At the Nobel Peace Center: the field of nobel laureates
I'm a big fan of rain. I grew up in California with parents who were freakishly concerned about drought and every time it rained, they almost did a rain dance. Besides that, I love the cozey feeling of being inside with a cup of clam chowder and chardonnay listening to the rain fall.
Well, there was no clam chowder here, and we did get pretty wet, but I didn't mind. It was perfect for spending 3+ hours at the Alfred Nobel Peace Center, which is exactly what we did. What an amazing place! I'll probably write more about it in a review. But for right now I'll just describe what was going through my mind. Well, first we took a guided tour, which was really informative. For one thing, I had no idea about the man behind the name of these prizes that are given out each year.
A symbolic display of using renewable energy.
But apparently there was some genius guy named Alfred Nobel who was Swedish and a physicist/chemist. He invented dynamite, I guess. And when he died, he left behind a ton of cash saying that each year someone extraoridinary in the world should be rewarded with one of five prizes: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. Economics was added later by the people who run this whole thing. The first four (and I guess economics) are given out in Sweden. But Alfred Nobel specifically said that the Peace Prize must be awarded in Norway for some unknown reason. Thus, the peace center in Oslo
Anyway, when I was on the tour I was feeling really positive at first.
Photo of Muhammad Yunus with the people he has helped.
I mean, this center was in honour of people who had come up with extraordinary ideas for bringing peace in the world. They had used their brains and their ideas to make this world safer or more improved for our lives. Some risked their lives. Some even gave up their lives. Some of the Nobel Peace laureates I was thinking about at this point were Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchu, and Woodrow Wilson.
Then the tour guide told us about some people who have been nominated in the past and I was so dismayed. Hitler was nominated by some Swede a very long time ago! Stalin was nominated! George W. Bush was nominated (yes the one who led us to the quagmire we are in now)! No, GW is not at all like Hitler or Stalin, but it still upset me greatly that he could actually be nominated.
Childrens' "get well" cards to the earth. The earth has a fever.
My point was, I was a little deflated by this. But I tried to tell myself that they hadn't won, so the prize still has a lot of merit. While some questionable people have won in the past, I don't believe it should take away the glory that so many deserving laureates should get for their passionate and valuable work. So I was fine again.
The center has many exhibits, including one on the latest Nobel Prize winner. The December 2006 winner was Muhammad Yunus. This was the man who came up with the idea of microcredits: small little loans with a very low interest rate. He started a bank called Grameen Bank, which gives out tiny loans (I'm talking like $20) to mostly women who can use that money to buy materials for skills that they have.
View of Arkershus from the Nobel Peace Center.
The skills run the gamut too: basket weaving, sewing, cloth weaving, cattle farming, gardening. And they use those materials and then they make money and are able to feed their family. These women are given the money and financial counceling and taught about the importance of paying back the loan. And you know what! The bank has a repay rate of close to 99%! That's higher than most banks. The extraordinary thing that Yunus realized is that loaning money to women better benefits the entire family than loaning money to men. I'm not sure why this is, but they are more likely to use the profits that they earn to, first of all, pay back the loan, and most importantly to feed their families. It's such a simple idea and it has changed something like 5 million lives. I was completely blown away by this person's idea and how much he has helped people out of poverty. I mean, permanently helped them out of poverty!
The Center has a display of all the Nobel Laureates in a room, it has a temporary exhibit on Global Warming, and an interactive display on Alfred Nobel's life. It was amazing to see who had won in the past. Amnesty International has won in the past, which made me quite proud (I'm a member). But as I wasn't a member at the time that they won (it may have been before I was born) I cannot call myself a Nobel Laureate. Oh well. Maybe next time.
After the Peace Center, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Pepe's Pizza (I think that's the name, but I don't recommend it) and headed back to Natalina's house to avoid getting more drenched than we already were. But now we had something to think about and definitely some people to remember.