Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Passport to African Community

We always want to know how things are going when the entire country has been rivetted on a presidential campaign. Each day I quietly say to myself, “What better time to travel to Africa.” We have been here to witness the tremendous hope that President-elect Barack Obama has inspired in everyone!

There is not a place that we have gone where people have not engaged us in celebratory comments about Barack Obama. Although people often speak in their native and national languages, Obama’s name is one word we can understand. Sitting in a restaurant you can hear Obama’s name slip above the mummer of conversation. Sometimes just driving down the street, someone will look into our van, recognizing us as Americans and shout Obama. This is happening in each country we have traveled.
In Uganda a man saw Bill Sinkford in the passenger seat and he raised his hand saying Obama Man! We have been wondering what are the dead give-aways letting folks know that we are American before we open our mouths and actually reveal our accents. Yes, here we are the ones with foreign accents.

People want to connect with us around the election. We were told that voter registration has increased significantly in South Africa as they prepare to elect their next leaders. Maria commented on a female hotel employee that asked if South Africa could borrow Obama for a few months. In Soweto one pereson said the U.S. is doing what they had one 14 years ago. “Obama is your Nelson Mandela!” It was in Uganda that Bill was called Obama Man. And here in Kenya people are very excited. You can buy Obama posters from your car window. It is clear that the Kenyans’ casted their votes, even if they didn’t count.

On the serious side, a Kenyan said to me Saturday, “Obama has given us hope and vision. America has shown us t hat anything is possible. This is good for our people. America does democracy well. Maybe some of our leaders will learn from your experience.”
We have been hungry for news and we try to see how local media are covering U.S. news. I have collected several front pages featuring the next U.S. President. Now that the story is not splashed across the front page, we open up the paper and see that the world’s anticipation of the next chapter of US international relations is still their news.

Scott Kraft, a writer for UU World and the LA Times, arrived in Nairobi and shared with us a special issue of the LA Times filled with stories and beautiful color pictures of the next first family. This is our first American newspaper since November 4th. We devoured it at the dinner table.