Time flies, I don’t (from Hong Kong)
Day 2,969 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).
What is going on?
It has been another hectic week. Possibly more so than the last. A week with very little time for me and a whole lot of time spent on obligation, optimization, and possible progress.
Last week’s entry: Stuck within a tunnel of countries (from Hong Kong)
There has been no progress that I know of in relation to reaching Palau since last week. Last week I could inform you that the shipping company which has helped us three times before, Pacific International Lines (PIL), was waiting for their agent in Palau, Eurasia Pacific Lines, to confirm that I was okay to enter Palau arriving on one of PIL’s ships. Last week the amazing Government of Palau had especially notified Eurasia with a letter directed to the manager Mr. Hiros Ulengchong. Mr. Ulengchong received this letter on November 16th. I am currently unaware if Mr. Ulengchong has informed PIL that the letter has been received and that I am good to enter Palau. And I am currently unaware if PIL has received that information from Mr. Ulengchong and are now working on the final practicalities. But I must trust that everyone is doing their part and not stalling the progress. Because why would anyone want to do that?
A staircase to nowhere...
It feels so long ago that we first heard about a virus spreading in Wuhan. It feels so long ago when people began hoarding toilet paper for no apparent reason? It feels so long ago when people began guessing how quickly this would all be over. But it is not over. It has been a while since I actively updated myself on various technicalities in relation to the virus, the prevention, the statistics, and the arguments for or against anything in relation to it. I’m certainly not on a crusade in relation to one side or the other. But I was recently confronted as if I was! It was late in the day and I was at work at the Danish Seamen’s Church here in Hong Kong. We run a kiosk from where people can order and buy Danish sweets and food products which can be hard to find in Hong Kong. That evening a large muscular Swedish guy came to pick up his order and pay for it. He seemed like a really nice guy and might still be. There was a bit of the usual small talk as I processed his order and I asked him if he was traveling home for Christmas? He replied “no” as he did not want to deal with the forced 14-day hotel quarantine on his return to Hong Kong. Fully understandably. But that seemed to trigger a rather energetic and passionate debate on his part! “The virus was less harmful then the annual flu”, “the vaccines were about population control” and that kind of stuff. He also went on to tell me that he wasn’t vaccinated and didn’t want to be. It was almost like being in a heated debate except I wasn’t the opposition and hardly cared. I just wanted to process his order and see him leave so that I could get on with my work.
At one point the Swede wanted me to see a video on his phone. He started a clip portraying Bill Gates presumably saying something which backed his case. While Gates spoke, the video image transitioned into a picture of Anthony Fauci and then some other imagery which looked doctored and manipulated to me. So, I politely asked what the source of the video was? Not in a condescending or debating tone – simply out of curiosity. BIG MISTAKE! That won me another boost of debating Swede ranting on about “so called experts”, counter “facts”, and that if we are forced to get the vaccine than none of us are free!!! He eventually left and I went back to work a bit baffled. But also, somewhat disappointed that I wasn’t well aware about the facts of the pandemic and vaccines to present my own case. I guess I don’t care anymore and have become rather complacent. Logic tells me that even if I don’t know anything I still couldn’t imagine the pandemic to be a conspiracy or a subject of population control. The vaccines are free. The World Health Organization and the Red Cross are supporting that we should get vaccinated. Virtually every Government on earth is taking the pandemic seriously. To me it feels like it is too big and that too many are involved for it to be nonsense. Overall, I just want people to get vaccinated so that it can end and I can go home.
Something did however stick with me long after the giant Swede left. Are we free? If we are forced to take a vaccine against our free will – are we then free? I guess the answer is no. However, were we free before the pandemic broke out? I’d argue no. Of course we are not free. We live together in societies which are governed by rules and laws which guide and secure our societies. And humans have been living like that for thousands of years. You cannot drive your car as fast as you want on a government owned road. You cannot take somebody’s life. You cannot break into a bank and run off with all the money. If you were truly free then you could! But what would society look like with utter and complete freedom? It would likely just be the biggest and the strongest that took whatever they wanted in a society of complete anarchy. We have structured countries, states and societies with rules and regulations which restrict us and yet hopefully protect us. Rules, regulations and laws which have helped us move forward and create sophisticated lifestyles. So no, we are not free – and perhaps it is fine like that.
Rocking up to Susan Maersk. A great ship which is now being sold. She has cared for seafares for many years and done a great service towards the industry. Likely my last visit to her.
Here in Hong Kong seafarers cannot leave their ships unless it’s under controlled circumstances during crew change. So, my temporary job as the assistant at the Danish Seamen’s Church in Hong Kong becomes vital to them when they need something: electronics, games, hygiene products, you name it…I even delivered McDonalds the other day. There’s also a Danish Seamen’s Church in Singapore but due to different COVID-19 restrictions they cannot go onboard. Therefore we, here in Hong Kong, become even more important. I have a lot of respect for seafarers having sailed onboard twenty-five ships myself. While working here in Hong Kong I’ve been onboard another forty container ships or more.
I had a nice talk with Ben from Euronews, who quickly put together this video for all of you. Euronews is a French-based pan-European television news network, headquartered in Lyon, France. The network began broadcasting on 1 January 1993 and aimed to cover world news from the European perspective. After the interview I heard from friends in Portugal, Iran and Hong Kong. I guess it went far and wide!
I was pretty much the only employee for a long time but a few months back I was joined by reverend Margith Pedersen from Denmark. She is here to overlap as a new reverend (Rebecca Holm) has been employed. Rebecca is in her final week of hotel quarantine now (of two) and we look forward to meeting her face to face when she comes out. Meanwhile the Seamen’s Church is supported by a very powerful Church Council. People with astonishing expertise from business and remarkable life stories!! And on top of that we could call on spectacular volunteers for the annual Christmas Bazar which was held this past weekend. Busy times indeed but it was a huge success. You can follow our activities on Facebook if you want.
Once Upon A Saga is already more than a regular full time job so life has been hectic for me late. You know, balancing one with the other. But it’s slowly clearing up now. Anyway, my job at the Seamen’s Church is the reason why I have been able to stay in Hong Kong for this long without getting deported. Bureaucracy you know. And because of my work visa I also have a Hong Kong ID which made it possible for me and my wife to get married online and have her visit for three months earlier this year. I’m employed by Danske Sømands- og Udlandskirker (Danish Church Abroad / Danish Seamen's Church) which is based in Denmark. There are a lot of good people there whom I’ve never met but communicate with over email and video calls. Yeah - I thought you might want to know all of this.
You didn't notice but she did. She is looking at the turtles ;)
A few days ago, I took half a day off and went hiking together with my friend Anders. And if you are still following along and reading beyond this line then you should know that everything I wrote before this was written while completely sober. But now I have had at least one bottle of red wine. That rather reminds me of visiting Hemmingway’s home in Cuba which was a real treat. That man certainly knew how to drink and eventually blew out his brains with a shotgun. I guess he had seen and lived too much. Some claim it was an accident while cleaning his weapon. Anyway, back to the hike…Anders is a good friend. I fear I have made far too many good friends while in Hong Kong. Anders is an avid hiker and I imagine there is barely a trail left on Lantau Island which he hasn’t stepped on? Lantau is one of Hong Kong’s most prominent islands and also the island which Anders lives on. Well, my heart belongs to Sai Kung which is another very beautiful part of Hong Kong. Some (me) would say the most beautiful. Although I would have to admit that Lantau certainly has its strengths.
Heading towards Ma on Shan from The Hunch Backs.
Anders had never been on top of Ma on Shan (Saddle Mountain) which happens to be my favourite mountain in Hong Kong. Perhaps even my favourite in in the world? It is hard to explain but I do feel connected to that mountain and gain energy from being near it. As a matter of fact, Anders had never been on top of several mountains within the area. And on an unrelated note the name for Donald Duck in Danish is ‘Anders And’ - so there you go. Well, both Anders and I like to hike, we like to push our bodies to the limit and we like to challenge ourselves. We improvised a brilliant hike which was rich in elevation gain and set out into the beauty of Sai Kung.
Red Market wet-market.
We ticked off a bunch of summits together and then sat down at Red Market in Kwong Yuen to enjoy some delicious noodle soup. Red Market is a wet-market amongst many in Hong Kong and I love the concept. Wet-markets got a bad rep during the pandemic but only because people and media got it wrong. They are absolutely fine and normal as long as they are under controlled circumstances. Anyway…what else…My super-wifey comes out of quarantine on Monday. Quarantine? A great waste of time in most cases. And pretty expensive too. My wife is a trooper. When she comes out on Monday, she will have spent five full weeks of hotel quarantine to come and visit me. Three last time and two this time. If the pandemic was a person, then I would be a murderer. Unfortunately, this will not be the last pandemic this planet sees. And that is all for this time…let’s see how it all turns out. Stay safe and sane.
Friends and family are important. And where the f#%k is Kenneth?!?
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Friends and family are important
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga