05 November 2008

Obama élu le 44e président des Etats-Unis

Election night. The anticipation was monumental. This election was four years in the making, and before yesterday, I was still having trouble coming to the realization that we were actually going to elect a new president.

As I discussed last night with friends, all of our cognizant lives (since we were 11 years old), we’ve had Bush. And through good or (mostly) through ill, he’s pretty much all we’ve known. Now things will change.

All day yesterday, I couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t get any homework done. I was anxious. I was nervous. I was surexcitée. I was completely restless. I tried to take a nap in anticipation of my late, late night watching election results, but I could not sleep.

After laying down and fitfully contemplating what was to come, I left my house at 11 p.m. to meet up with friends in the 16th. We had planned to go to an election results party that we had been invited to which was hosted by the Americans Abroad for Obama. The party was to last from midnight until 6 a.m. streaming live CNN coverage of the night. It also promised a delicacy to be known alternately as “Barack O-Bagels” or “Obamagels.”

Rachel, Rebecca and I met up at the Metro stop around 11:50 p.m., and a number of other Smithies were in tow. We joined the massive line in front of the building where the party was to be held (it looked like some sort of huge conference hall) and we waited. And waited. And waited. The line didn’t move much, but we assumed they were probably a little behind in opening the doors. We continued to wait and the line moved a tiny bit.

At some point – I can’t really remember when – something happened and chaos momentarily erupted. Everyone bolted for the door. There was no more line. A few minutes later, someone came out and decided we should be in a line. So we made a line again. And we waited. And waited.

We couldn’t even really tell if people were getting in at all, but we remained hopeful even if a little disenchanted. Around 1:30 a.m. – an hour and a half after the doors had opened – a guy came out with a list trying to be official. He told us to line up alphabetically and then they would work off the reservation list. At first we thought, sure, we can do that. But with a crowd of hundreds who were bitter and maybe a bit cold and maybe a bit buzzed, it didn’t work so well. The little man was getting increasingly frustrated. It was all incredibly disorganized.

A group of Smithies decided to head off in search of a bar where they could watch the results. Rachel, Rebecca and I hesitated, weighing our options. We still had hopes of getting in, especially as people kept leaving, but the whole thing was so entirely muddled that we decided we wanted to go.

We considered going our separate ways and heading home for the night, but we decided the night was too monumental to spend alone in a foreign city. Instead, we opted to go back to Rachel’s place where we could snuggle up to watch the results without bothering her host parents who were out of town.

Unfortunately, this all played out perfectly after the Metro had closed for the night. So we had to navigate the night buses. We almost got lost making a transfer and then just barely caught the bus, but it worked. Then, we still had to walk a bit to Rachel’s house on deserted and mildly sketchy streets. Ultimately, we made it to her spacious and modern 17th arrondissement apartment where we immediately began to warm up and relax.

It was about 3:30 a.m. at this point. We turned on the French news and got Rachel’s computer out, snuggled up on the couch and watched everything unfold from there. It actually ended up being pretty perfect. We could make fun of the French TV anchors, including Marjorie who was visibly pissed to have been assigned to McCain headquarters in Phoenix (Vat is zis cité Feenix? It iz hot and zere are no parties. Vere is BaRack?) and, our favorite, an analyst endearingly nicknamed “Suspenders Scott” (due much more to his attire than his actual name, which presumably was not Scott) who appeared every time the big, color-coded map went up and seemed to actually understand the American electoral system. It was bizarre to be watching such an American event unfold in French. It gave a whole new perspective.

We also were able to check results online from CNN and the New York Times, making sure we were up to the minute. We spent the lulls in between new results watching amusing SNL, Daily Show and other video clips.

Shortly after 5 a.m., CNN projected Obama as the winner, and we collectively jumped for joy on the sofa. A group hug of happiness followed. Each time we saw the numbers flash on the screen or read the text “Barack Obama élu le 44e président des Etats-Unis,” another wave of excitement, disbelief and joy washed over us.

I felt a certain amount of sadness and homesickness, wishing I could have been in the U.S. to celebrate such a historic and groundbreaking American moment. But in all, the night was fun and cute and cuddly, and it was such an experience to take it all in from 4,000 miles away.

This afternoon I bought a Le Monde as a keepsake and chatted with the French woman who works at the crêperie about Barack Obama (to hear how the French pronounce this click here, type his name and select one of the French voices, my personal favorite is Bruno) and how I hope he will change things.

Like many others have said, I am proud of America and I am excited to eventually return home there.

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