It’s a strange feeling to be so far away from your country, yet to feel so intimately in-tune with its pulse of activity. This is what it is like to be an expatriot in France on Election day. Students, raising their hands tentatively, with thick french accents, asked me on my first days of teaching “Ooobaama ou Mac-Cain?” It seemed that even the 14-year-olds had an inquiring interest in the United States Election. I found that as I traveled, when people asked where I was from and I slowly answered “Les Etats-Unis,” instead of being shrugged off as just another American, they would ask, with a twinkle in their eye, which candidate I preferred, as if I was about to share with them one of my deepest secrets.
To add another layer to this discussion, I was in the minority in terms of candidate preference in both discussions with my french colleagues and students. It was exciting to have an eager audience listen to my impassioned beliefs, explain and discuss where my positions came from and to hear about American politics from a European perspective.
In my Terminale-Euro class (a sort of A.P. class), one student explained that she thought Obama would bring more change. Seven days later, an old Corsican man told me, on election day, that in ten years Obama would be good, but for now it would best to have an older McCain as president-elect.
I was in Corsica on election day and walking down the streets, each tabac (a french drug-store) had newspaper after newspaper with pictures of Barack Obama and John McCain on the front page and even thousands of miles away, in a foreign land, I could feel the significance of this election.
I woke up on the floor of the ferry back to mainland France at six o’clock in the morning on November 5, grabbed my purse and ran up the winding staircase to the main deck. (let me paint you a visual: my contacts were blurred, I was disheveled from sleeping on the floor all night, and I couldn’t get a good footing because the boat was rocking – I’m sure I looked like some crazed lunatic) There, next to the breakfast buffet line was a large screen TV, the sound muted, people in sleeping bags propped up on their elbows on the floor, while unkempt backpacker had his ear pressed against the speaker trying to hear, what I correctly assumed was Obama’s victory speech.
They say that sometimes to appreciate home, its necessary to leave for a little bit. I can tell you right now that I admired my home country this week – was proud to be an American. This pride does not stem from the results of the election (to be completely honest, I cried on that ferry) but moreso because I was a citizen of a country that showed such passion for our political process that the world couldn’t help but notice.