Our little crew of thirty stands in smaller circles and passes flames from torch tip to torch tip. When we are lit, we begin walking toward Oslo Central Station. Downhill, in the distance, a torch-bearing crowd advances in the dark. A wave of flickering light and hope. We step onto Karl Johans gate and join the parade, walking back toward the Grand Hotel. Ahead, on a hilltop, is the Norwegian Royal Palace, with a glittering Christmas tree on the balcony.
Arriving in front of Oslo’s iconic hotel, the parade swarms below the main balcony. We’re waiting for President Santos, the new Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to emerge. Around us, people wear Colombian flags draped around their shoulders, painted on their faces. A father hoists a little girl in a pink hat onto his shoulders; she waves a tiny Colombian flag, too.
We hear a drum circle behind us. Singing. And we dance a little, but not too much. Wax from the torches dribbles onto our coats, shoes, the pavement.
At exactly 19:00, the bells of City Hall ring out, and the balcony doors above us open. President Santos steps out into the brisk night air to a loud cheer. The flames from our torches warm our faces. I find myself wondering about the TYF delegates, their eyes and cheeks and chins aglow in the crowd. Will one of them return to Oslo some future year to be the person on the balcony? Will one of them shake off the shackles of controversy and naysayers and optics and antagonistic governments to achieve peace in the world?
“She’s naked!” comes a cry from my right.
Another pair of Grand Hotel windows has pulled open, and a couple leans out. Drawn by the noise and light in the street. She is wrapped in a curtain; his shoulders are covered by a white robe. The crowd cheers a little louder, a little higher.
When the president returns to his suite, the crowd disperses. Torches doused in buckets placed around the square. Our laughter carries us back to the hotel. The TYF delegates buckle down and work for another few hours. Sunday is Pitch Day. Everything leans toward this.
Photos by Ihne Pedersen