With poor electricity and internet-connection it took two days before the sad news about Mandela’s death reached me in Lombok. I cried, but felt I was part of a universal grief there from the jungle. I didn’t have to share my sorrow or story with anyone on FB or Instagram. Little did I know that I was gonna be taken straight back to the day that I gave a rose to him and president De Klerk – and later share it on national news.
But my memories went back to the cold day in Febuary 20 years ago, when I got to meet my biggest hero.
Mr.Mandela and president De Klerk was in Oslo to receive the Nobel peace-prize. It was a day that would mark an important milestone in the International support for Mandela, ANC and equal rights. But it was extremely cold that day, ice-cold, and hardly no people were waiting outside to greet them. But my always supporting mum had taken me out of school to encounter the historical moment, so she and I were there.
I remember feeling sorry for the former prisoner as there were hardly no people outside.
I was only 11, but it was easy to understand that something was wrong when people were not treated alike, just because of the color of their skin. I was inspired by this man who fought for the oppressed, even after 27 years of prison. He had shown the world that anything is possible and I wanted to show him some support and love back. I thought that if I “wave” some roses at him while they walk by, I would show him that I am there to care. So I ran down to a local flowershop to buy some flowers. And when I returned back to the townhall again, the unthinkable happened.
Guards approached me and asked If I wanted to “give him the roses”! And off course I wanted. But when the guards started checking me for bombs, it suddenly became real. Oh my, I was gonna meet my hero!
I practiced the sentence “Peace on earth from the children of Norway”, but didn’t quite manage it when he finally arrived. I was so nervous and said instead “Peace on earth from the children of Norwegian” in a really bad english.
However, it didn’t matter. The embarrassment drowned in the warmth of Mandela’s eyes on that cold day. And when I later was interviewed by the CNN all I could say was; “he had so kind eyes”.
How did the meeting affect me? In regards to the funeral of Mr.Mandela they contacted me from Norwegian TV2. They had found some old footage from the “rose-ceremony” and asked me to explain the story. I had by then reached Ubud, the cultural and spiritual hub of Bali, and was in a bar when I received the message. A bit tipsy I immediately started writing down the story. How did this actually come together and had this meeting affected me later in life?
In retrospect I can clearly see that it has. Mandela is not only a symbol of equal rights, but he is also a great symbol of making the impossible, possible -through hope and determination. And in a way a little girl’s meeting with her biggest hero is another example of that. Although unconciously, I think Mandela and the rose-ceremony might have given me strength also later in life. I really do believe that “everything is possible”.
I got some comments from people in the bar; “are you fucking writing a novel? Put down that phone and come dance!”
Ouch, the morning after I thought… What did I actually send off to TV2? But I had already gotten a reply saying that they wanted me to tell this story on the news. It was the day of the funeral for the “Father of the Nation” and I was asked to be on live-link from Bali 20min later…
On live-link from Indo
From Skype I could not see the TV-pictures, but I could hear the story from 20 years back. My voice was so light and fragile then and it hit me straight back. I could almost feel the cold from that day coming through the screen and into my bones. Strangely enough the journalist who interviewed me that day, was also interviewing me now! And he said:
I remember this day being extremely cold, and in my life as a reporter I will never forget the little girl who stood there in the cold with the roses. How did the idea come to mind?
Wow, I was so touched to hear this. I really thought my meeting with Madiba, was gonna live only through my memories and partly die in the jungle. But this guy remembered it too!
Mandela never weaved to believe in his cause for equal rights. He came from nothing and became president of South Africa. Let us never forget him, his story and his mission. Let us keep on treating people as brothers and sisters, let us keep on believing everything is possible. And let us keep on giving support, praise and roses to the people who inspires us.
Btw, it turns out that the day of Mandelas funeral and the interview, was the final work-day for news anchor Xxx. After xx years as a reporter, he would now retire. I would love to find him and give him a rose one day…
I’m writing this on the flight home from Indonesia, while watching a documentary about him… RIP 46664
Mini-nerdy-me: “Peace on earth from the children of Norwegian”.