Celebrating the Election in Tajikistan

November 5, 2008 at 10:34 am 7 comments

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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All the random bits that make up a day…. A Tajik Wedding

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Annie  |  November 5, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I must have been good this year. I asked Santa for Obama to be President, and I got it!

  • 2. Annie  |  November 5, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Washing sugar down with sugar? Sounds like these people’s lives would be greatly enhanced with some Guers Iced-T!

  • 3. Melinda  |  November 5, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Wow I’m already emotional from everything that has happened but your post brought (more) tears to my eyes! It makes me so proud to be an American, to have you out there representing our country, and celebrating like that. Things were a lot less happy round these parts, as you know the political standing of my hubby. Oh well. I was celebrating on the inside. Thanks again for the wonderful post!

  • 4. Bob  |  November 7, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Hello from everyone’s favorite member of the opposition…

    I was struck by the sentiments of the people on the election. I agree we need to find peace and happiness as a nation, but the I hope your people will be able to make more money comment is fascinating to me. America has the highest standard of living and salaries in the world, and for people to have that perspective (hoping for us to make more money) in a country like Tajikistan is very interesting to say the least.

    As you can probably assume, I am not thrilled with an Obama Presidency, but I am a reasonable guy, and I hope he does a good job. I think the jury is still out on whether or not this will be the beginning to the end of racism in America. But one good thing this will definitely do, is give the African American community an excellent role model to look up to and if nothing else, that’s a good thing.

  • 5. Christa Sterner  |  November 8, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Your posts are amazing! I can remember my visit to Russia and I was thankful I had brought peanut butter and crackers with me. Where I was, fish head in soup was a common meal with scales floating all along. I do eat meat but whatever kind of meat they served was none I had ever eaten. If there is anything I can send you please let me know. As far as the election, being in another country and seeing their reactions first hand is quite an experience to remember. You are blessed! Not many can say they have done that. Take care.

  • 6. Elaine Mykolayko  |  November 9, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I am a friend of your Mom’s from the Craft Group. My sister is Suzanne Mykolayko who also taught at Minersville. We are really amazed by your reports of life in Tajikistan. I just finished reading a travel book by Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, in which he talked about visiting some of the ‘stans’-Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in his case. I think it is really important that Americans get to know something about these countries and their problems. As we are finding out more and more these days, what happens in the rest of the world really affects us alot! I look forward to future posts.

  • 7. Sharon Block Raphael  |  November 11, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    I have goose bumps! It sounds like you are having an amazing experience. Be well!



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