The final entry of 2022: status, love, and global improvement
Day 3,368 since October 10th 2013: 200 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).
Thank you for 2022
I think the past weeks have been a good showcase for how unpredictable the timeline of Once Upon A Saga is. Well, we’re not selling “Keep on Keeping on” t-shirts for no reason at all. By the way, a competition to win one is coming up soonish.
Last week’s entry: The surprising EXTRA entry from Fiji before Tuvalu
Who knows if this will be the last entry from Fiji before we reach Tuvalu? Do you dare to venture a guess? It will however without a doubt be the final entry of this year. Delivering a Friday Blog nearly every Friday for the past nine years has pretty much become an achievement on its own. What a year this has been!! While the global pandemic is not over I do think we can say that it is nearing its end. There may still be new variants of the virus which we need to deal with – but they are likely to be mild (please be mild). We can’t light the cigar just yet but we can certainly say that 2022 has been an amazing year for the Saga in terms of progress compared to the two years which came before. Six new countries, two revisits, and a territory. From Hong Kong we travelled to Palau, returned to Hong Kong, reached Australia, visited Aotearoa New Zealand, returned to Fiji, made it to Samoa, to Tonga, and to the French territory New Caledonia, before making it to this years final new country: Vanuatu – country no. 200 in an unbroken journey completely without flying. We even made it back to Fiji where I hold a ferry ticket for a sea voyage to Tuvalu. The ticket reads “ETD 20.12.22” but that didn’t hold up. More about that later.
Fiji's most inclusive sign :)
Within the Saga I have always aimed to highlight the good in the world without completely ignoring reality. And now I would like to write a little about love. As December arrived, I found time to rewatch “Die Hard” (1988) because it is obviously a Christmas movie ;) I also sat down to rewatch “Love Actually” (2003) which opens up with these words: “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. General opinion makes out that we live in a world of hatred and greed. I don't see that. Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy but it's always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.” It is a beautiful sentiment and one which I agree with. The world which we live in is so full of people that we crossed the 8 billion marker this year. And people are just people. While I frequently struggle with unbearable disappointment, enormous frustrations, and often an absolute lack of control which would be enough to drive someone mentally insane, I simply don’t think I could have made it this far without all the kindhearted people I have encountered all over the world. Not without all the love.
My faithful Nokia 1100 has done well. But when my 62-year-old Fijian friend fell asleep at a bar and was robbed blind, I knew it had a new home. It's almost embarrassing to give someone a Nokia 1100 but my friend was grateful and didn't need more than that. I wonder if he will set a new record playing Snake?
There is much which I do not share with you all. I cannot possibly describe all my everyday encounters with people. Or all the video calls I have with friends and family. The daily messages between me and my lovely ultra-wifey. There are also the tens of thousands of heartwarming comments across social media which should easily drown out the few negative ones. But I am human and the negative one’s still sting. Yet – literally tens of thousands of positive messages have reached me over this year. There is much love in the world and the success of the Saga belongs to many people from all over the world. We are left with three countries which I look forward to visiting: Tuvalu, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. My best guess is that we will reach the Maldives in or around May 2023. Six countries in 2022. Doesn’t that speak volumes in relation to the complexity of this endeavor? These six countries were made possible thanks to our friends at PIL (Pacific International Lines), Swire Shipping, ZIM / Gold Star Line, YWAM, and the access which was granted to me in coming onboard. I foresee that Tuvalu’s government owned ferry will get us to Tuvalu and back – hopefully back to Fiji during January 2023. I feel confident that our friends at Swire Shipping will afterwards get us to Singapore for a round of high-fives. But there is no guarantee. It is anyone’s guess which company will help us reach Sri Lanka from Singapore? But someone surely will. And for years we’ve been set up to reach Maldives onboard a feeder in the region. None of this will be easy. However I feel confident that we will succeed.
I had the pleasure of spending Christmas with (from left to right) Kassie, Maria, and Brad Taylor. Maria and Brad are friends from Suva Hash House Harriers. There was no lack of good food and company!! I was even given a large Christmas Stocking full of candy (see dentist post further below).
Lisa (my host) made this remarkable Christmas Tree from driftwood and decorated it with ornaments from all over the Pacific Ocean. Wow!
Within the Saga there are many stand alone records. One which is frequently overlooked is that no one has ever made a visit to the Red Cross / Red Crescent movement in as many countries as we have. The movement has established national societies in 192 countries globally. In reality the movement is found in more countries than that which has enabled me to make visits in 194 countries already. This year we met with the Red Cross in Palau, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu. Lots of good people. I estimate that I have spent about a full year out of the past nine on promoting the movement. I have written over a hundred unique humanitarian stories by conducting over a hundred interviews within the movement. And you and many of my friends have helped raise huge amounts of money for humanitarian work, sometimes in crazy ways! Who can forget the Ultimate Step Challenge of 2021 where four out of twenty-five participants took more than half a million steps within a week!! My goodness I miss a lot of people in Hong Kong. A priority destination to revisit someday. Another interesting thought is that ultra-wifey and I have likely spent a full year together over the course of her twenty-five visits the past nine years. That’s based on an average visit of two-weeks. It all adds up.
After a lovely Christmas dinner with the Taylors I sat down late at night with Joji (my host) and had a few beers. I also dove into the candy given to me by the Taylors. While chewing my second Tootsie Roll I felt like I had a small pebble in my mouth. It would later turn out to be a filling which came loose from a tooth. Fortunately a dentist could see me two days later and I had it replaced. I hold great angst in seeing the dentist for such matters. I received enough tranquilizer to put down a horse and still felt tense. But good thing I got it done. Apparently a cavity had begun to form under the filling and that could have turned painful down the line. Thank goodness for that Tootsie Roll :)
I continue to believe that mainstream media distorts people’s world view to a more negative perception. I’m not convinced that it is done with purpose. I simply think it’s a natural effect from constant exposure to an overwhelmingly negative news cycle. So, here’s something to be mindful about as we go forward into the new year. Over past decades child mortality has been significantly reduced, poverty has declined, hunger has declined, life spans have increased on every continent, globally smoking has declined by about 20%, children are far less likely to be malnourished, tuberculosis cases have dropped by one-third, maternal births per live births have declined by 40%, and the share of the global population with access to toilets and safe plumbing has increased by 100%. Furthermore, famine deaths are down by 99% compared to the late 1800s despite the world population now being five times larger. We’ve seen amazing breakthroughs in malaria vaccines, cancer treatments, and sustainable energy in recent years. Girls have greater access to education than ever before and globally literacy rates are climbing. This is in reality a short list of things which have improved. But hopefully it’s enough to make my point. Meanwhile we cannot sugarcoat everything and I believe we have to help people in need when the opportunity presents itself. There are many causes we could be campaigning for within Once Upon A Saga. I chose for us to help people in Ukraine. Ukrainians have undeniably had a rough year! The situation for many is unbearable and we can help the most vulnerable by raising money for the work being carried out by the Red Cross. Thank you for all of your support. We have already raised DKK 32,370 (USD 4,629) since the start of December. And I’m positive that we can do much better than that. DKK 50,000 (USD 7,148) should be easy between us. It’s “just” another DKK 17,630 (USD 2,519) between all of us. Please help by donating or sharing the link. Thank you.
2022 also became the year in which we nearly finalized the filming for the Salomon documentary. It is estimated to be around 40 minutes long and will be released the day I set foot in the Great Kingdom of Denmark in the High North of Europe (home). It’s being made by Mike Douglas whom I have long since come to consider as a good friend. I suspect many of you who take your time to read these weekly updates have a better understanding of the hardship I must undertake, than those who adhere solely to social media updates. I believe Mike is going to do a great job in telling an almost secret story which runs parallel to the Saga as many know it. I certainly work far more hours than most suspect. The documentary will be something to look forward to. Most recently Tuvalu’s government ferry has had me frustrated. The thing that keeps me reasonably calm is that I still believe that the delays in Fiji will not have any effect on when the good ship MV Manu Folau will return to Fiji. Thus, no overall delay to my return back home. I’m not happy about not getting to spend New Year’s Eve in Tuvalu. I think that could have been really special. But now I can look forward to spending it in Fiji being splashed with water and covered in baby powder (yes, that’s a thing). A huge downside to the most recent delay (of many) is that it pushes our departure into 2023. That wouldn’t have been a problem if the Fijian Immigration Department had extended my visitors permit until January 15th as I requested two weeks ago. But they only extended it to December 31st.
I spotted MV Manu Folau at anchorage on Saturday Dec. 24th. The following day she was alongside at King's Wharf (Suva).
This update stems from Tuvalu High Commissions Facebook. I knew ahead of time as I had spoken to the agent (Viky). I wonder if it holds up? It is the first time a specific time has been added.
Back at immigration having filled the form, secured and printed ten relevant documents, retrieved my passport from Tuvalu High Commission, verified my entry stamp at a law firm and blah blah blah. Only had to wait for 50 minutes at immigration this time. And people think I'm spending my time snorkeling and drinking coconuts.
Let's see when the extension is ready? Tuvalu High Commission needs my passport asap for customs. Fiji immigration needs it next week for the extension stamp. I'll probably end up going to immigration in the morning of my departure for the extension and then making a special arrangement with Tuvalu High Commission to hand it over that same day.
And here we are. At the very end of this year’s last Friday Blog. The ferry to Tuvalu is apparently delayed as repairs are needed for the cold storage onboard. Fiji is of great importance to regional trade and Tuvalu benefits from it. The Saga was meant to take less than four years based on seven days per country. The pandemic cost us at least two years and I put the rest down to unforeseen hardship. Has it been worth it? I’m not always sure. I do however know that people are inspired. And if you can inspire people with what you do then it must be worthwhile – right? Here are my 2nd last words of this year: if you want to achieve ANYTHING here in life then you need to stay focused and dedicated. You MUST rise EVERY TIME you fall. You can never give up. It has to be keep on keeping on! And here are my last words of this year: all of this would have been so much harder without all the love. Happy New Year.
Hashing in Suva with the HHH :)
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - I feel the love.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga