Friday, June 28, 2013

My Humble Ode to Obama in Senegal

By complete coincidence, I saw Obama's motorcade last night! C. and I went to dinner at La Piazza, one of my favorite restaurants in downtown Dakar despite the lackluster atmosphere and slight Lebanese influence in the "Italian and French" cuisine. The restaurant is just steps away from the Senegalese Presidential Palace, where Obama was apparently dining. 

As we went to hail a taxi, the gates of the palace opened wide and an understated motorcade drove right by us. A small crowd waved and cheered as they drove by, the vehicle of honor donning Senegalese and U.S. flags. I didn't think it could be the president with only four or five cars, but my friend Drew confirmed that Obama rolled down his window and waved a few blocks later. Drat!

I have no idea how to edit videos, so you get to hear my dorky voice and all. 
Yes, I call C. "baby," haha. It doesn't really get going until 0:29.

I am definitely a fan of the president as it is ;) but there has been something extra special about the excitement felt by the Senegalese in light of Obama's visit. This week, I've felt such a heightened mixture of patriotism for the U.S. and my temporary adopted home of Senegal. It may be corny, but America and its values, as symbolized by this presidency in particular, serve as a real inspiration for people and countries all over the word, and especially here in Africa.

I was in Senegal when Obama was first elected president in 2008. I've voted absentee from Senegal in the past two elections. By chance, I spent that week in November outside of Dakar in a rural village and watched the election results trickle in at 5am in a compound courtyard under the night sky. By miracle, my host family had CNN, in English. I remember seeing something rustle in the dark night and realizing a donkey was idly walking past the TV screen. Obama's victory coincided with the village's morning call to prayer, and at first I was certain villagers were celebrating the momentous news with a resounding Arabic chant on loudspeaker.

I will never forget this line in Obama's victory speech:
"And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand."
{That's me! I thought, with tears streaming down my face.}

I suppose it feels like things have come full circle this week. 
Another experience as an American abroad I'll likely never forget.

Psst... politics, democracy, some version of patriotismthey all hold a near and dear place in my heart. And this week has been a good one ;)

The "Beast" in Senegal. I saw the flags! Via.

Ok, that's all for now. I plan on having a relaxing weekend in preparation for next week's whirlwind with the launch of my day-job's promotional campaign in Dakar. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend as well! 

1 comment:

  1. That's SO exciting. Obama was in Berlin a couple of weeks ago, and he finally got permission to speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where back in the days, JFK held his famous "ich bin ein Berliner" speech (I don't know if anyone in the US remembers this speech, but everyone in Germany does). No president since him got permission, and Obamas first request a few years back was denied as well. Now, it was sad to see that he did not have the guts like his predecessor and hid behind walls of security glass without anything memorable to say.


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