is somewhat easier than what we’re doing ;) I got my visa for the USA while in the Marshall Islands and it is valid for ten years. Anyway, we are currently waiting for PIL to return with some good news so we can be on our way. Understandably this will take some time. I trust that PIL is doing everything they can but they are naturally subject to national restrictions. Fingers crossed.
Escapism for me is often found in watching a movie. It can block out a couple of hours and make me forget everything else. In this shot I was watching "Pusher II" from 2004.
I am grateful for all the support. Imagine to have the support from the Presidency of a country! That is simply outstanding. And to have the support from multiple shipping companies to be able to travel onboard containerships! Fantastic! And the support from all our project partners and so many people following online. For all of that I am grateful. I am also quite tired and feel that eight years has been a really long time. I recently spoke with a good friend back home who mentioned that he might respect me more if I threw in the towel and returned home before reaching the last country. I fully understand him. There is no way we will reach the final nine in less than ten months and with the current complications it will take longer. I also feel socially exhausted…sort of around 80% full. In recent days I have been viewing myself as a “bucket” which is filling up. A bucket with a hole in the bottom. Under optimal conditions the bucket is nearly always empty as whatever pours in can easily run out through the hole in the bottom. But if too much flows in all at once then the bucket slowly fills up. Reaching the top of the bucket would result in an overflow and we don’t want that. I feel socially and mentally exhausted and need less pressure and more success. And I need some alone time too. It’s all between the ears. Of course it is. But isn’t everything?
What does 'S' stand for? I'll be running in my Salomon gear tomorrow. And behind me you see the Ross banner which has been with me for eight years!
Green is running. Blue is likely uphill. And red is sprinting! :)
Let’s move on to something else now. Last Monday I had a successful trail run across the first half of the HK50 trail. The first half is about 25km (15.5mi) across several mountains. Temperatures have dropped recently making it a lot easier to cope and I was able to create my personal best time across the distance with a time just below 3 hours! I was very happy that result!! Immediately after I met two nice South Africans who just did it in 2 hours and 6 minutes!! They looked like they had been sculpted by Michelangelo. One of them, Jan from Pretoria, will also be competing in the HK50 tomorrow. While I will be happy simply completing the ultra-distance race, I can imagine Jan clocking it in just 6 hours. I am not an athlete…I’m just stubborn ;) My injured ankle hasn’t quite recovered. Last Monday when I did my best time, I estimated that it had recovered approximately 60%. Now it’s closer to 80%. I don’t feel any pain while walking or running. But I do feel that my ankle is weaker and that I will not be able to recover within the race if I twist it. It is simply not strong enough. So, I better not twist it! It feels like driving a car without a seatbelt. As long as I’m not in an accident I’ll be fine.
Temporary reverend Margith at MTL pier 9. The Seamen's Church has employed a new fulltime reverend who will replace Margith in December.
There have been few ships to service this month through my job as an assistant at the Danish Seamen’s Church in Hong. The job which effectively keeps me from being deported out of Hong Kong. Containerships follow a set schedule akin to a city bus. They go round, and round, and round calling the same ports until they again reach Hong Kong. As such some months are busy while others are quieter on that front. There have been other activities instead such as getting ready for the Christmas Bazar. Last Sunday reverend Margith held a Confirmation for Martin and Axel. Within the Protestant faith confirmation is seen as a rite of passage or initiation to full Christian discipleship. It is a symbolic act allowing the baptized person to make a mature statement of faith. This was obviously a special day for both Martin and Axel and certainly also for their parents. Congratulations to everyone.
Sct. Paul's Chapel last Sunday.
Martin and Axel. Technically men now :)
In all honesty the prospects of being able to leave Hong Kong soon, after such a long wait, is weighing in heavily on me. Both getting my hopes up but also the fragility of it all. If the plan falls apart now then it will be a hard blow for me. I will recover as I have already done a hundred times before but I’d much rather that it succeeds. The plan would still be to return to Hong Kong after Palau so I wouldn’t really be saying farewell to Hong Kong just yet. Hong Kong has undoubtedly gained a special place within my heart and so have many of the people I have met here. 633 days is no small amount of time. Not as much as the 2,934 days since I left home, but still a long time. The nutcases and I meet up for a fast-paced hike every Thursday followed by dinner. Anita and I occasionally sit down and have dumplings followed by a foot massage. My network within Hong Kong has since I arrived grown following a linear pattern and I enjoy meeting a variety of different people on a regular basis. The Danish community here is great! Both locals and expats alike. The mountains, the different neighborhoods, the food, the nature, the opportunities…
I went to have an antibody test and spotted this at the hospital. Someone is well paid :)
This statue at HKU (Hong Kong University) called "The Pillar of Shame" is gaining notoriety. I went to see it. The statue was made by a fairly unknown Danish artist named Jens Galschiøt.
On a final note, I thought I’d just enlighten you all a bit on why I am careful in relation to political topics. Overall, I believe that a guest, at least at first, should try to remain neutral on political and religious topics to avoid friction and tension. There is so much else to focus on. I view myself as a guest anywhere else than within the Kingdom of Denmark in the High North of Europe. There I am home and can say whatever I want. Out here in the world I observe and do my best to stay neutral. It serves the purpose of not offending anyone. Although these days you can also offend people by simply being neutral. Furthermore, it makes it so much easier for people, companies, organizations and governments to collaborate with Once Upon A Saga. I have already dropped a few metaphors on you and here’s a final one. Picture reaching every country in the world in an unbroken journey without flying as a card house. In this case a 203-card strong card house. We have spent the past eight years building a formidable card house out of the first 194 cards!! We are left with only nine cards! It requires a steady hand to place these cards on top of the others. We wouldn’t want to lose what we have built so far. This is a good time to be careful. And like the morality story of the hare and the tortoise; it was the tortoise which won the race ;)
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - this could be what we've been waiting for!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga