Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Ba-Rocks South Africa!

OK, sorry about the lame pun, but we were full of them last night, from “Barackin’ Hot President” to “Baracking Absentee Ballots.” I can’t even describe how giddy I am, which is primarily shown by the fact that I am updating my blog twice in one week. I can’t contain myself! My cup bloggeth over!

Last night has to be once of the best nights of my service here. A bunch of PCVs with Obama pictures taped to various body parts, dancing to music selected by DJ Robb, which included the Neil Diamond classic, “Beautiful Noise” (that dance was for you, mom!), popcorn and Smarties (brought back memories of popcorn and M&M’s, introduced to me by the lovely Sonja Dahlin in, what, 6th grade?), and CNN. Wow! What a night. Obama meandered through my dreams after I subtly and successfully kicked Joel off the couch (well, maybe not so subtle), and when CNN announced Obama’s win, my eyes popped open and that was all the sleep I got.

But watching this is South Africa was incredible and surreal. There have been times when I was disappointed that I was in Peace Corps during this election. I would have campaigned for Obama until I got fired from my job for missing too many days. This man had my vote since I listened to him read “Dreams From My Father” in 2001 (books on tape, of course. But I wouldn’t have said no to a personal reading, either). But, other times, I was happy to be missing all the ugliness of campaigns. I could pick and choose what I read, and wasn’t bombarded with nastiness. I walked into last night confident he would win, without fearing assassination attempts or the Bradley affect. Distance gives perspective, and I’m glad I have it.

And being in Africa! They are of course claiming Obama as family, and after years of living in, working for, and losing my heart to Africa, here was a presidential candidate who could not only identify Africa on the map, but has family in my first-visited African country. Africa isn’t an afterthought of Obama, but part of his identity. His travels to Kenya showed him a world that few Americans have seen and fewer would want to. But this is where I live, and this is how so many people of the world live: few options, less power, dying from diseases that should have been eradicated, crime, violence, corruption, and the fear to hope for a better life because those dreams have been crushed so many times. And not only that, but the quiet, incredible strength that shows itself in unexpected places. My experiences in Africa have been some of my most painful but absolutely the most life-altering. The lessons I have learned here have influenced my love of community, my appreciation for diversity, my spiritual journey, and my nascent ability to look reality in the eye and say “Thank you.” And to see something similar in the man who will be my president… Well, now.

But enough about me (boy do I ramble). I’m in SOUTH AFRICA! A country with arguably the most tense racial relations in the world. South Africa, in many ways, is America’s little brother, with similar history, similar parents, and similar struggles. There are shopping malls with putt-putt golf and drive-in theaters. (Just like America!) There is resentment towards affirmative action, yet the HUGE need to address past injustices. (Just like America!) There are no easy answers, but there is the steady, if uneven, march towards equality. One thing Peace Corps brings to places like South Africa is hope. We tend to be an optimistic bunch and we see potential where others see despair. This is a huge generalization, I know, but the point I’m trying to make is that Obama is saying “Yes we can” to the whole world. Yes, we can have a better life than our parents. Yes, we can triumph over racism. Yes, we can create a better world.

Mandela to Obama: “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place."

Desmond Tutu said Obama's victory tells "people of color that for them, the sky is the limit."

How lucky and blessed am I to be seeing this victory with the dual lens of the US and Africa. How lucky and blessed is the world to see that Americans can step away from white, patriarchal entitlement and move in a direction that acknowledges that we are all family, we are all in this together, and we are all connected.

All though this euphoria will pass away, as all things do, there is no doubt that this moment has profound and global significance. THIS is the America I’m proud of. This is the America that so many of us have fought to bring into existence. It’s not often we see a dream come true.

Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes

“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”

Or does it get buried in a mound of shit, only to flower, fertilized and breath-takingly beautiful, when the world is ready? I think now we know.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Today I saved a goat from almost certain death...

Going home today, I looked in my yard (well, yard does not conjure up the right image. Think of a mini-farm with nothing growing on it) a saw the usual herd of goats. I don’t know why they like my barren mini-farm, but there they were. Then I saw the funniest thing. My neighbor, Pa Mello as I call him, put water in a can for the goats. Unfortunately, the can is deep, and is about the circumference of an adult goat’s head. So, while reaching for the dregs at the bottom of the can, the head got stuck, and I came home to a goat running around with a bright yellow Nesprey can on its head. And you know when you’re blind-folded and in unfamiliar territory, you walk a little cautiously, slow and with your hands out in case you fall or bump into something? Well that is not the style of goats, especially since they don’t have hands. This goat was running, running! right towards my house, which is not a soft and cushy thing to run into. I was about to have a goat mishap on my hands. But there I go to save the day and I pull the can right off the goat’s head. Just like that. And then, I fill up the can with water to see if it will happen again.