Sunday, 11 December 2011

2011 Nobel Peace Prize Parade

Nobel Peace Prize 13Life moments can sneak up on you when you least expect them. To get the most out of life, I believe that you have to be ready to pounce on them when they appear.

One such event occurred recently when I was in Oslo. Yemeni journalist and activist Tawakul Karman, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received their Nobel Peace Prizes while I was there. I didn't realize this, since I was recovering from a case of sleeping pill over-self-medication following my transatlantic flight. It wasn't until I was walking around Oslo and saw all of the embassy limousines lined up that I realized something was afoot. Well, what was afoot was the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony.

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As I walked along "limo row", I tried to identify all of the flags on the cars. I have to say I failed miserably. Here is an example, one of many that I didn't know. I found the crest with the elephant confusing. I'm still not sure, but I think it is a variant of the Thai national flag.

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There is a tradition in Norway of holding a fakkeltog (a torch parade) as part of the Nobel events. Wandering down towards the Grand Hotel, which is where the parade ends and the Peace Prize winner(s) make an appearance on the hotel balcony, I took in both the Christmas and the Nobel Award scenes.

On the Christmas side of things, there was a small craft fair along the Eidsvolls plass (nicknamed Spikersuppa, which means "nail soup").

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Mixed in with the craft vendors was the prerequisite Santa Claus, which the Norwegians call Nisse (or Julenisse). It seems he is a "barn elf" in Norwegian mythology. This guy looked more like a "bar elf" than barn elf. I mean, where else in a nation of fitness nuts are you going to find a fat guy with rosy cheeks if not on the end stool at a bar?

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An enterprising busker had made a snow castle on the other side of the craft fair. He had already collected a fair number of tips for his work when I went past and I could see why: his work was pretty detailed. See the steps? How many people would take the time to make those?

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Just behind the snow castle was a skating rink. The rink is usually a fountain, and is, I suspect, the source object for the nickname Spikersuppa.

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It was the first time that I have seen a skating rink in Europe where the people using the rink actually knew how to skate! I guess I will have to drop my jokes about Norwegians not knowing anything other than skiing. Fortunately, there is still the small matter of their curling pants, which is excellent fodder for jokes.

There are a lot of "Christmas lights" in Oslo. Unfortunately (for me) they are almost exclusively white. I prefer the greens, reds, and yellows of traditional Newfoundland decorations (although a recent Skype call with Mom revealed that the curse of white Xmas lights has even reached Carbonear. Oh, the shame of it all!).

White lights are better than nothing and they do highlight the geometry of the buildings they illuminate, but can you imagine how gorgeous this building would be bathed in greens and reds?

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Both my father and my uncle were members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, so it should come as no surprise that I have the utmost respect for police in most countries. However, as I got closer to the Nobel event area, I had to pause for thought as I saw this battery of police motorcycles. I wondered if the crew riding these bikes are brave, or, are they just crazy? Who in their right mind would drive high-powered BMW dirt bikes on icy roads, even with large studs in the tires?

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When I reached the Grand Hotel, I looked around for the TV camera crews because I knew they would place themselves in the best viewpoints. I found one (the two guys under the street light) and parked myself in front of them.

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This gave me a great viewpoint of the space in front of the hotel and the balcony where the Nobel winners would appear.

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As good as my spot was, these guys had a much better viewpoint of the parade and the crowd. Note the guy in the lower left corner. I will come back to him in a minute.

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I didn't have to wait long for the fakkeltog to arrive. All of those bright lights in the crowd are handheld torches.

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In the above photo, you can also see a few "protest" signs. Some people took advantage of the news coverage to get out messages, such as the sad case of Martine Vik Magnussen.

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I didn't know anything of her story until now. You can read about it in this Wiki article. The upshot is that Norway and the U.K. want a suspect who is in Yemen. Since one of this year's Nobel Laureates is Yemeni (Tawakel Karman), some people thought this was a good opportunity for some publicity for the case. Hence the sign.

While I was waiting for the parade to finish and the Nobel winners to appear, I made this "painting" of the hotel doorman keeping a watchful eye on the people outside. I'm going to add this to my growing folio of "street paintings".

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Not long after the parade arrived, the prize winners made their appearance. Braving the cold (which for them I'm sure was quite un-natural), they came out of the warm hotel onto the balcony and waved to the crowd.

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One of the nice things about being there in person was being able to observe the behaviour of the winners. How they behave in front of the press and the crowd is not something that comes through in the news reports. Leymah Gbowee (above) waved quite a bit and wandered around the balcony.

Tawakel Karman (below) had a lot of energy and interacted with the crowd the whole time she was out on the balcony. You could tell she was happy because she had a huge smile and danced around the whole time.

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (below), on the other hand, played up to the press pool hanging out on the side of the balcony.

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One shot that the PJ took from his location is here. It's a great perspective and I can see why he set up where he did. I can also see myself in the crowd, which I find pretty cool.

The press pool weren't the only ones "broadcasting" from the hotel. Check out this shot. It has the Nobel winners on the balcony, the press to the left of the balcony, and the guy I mentioned above, who is now in the upper right of this photo. Look closely and you will see he is Skyping with someone and showing them the proceedings!

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I'm quite pleased to have been able to take in an event such as this. The Nobel Peace Prize award can have profound global implications and to have seen one award ceremony, albeit only the very public parade piece, was certainly a life moment.

Here is a quick index of my Postcard blog articles for this trip:

My post about some Accidental Abstracts I made during this trip is here.

My post about skiing in Oslo and some Postcards taken with my phone's camera is here.

My post about a side trip I made to Uppsala, Sweden and some early morning streetscapes I made is here.

My post about a fabulous stay I had at Brumma, a cabin above the tree line in Brummastølen, is here.

My post about the wonderful Norwegian Christmas Eve tradition of lighting a candle at the grave of family is here.

My post about my adventure in a hut up in the boreal forest canopy is here.

My post about a wonderful little church I discovered while up above the Arctic Circle is here.

My post about the commonality of fishing between Norway and Newfoundland is here.

My post about being above the Arctic Circle during the polar night is here.

My post about the Nobel Peace Prize fakkeltog is here.

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