Celebrating the Election in Tajikistan
Last night, as I was crawling into bed, I felt just like I did on Christmas Eve when I was a child. I felt a mix of excitement, apprehension (what if Santa didn’t come?), and sheer energy coursing through my veins. But last night I was also feeling really sad. Here we were, on the edge of something truly great, and I was not able to participate. I kept thinking how I would be able to tell my grandkids ‘how lucky I felt to witness such an historic event but, no, I didn’t actually help make it happen’. Of all the elections in all of the world, why did I have to miss this one?
I practically jumped out of bed when my alarm went off this morning. I was fiddling with the tv remotes before I had even fully emerged from my sleeping bag cocoon or turned the lights on. I had already preset the station to CNN the night before so that I was able to hop right into viewing action at 6am sharp. Voting was still taking place back in the U.S., so only a few states had been called, but it didn’t take long for the drama to begin building.
By the time I got into work it was fairly obvious that Obama would be elected. Judging from e-mails and Facebook postings, I could tell that all of my friends and family were caught up in the excitement back home. But all I could do was sit at my desk and watch the little states on the CNN map turn red or blue (mostly blue). I felt so helpless and, worse, so far away.
And then it happened: McCain conceeded and Obama accepted. I read the transcripts of the speeches, browsed through pictures of the celebrations, and cursed the very very slow Tajiki internet, which would not allow me to watch any videos. I am such a cheeseball – tears were running down my cheeks. Regardless of what you believe or who you voted for, you must realize the importance of this day and what it stands for, right?
Anyway, this posting isn’t supposed to be about me or my political leanings. It’s supposed to be about Tajikistan.
After a couple hours of throwing myself a pity party, I decided to take matters into my own hands and throw a real party. I grabbed one of my co-workers and headed out in search of a cake. I bought the biggest, most chocolatey cake I could find. And my co-worker chipped in for the RC and Orange RC (another food tradition I don’t quite appreciate here: washing down sugar with more sugar).
I went around to each office and invited all of the staff to the conference room to help celebrate. At first, they didn’t realize what was happening and assumed that I was celebrating my birthday (they all had bets that I was turning 24 or 25 years old!). But, once I explained that I was throwing an election party, they got even more excited.
I had a lovely little speech planned out and had arranged for one of my coworkers to translate but, before I could start, other people started making their own speeches. Everyone wanted to express their hopes and prayers for my country. “I hope that your country finds peace and happiness” “I hope that the people in your country will be able to make more money” “I hope that he will be the best president ever” and on and on. My speech, which was mostly devised to explain that this was not meant to promote Obama but rather to more generally celebrate election day, now seemed less exciting.
I felt really blessed and surprised that everyone cared so much. I don’t even think they cared too much about Obama specifically, they seemed to care more about what the election would mean to the people in the United States. And, once again, I felt really privileged. I felt the weight of what it means to be from the U.S. and the responsibility that that can bring.
But, most importantly, I no longer felt pity for myself for being here instead of back at home.
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