I think we’re leaving Hong Kong
Day 2,983 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).
Ambition is a mean mistress
If I wasn’t ambitious then my life would look quite differently. And you wouldn’t be reading any of this. And the world would possibly be a different place – or is that too ambitious?
Last week’s entry: Learning Greek the hard way (from Hong Kong)
This week I received a highly encouraging email from Captain Siddiqui at Pacific International Lines (PIL) in Singapore. Capt. Siddiqui was relaying a message to me from PIL’s agent in Guam: Immigration is asking what is the reason of VIP transiting on vessel? Pls advise? I thought about it for a bit and then I replied:
Good morning Captain Siddiqui,
I would suggest the following:
Torbjørn (Thor) Pedersen is an adventurer and explorer who after eight years of unbroken travel is nine countries from becoming the first in history to reach every country in the world completely without flying. He travels as a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross and became stuck in Hong Kong as the pandemic broke out nearly two years ago. PIL has assisted with this historical journey three times before and are helping Mr. Pedersen reach Palau as country no. 195. As such Mr. Pedersen will be onboard our vessel from Hong Kong to Palau, which calls Guam on route. Mr. Pedersen will not be disembarking in Guam.
And now we are waiting for the agent to come back with news from Guam immigration. If the agent comes back with positive news, then we might be good to go onboard PIL’s good ship ‘Kota Ratu’ departing Hong Kong on December 22nd. The following possibility would become the good ship ‘Kota Ratna’ 14 days later (January 5th 2022). So if you have a direct connection to mystical powers, if you have anything you can cross, if and if and if…then the time is now. It would be such a hard blow to me if we came this far and it all crumbles. And PIL has been hard at work to get all the required approvals. The Government in Palau went over and beyond in providing the required documentation and friends and contacts from around the world have done a great deal to assists by influencing the situation in various ways. You would not believe how much work has been put into opening this door…let’s see it open all the way.
PIL and their kind crew has helped three times before. This is a picture from onboard the 'Kota Nebula' back in 2019.
In relation to my crazy high ambitions, I do on and off wonder if it will ever be worth it? With less than 300 people having been to every country…why do I have to be the one to do it overly complicated without flying, with a minimum of 24 hours in each country and without returning home until the end? Why have I put so much energy and resources into visiting and promoting the Red Cross Red Crescent in 189 countries? Why do I continue to deliver these Friday Blog’s and update social media? Why do I push myself hard across Hong Kong’s mountains and long-distance trails? Why do I continue to search for and engage within new challenges? Well, there are several good questions within this paragraph and I can confidently answer a few of them. But the point I’m driving at is not the answer but rather the action. It is because I do these things that you are reading along today – and through that, you become a part of it. And how may that have changed you? Or on a much greater level I have often pondered about the chaos theory and how it relates to my actions across the world? Mine or anyone else’s. There’s an overshared, yet rather nice mainstream quote which goes as follows: “It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” If you have ever seen how neatly organized dominoes can push an object and create a greater effect than the initial cause then you will certainly understand. One small thing can lead to another slightly larger thing etc. Or in a key example a small mouse could scare a giant elephant leading to disastrous consequences. It is within this light that I wonder if the world might have changed because of my movement across it or if it had no effect at all? What might be different because I left home in 2013 versus if I had stayed? Yeah – it’s a really heavy subject. Let’s move on to something lighter.
Danish style fish-fillet with remoulade on bread. Not bad considering how far we are from Denmark.
The Danish Mafia in Hong Kong!! That is what I jokingly call the Danes in Hong Kong which embody the Church Council of the Danish Seamen’s Church, The Danish Chamber of Commerce (DCC), The Vikings (Danish football team in Hong Kong) and a number of social groups relating to Danes in Hong Kong. While they are not all the same people, the Danish community within Hong Kong isn’t larger than that you will run into the same faces again and again across a variety of groups and organizations. I don’t know much about mafia apart from what I’ve seen in movies, but especially the Italian mafia always seems to be a very closed group with the same people meeting up week in and week out. Anyway, my friend Anita is the Chairman of the DCC, my friend Poul is the Vice Chairman, my friend Thomas (of the Andersen Clan) is the Treasurer, my friend treadmill-Poul is the Secretary General and a bunch of my friends are board members. About half of them are also in the church council and the beat goes on…
Danish Christmas brew delivered by DSV at the DCC Christmas Party.
Frank is a friend who has helped and supported me a number of times. He is a board member of the DCC, the Chairman of the Danish Seamen’s Church and on a day-to-day basis he is the CCO at Modern Terminals Limited, which operates about 40% of Hong Kong Port. He’s also a really good guy and invited ultra-wifey and I to join DCC’s annual Christmas party! For that I had to suit up and ultra-wifey got to borrow a dress and some jewellery from Anita. And then we looked like this!
Wouldn't you hurry home?
The DCC Christmas Party was a lot of fun and well put together. Good food (for the most part) and lots of lucky draw prices. Some comical episodes too. I was seated across from Troels who works at Carlsberg. Troels won a case of Carlsberg beer donated to the lucky draw by Carlsberg. We laughed and so did Troels. As he didn’t need it he sent it on to the next lucky draw winner which happened to be his colleague Soeren. What are the odds that the two Carlsberg-guys both won a case of Carlsberg beer? Soeren also passed it on and the winner now became treadmill-Poul who doesn’t drink alcohol! :) Ultra-wifey and I even won a dinner for two at a Nordic themed restaurant. The very same where the party was at. With COVID-19 continuing to be a reality it was just a blessing to be able to be at a party. The band was excellent but had to remain behind a plexiglass wall. Staff wore masks, hand sanitizer was plentiful, and QR codes were in use. At one point I wanted to take a photo of the band playing behind the see-through wall. I happed to snap the photo at the exact time as Anker was telling a story. The photo came out a bit strange as you can see. Weirdly enough Anker and I were both working in Bangladesh at the same time and sort of know each other from back then. It is not a small world. It is simply well connected.
Reverend Margith Pedersen (right) handing over the Danish Seamen's Church to Reverend Rebecca Holm.
Church council members Lene and Christina sure know how to feed the eye as well as the belly. This is Lene's creation at the Danish Seamen's Church!
Ultra-wifey and I are not at all having all the time together we were hoping for. Before she left her hotel quarantine, we dreamt of visiting some of Hong Kong’s many islands together and revisiting some of the places we both like. Reality has however been that three weeks isn’t an awful lot of time and especially not as I have still had to work. Two weeks have already gone and we are left with our last one together. With reverend Margith departing the Danish Seamen’s Church and Reverend Rebecca arriving to begin her new job, there has been a great deal of handover. I haven’t had a full day off since early November as the annual Christmas Bazar took a lot of time and effort followed by ships arriving to Hong Kong which needed to be serviced and every weekend since the bazar has had church ceremonies which I needed to attend. Once Upon A Saga has been busy too and on top of that there has been a lot of media attention lately. Time within a week is finite and everything adds up. Oh well – Reverend Margith has done a good job during her time here and her many years of experience and knowhow will leave a vacuum for some time to come. Reverend Rebecca is young and brings new energy, ideas and a breath of fresh air to the Danish Seamen’s Church. I think she can become a very good Port Chaplain.
Sai Kung, Hong Kong.
If you don’t have time then make some. Such a silly thing to say? However, it is possible to rearrange the calendar and prioritize differently. I have done so this week which leaves me with a great deal of unanswered emails and messages. But we did find time to join Captain Thomas of the Andersen Clan, Jessi and Jessi’s mom on a half-day boat trip in Sai Kung. Thomas recently past his exam and got licenced to sail. He is the part-owner of a really nice motorboat and we have been out together several times this year already. The difference now is that winter has arrived swimming has becoming less attractive. The cold in Hong Kong cannot compare with that of e.g. Northern Europe but it still gets relatively cold. Especially compared to a few months ago. I have certainly brought my jacket out of hiding. It was a nice boat trip and we had some good food at our usual place.
Jessi shooting our food. You can't eat in 2021 until after taking some photos - didn't you know?
We did throw anchor for a while at our usual beach but I was reluctant to get into the water. And while the beach can be packed, we were the only ones there. Winter in Hong Kong. Good company is never to be missed and it was a lot of fun meeting Jessi’s mom who’s 58-years and looks forward to becoming a grandmother. Jessi’s mom has a name but I found it far more fun to simply call her “Jessi’s mom” all day. She is very protective of Jessi and at one point during lunch she uttered “I worry about Jessi”. I couldn’t help my self and replied: “we worry about Jessi too!” This alerted Jessi’s mom who now wanted to know why and I continued joking by saying outrageous stuff about Jessi’s relation to drugs, violence and even murder. In reality Jessi is the sweetest little thing and her mother has nothing to worry about.
Asaya at the Rosewood.
That same night Ultra-wifey and I joined Corinna, Henrik, Sam and Dan for dinner at the Rosewood which is one of Hong Kong’s most luxurious hotels. It has almost been a mythical hotel for me ever since Hong Kong Tourism Board arranged for me to stay a few nights at the Ritz Carlton last year. Back then I got curious about which hotel might be the most luxurious in all of Hong Kong and the name came up. It’s hard to say which hotel is number one and I certainly enjoyed my stay at the Ritz. The Rosewood is a new hotel and towers up near Victoria Harbour and not far from the Peninsula Hotel which is another fancy and highly historical hotel. Anyway, Corinna works within the spa and wellness area (Asaya) and suggested that ultra-wifey and I could come directly to the hotel after our boat trip and have a shower and a change of clothing, instead of heading all the way home. A really nice offer but in hindsight a brilliant offer of luxurious convenience.
The Dark Side at the Rosewood.
Corinna is a lot of fun. We met her through a boat trip with Henrik earlier this year which my friend Jesper invited us to join. Corinna has a spark in her eye which gives a hint of a strong life force within. In the past she has done all sorts of crazy parachute acrobatics and record attempts together with Henrik and the two know each other well. Henrik and his girlfriend Sam are contemplating a perhaps several yearlong sailboat journey which is a potential dream of my own. Henrik is a really thorough guy and is preparing really well, leaving as little as possible to chance. I think they might have a great adventure ahead. Dan was a new face. He works with Corinna at Asaya and comes from the UK. I would have guessed Australia based on his accent but I was fooled. A really good fellow and the five of us had a good night starting out with drinks at ‘The Dark Side’. We followed up with dinner at ‘Bayfare Social’ and nothing was missed. A really great experience.
At the Rosewood overlooking Victoria Harbour.
Ahead of drinks and dinner I found myself waiting for Ultra-wifey in relaxing surroundings at the Asaya. Corrina had told us to meet her there after our shower / change of clothes. And I had been introduced to an elaborate installation of different teas as well as a very elegant way to filter it. As I really enjoy trying different teas this was a sort of highlight for me within the Rosewood. It is crazy that I get to visit places like that considering traveling on a USD 20/day budget. I have slept on the ground more often than most people realize and luxury has been the furthest thing from most days within the Saga. Ultra-wifey even said that she thinks she has experienced more luxury with me than before we met. It just goes to show that money isn’t always responsible for where we go and where we and up. It is likely more related to how we conduct ourselves in life. Thanks to everyone for a lovely day.
Kowloon West Cultural District.
Ultra-wifey helping out with this years batch of Scandinavian Christmas trees. There's a small but lucrative market for Scandinavian Christmas trees in HK. I got to help last year. Get your tree at Royal Fir ;)
I have a lot more to say but let’s wrap this up now. In some ways it will be amazing to leave Hong Kong and in others it will be very hard. The Danish Mafia has in many ways been an essential part of my time and the very best experiences. We might not be leaving anytime soon but I certainly feel like I could be leaving within weeks. To make the logistics work we would need to return from Palau to Hong Kong so this wouldn’t be farewell. Just think about how amazing it would be if the Saga could move on again!! It has been 682 days in Hong Kong now. Stupid pandemic…caught within my own ambition…
A real highlight from this week was when my friend Kenneth made his first blood donation...EVER! I thought he had donated in Denmark but this was his very first time. So great to have him along at the Tsuen Wan Donor Centre (Hong Kong Red Cross).
If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - tired in ways you can't imagine
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga