Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yes We Did!

That was the headline on the front page of the Kampala Daily Monitor on Wednesday, November 5th, 2008.

I was pretty bleary by that time having gotten up at 3:00 a.m. that morning to watch the returns with a hardy little band of Obama-supporting American ex-pats (our one Nader-supporting friend from Boulder was grudgingly invited as well but didn't come). Although everything looked promising leading up to the final moments, it was not until CNN called the election for Obama that we breathed a collective sigh of relief, followed by shouting and crying and general hysteria and the uncorking of champagne! Champagne at 6:30 a.m. on a wonder I drifted through the day accepting congratulations from Ugandans, both friends and total strangers, with a huge grin on my face. On some level, I could not quite believe what had just happened.

But then I went to work and my friend Karim made it real for me. The first day I arrived at BeadforLife in May, I was introduced to Karim, the BFL gardener, inventory staffperson and "Obama's most enthusiastic supporter in Uganda." And he is. He is the sole support of his two-year-old son, Hassan, and together they live in a small apartment on the BeadforLife premises. After seeing Karim's excitement over the Obama candidacy, I immediately gave him my Obama shirt which he wore daily between washings. Each day he greeted me with a concerned look and the question in Swahili-accented English, "How is Mr. Obama?" I reported as best I could on Mr. Obama's general health, on the primary ups and downs, the Democratic convention, the Palin nomination, his grandmother's death and in the end I just kept saying, "It's looking good, but..." He would give me his wide, soft smile and a thumbs-up. Missing so much sharing the energy of the election with friends and family, it became a nice little ritual I began to look forward to.

After we got the election results early on Nov. 5th, I bumbled into the office about 11:00 a.m. to find an elated Karim waiting for me in his Obama t-shirt waiting to get our picture taken with a huge American flag he had bought just for the occasion. I've never been much of a "flag" person, firmly believing that imaginary borders and inordinate pride in the location of one's birth are responsible for far too much death and destruction in this world. I'll be honest though, seeing Karim's pure joy and total lack of cynicism made me give up my self-proclaimed Canadian citizenship and enjoy being an American for a change.

Pictures follow.