The adventure continues: South!
Day 3,081 since October 10th 2013: 195 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).
Farewell dear Hong Kong
I hardly know where to start? Let’s begin with my heart. My heart is torn between countries and people all over the world.
Last week’s entry: Eight countries from home - and hope
Hong Kong was never regarded as a country within Once Upon A Saga and it is therefore with a sense of irony that the greatest delay within this project came to unfold in this magnificent place! As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, Hong Kong is a case of “same, same - but different”. Most Hongkongers do not view themselves as Chinese - they are Hongkongers. There’s a bit of crowbar separation in between. The great kingdom of Denmark in the high north of Europe is a rather small country. If you wanted to, then you could divide Denmark into autonomous regions based on cultural and historical differences. Heck! You could even divide Hong Kong into smaller pieces. Try asking those who grew up on Hong Kong Island what they think about Kowloon and vice versa ;) Hong Kong is special to me. It is with a heavy heart that the Saga will now move on and not return (within the Saga). I wanted to pay tribute to Hong Kong and made this video with 101 video clips from the two years spent in this SPECIAL administrative region.
Tap the image or CLICK HERE to watch my tribute to Hong Kong.
I really think Hong Kong was the THE BEST PLACE to be as the pandemic broke out and we had no idea what was coming. Long before vaccines. Each country had its own “dance” with the outbreak and chose its own music. As the world developed more and more vaccines Hong Kong was quick to offer them to its citizens and I was among the first to get my first, my second, and my third jab. COVID-19 numbers remained low in Hong Kong as the music played. Then further down the line my home nation of Denmark moved beyond the pandemic as things came under control. Denmark changed the music and a different dance began. Then suddenly with Omicron in the world Denmark had to change the music again and make a few steps backwards together with the world. Yet, with more time passing Denmark once again found it’s way to move beyond Omicron and continue life in what resembles post-pandemic circumstances. The music played. In Hong Kong it was different. With a strict zero-tolerance strategy Omicron hit Hong Kong hard early this year. I looked up the numbers and Hong Kong had some days in December 2021 with only two cases! More recently the numbers rose to over 50,000! Time to change the music? I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m not an expert. I’m simply an observer. Today we observe more than 4,000 deaths among the unvaccinated elders in Hong Kong. It must be terrifying for those still alive. The choice is there. The vaccines are available. I’m relatively young (43) and have performed physically better than ever before while getting my vaccines and after. I’ve never felt any side effects. But what do I know.
Hong Kong is 25% uban setting and 75% nature.
We are left with eight countries to visit. Two of which I have been to before within my life: Australia and New Zealand. The others are Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, Sri Lanka and The Maldives. To illustrate the logistics of this momentous undertaking I made a video for all of you. Who needs high-tech visualizations ;) From my mind to reality with some colour printed flags, toothpicks, bluetack, and a map. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. Finally finished it.
Tap the image or CLICK HERE to watch my video about the final eight countries.
It seems to me that a lot of people were wrong about reaching Australia as a passenger onboard a containership. I was told it wasn’t possible unless I was a seafarer with a seamansbook. I was told that AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) wouldn’t allow it. I got in touch with them and was informed they had no objections. Then I was told that the Australian Border Force (ABF) wouldn’t allow it due to temporary regulations for cruise ships. The Australian Consulate in Hong Kong was very helpful and we cleared up that the temporary ban on cruise passengers did not apply to containerships. I was told that I needed a special visa. In the end I only needed a simple eVisa, which I could apply for at no cost at the Australian Home Affairs website (approved within an hour). The amount of work I went through to be able to write these few sentences was a lot to say the least. People were wrong. If I had believed them then we would not be on our way to Australia now. There’s a lesson to be learned here: trust people, but if you really believe in something then keep on keeping on and find a way. Nothing comes from nothing. Any huge accomplishment comes from hard work and persistence.
Finished washing Reverend Rebecca Holm's "Church-mobile" for the last time.
I read the amazing story about Ernest Shackleton last year (Endurance) and was truly amazed and inspired. His party was heading SOUTH, got stuck in the ice, their ship “Endurance” was crushed by the ice and sank. An incredible true story of survival and endurance. The ship was recently found by divers exactly one hundred years after it sank. Exact to the day! Yes - what a peculiar matter of time and space? I just wanted this within this week’s entry. I don’t know why? I just wanted it.
The Saga has strong partners, loyal followers, amazing support and we got this far thanks to tens of thousands of people. Most recently I was introduced to Patryk Bijak, Drilling Digitalization Engineer at Ross DK A/S. A kind man from Poland who did a web video interview with me. Poland. The country of origin for the “Maria Story”. A story which cements the kindness of a stranger who became a friend. Ross has been a partner of Once Upon A Saga since its beginning in 2013. Without them and their support I doubt we would have come this far. The same can of course be said for others. Maybe you?
The home-testing is always negative and so are the government PCR test.
For some reason I keep testing negative on COVID-19 tests? I consider myself professional and careful. Could it be the vaccines? Could it be that I’ve had COVID-19 early on without knowing? Could it be all the viruses and bacteria I’ve been exposed to across the world? Who knows. But it’s a good thing as bringing the virus onboard a ship is NOT AN OPTION!! First of all, putting the seafarers at risk. But, there’s also the economy of the ship to consider. If the ship has a positive COVID-19 case then that ship and it’s crew will be quarantined meaning delay and a massive financial loss for the company. Potentially hundreds of thousands of US dollars. I don’t want to have that on me for all the obvious reasons. Swire Shipping is a friend of the Saga and their good ship “Suva Chief” will carry the Saga some 6,000km (3,700mi) from Hong Kong to Australia via a port call in Papua New Guinea (PNG). I needed to present a negative COVID-19 test valid within 48hrs of the ship’s departure. As such I went to a community test centre on Tuesday March 15th and received a negative test result 14hrs later. I went back for a second test on Wednesday March 16th and received a second negative result. Mr negative I am. We are finally good to go. The ship called MTL terminal 9 Thursday March 17th and left the same day. The very same terminal where I have serviced hundreds of seafarers by visiting some fifty ships as a junior assistant of the Danish Seamen’s Church in Hong Kong.
A room with a view.
The new Port Chaplain, Rebecca Holm, drove me to the terminal and I waved farewell to Hong Kong for the last time (for now at least). There is no logistical sense in coming this far north again to reach the final countries. Mixed emotions to say the least. The Seamen's Church and DSUK (Danish Seamen’s Churches and Churches Abroad) have been very kind to me and the Saga. Work-wise I was overqualified, but it did not matter. It was indeed a relationship of mutual benefit. I’ve met many kind people through that job and seen more of Hong Kong than most, while shopping for the all particular wishes of seafarers from all over the world. Thank you to all for a highly unique time of my life.
I managed to deliver my 4th blood donation to the Hong Kong Red Cross the day before I left. Blood expires when stored and you never know when blood is needed. Please consider donating blood. Thank you.
This beauty is Anita! Another Viking from Denmark! We've had so many good times together. Often including foot massages and dumplings! One of the hundreds of people I will miss.
As such we move on. I’ve been to Australia five times in my life and have great friends waiting for me. We will pay a visit to the Australian Red Cross, the Danish Consulate (for a new passport), and whatever comes along. I’ll have a reason to shave my beard again and it seems my father and his wife will also pay me a visit. Good times ahead.
Ah! The Savagars! It began with them and of course I had to stop by for a last visit before leaving HK. Cassie arranged for an Ukrainian inspired dinner for me, James and the Saga-boys!
You can never go wrong when Cassie is cooking. They are my family in HK and we will certainly meet again.
I recommend this TED talk with Ian Bremmer: What the war in Ukraine means for the world order.
And I recommend this TED talk with Yuval Noah Harari: The war in Ukraine could change everything.
What I’m leaving behind in Hong Kong cannot be put into words. My contact book is full of names, my mind is full of memories, my heart is split between the enormous kindness. It has been very rough on me at times and I’ve collected some of the best memories as well. How much can a man take? I know that on and off I will select the Retro Radio playlist and think back on an important chapter of my life.
The world is by far not a perfect place. Or perhaps it is perfect in its un-perfectness? I can tell you a thousand stories about strangers which became friends. People all over the world are just people who are trying their best to carve out a peaceful slice of this planet, where they can enjoy food, family, sports, music, and curse the traffic.
And to Hong Kong: this is not goodbye, this is farewell. Until next time…
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - AUSTRALIA: are you ready!!!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga