Dear Mr. President,
A little under two months ago, both you and I woke up in Washington, D.C. (well, technically, I woke up in University Park, Maryland, but it’s pretty close) to a big surprise: the Norwegian Nobel Committee had chosen you to be this year’s laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize. I was astonished, to say the least, and judging from the speech you held a few hours later, so were you. That day I wrote a post on this very blog, where I commented on the committee’s decision, and expressed my views on it. I said then, and I still believe so, that even though I – like many others – wonder if awarding you the prize right now was a little early, there were some good reasons for choosing you at this time.
I also speculated on whether one of the less idealistic reasons was to make you come to Norway. If this at all was a consideration, the committee must be rubbing their hands together in glee, since your visit is scheduled to start tomorrow.
I can assure you that everything seems to be set. Norwegian newspapers have been packed with schedules, speculations and suggestions for weeks. Will he come, or will he prioritize Copenhagen? Will he spend the night? Will he spend more than one night? Will he stay with the royal family, or at a hotel? Will he be here for the concert or not? I’m guessing you have been blissfully unaware of just how much attention your short visit to Norway has gotten here. I’m fairly sure there still are other news stories out there, and they probably earn more space in the newspapers you normally read. Even the really serious Norwegian newspapers have felt like “Obama Social Times” lately.
But don’t worry – we’re thrilled to have you, of course. I went to the Nobel Institute today. I hear this is one of the places you’re scheduled to visit – to meet with the people who got you into this mess in the first place. I don’t know if you have mixed feelings about meeting the committee, but I’m sure you’ll have a good time. At least they seem to have prepared properly. They had lots of decorations up (in your honour, I can imagine), and trust me – the staff there is really friendly. If you get a chance, check out the library. It’s where I get lots of my books, and they let you keep them for the longest time (though they might be hesitant to letting you take them out of the country).
Oslo downtown also looks festive and ready to receive you. I saw them weld all the manhole covers the other day, so you can be assured that there will be no threats from below. I also heard that there will be extra planes stationed around the city, so I wouldn’t worry about threats from above either. Frankly, the biggest danger will probably be when meeting with the committee. I hear Geir Lundestad has a mean handshake.
Also, please don’t take any consideration of the kiosk chain (Narvesen) that exploits your visit in their newest advertisement campaign. Even though they have – for your convenience, no doubt – put the price of a cup of coffee in dollars on their posters and referred to how Clinton had a cup of coffee when he visited, this is not the coffee you want to buy (and it’s definitely not the coffee Clinton got). Trust me, it’s not good. We’ve a name for coffee like that in Norwegian – skvip – and there is better to be found. (From what I recall, Clinton got his coffee from Pascal – go there. They have wonderful cakes too.) Besides, when seeing it in dollars, it makes me realize that coffee (like everything else here) is ridiculously expensive. Not even the coffee places in your neighbourhood (and I should know, since that was where I got my coffee on my way to the office each morning) are that pricey. Besides, I far prefer that little Caribou on the corner of 17th and Pennsylvania to Narvesen any day!
Finally, I read in the Obama Social Times – sorry, I mean Aftenposten – today that the Oslo police force are sending out recommendations for how people should behave while you are here. I thought I should repeat a few of those points for you – after all, some of them might be useful for you as well (plus it might help explain some potential weird behavior that you otherwise might just think was “typically Norwegian”).
• Don’t close the curtains and make sure to have the light on if you have a view to the President (so if you’re seeing directly into someone’s fully lit, non-curtained bathroom, you’ll know this isn’t necessarily a flasher).
• Don’t look out of windows for longer amounts of time, don’t open windows and don’t take pictures (I’m not entirely sure if this also applies to you, but just in case you might want to make sure not to take any pictures from your hotel room).
• Don’t walk on the roof of any buildings close to the President (this I can’t quite understand why they are including. After all, you’re used to it. Every time I’ve walked by, there have been at least a couple pretty grumpy looking guys on the roof of your own house. Surely you wouldn’t mind a couple of fiddlers on the roof in Oslo too?).
• Don’t act suspiciously (well, this one is a given. The thing, though, is that people that really are up to no good also know this, so often it’s not the ones acting suspiciously that are the real problem. This is almost like having a box in US immigration forms asking whether you are being truthful in your answers. Oh, wait, you already have that box… Never mind…).
• Listen to the police and let them know if you see anything suspicious (but you have people helping you with that, don’t you?).
• Keep an eye on all your own belongings (this one definitely applies to you too. I’d make particularly sure that the medal is safe, seeing as it’s made of pure gold. There will be a lot of people on that award ceremony, and one can never be too careful, right?).
Keeping all this in mind, you should be pretty well prepared for a couple of days in Oslo. Too bad we don’t have any snow downtown yet. It really is much prettier then. Actually, you should consider coming back sometime, perhaps when you’re retired and have a little more time on your hands. You’re not getting a very accurate image of Norway this way. No mountains and only one fjord. You really ought to see the Western and Northern part of the country too. I recommend June.
Welcome to Oslo!