Nov 7th, 2012
At our Obama Inauguration Party (~ 4:30am)
Today felt different. Today, I looked in the mirror at myself differently, held my gait differently, categorized myself differently, and for the first time since I’ve come to Tanzania, I mentally excluded myself apart from everyone else on the street. Today, I didn’t try to wear a long dress that covered my knees in the heat of a blazing sun; and when I passed through the raucous marketplace and dove into the smokey pool of daladalas, I did not try to hide myself in the crowd. I didn’t try to conceal any smug smile that might cross my face, and I didn’t ignore the obvious staring of the man sitting next to me on the bus, but instead confronted him on it. For just one day, I resumed a part of my old identity that I haven’t felt in a long while, because today in my mind, I was an American.
Around 3:30am this morning, seven friends and I awoke to head to a sportsbar where we had requested a special screening of CNN election coverage, breakfast, and champagne. At 4am, a couple of us walked into the bar and my face lit up as I heard the first sounds of Anderson Cooper’s voice. The pumping, energetic music being unsubtly featured on top of Wolf Blitzer’s frenzied voice was refreshingly exciting, thrillingly fast-paced, and gave the same sense of anticipation as one walking into a huge cheering stadium just before a football game. From 4-7am, the group of us proudly obnoxious Americans cheered and booed as states were declared, played a game of pool, shared our political knowledge and opinions, and enjoyed spontaneous cups of beer far too early (or too late?) for common sense. When we left the sports bar in the bright morning sun, I felt a sense that I had been there for hours and hours, maybe days. And why was I suddenly at a sportsbar in day light?!
So, when I went home, took a shower, and then a 2 hr nap, it was time to do the daily rigmarole of figuring out an outfit appropriate for the streets and for the weather and for teaching. I have these cache long shorts that don’t quite cover my knees, and usually they’re a bit too risqué for the dala ride. So, I instead put on a pair of long trousers, stepped outside and set, “ah screw it!” – yes, today, for some odd reason, I stopped caring if I was starred at or if I stood out! It was my election day and the man that I voted for twice had just won the election. It was my turn to be proud. I know it seems ridiculous, ok my form of protest was shorts riding just barely above my knees, but it is the principal—it was the mentality that I wore on my sleeve. (or pants leg, for that matter)
I took out some chewing gum and smacked it loudly (sorry, mom), blowing bubbles as I walked in the street. Oh man, I even wore my sunglasses!! I never do this… I’m not sure why, I think because it’s just one more item that most Tanzanians (especially women) are never found to be wearing. But, well the sun was shining and there were my sunglasses in my pocket. So imagine a hipster Dani, smugly strollin’ through the daladala stand with her hands in her pockets and blowin’ bubbles with her gum. Well, that was the scene and it was glorious because I didn’t care one bit!
We Americans are such a strange breed of people. We’re such an amalgam of so many cultures, we just don’t realize it! And, in only 200 years, we have grown into a nation of proud and passionate people that stick out everywhere we go. Last night, Millie (my English roommate) sighed, “I just don’t see how you can get so excited about an election!” and I smiled. When did I become so passionate about my country? Well, once I realized how ridiculously incredible of a country it is, I suppose.
Last night Obama said a couple of things in his victory speech which I really liked. The first was “We believe in a generous America, a compassionate America, in a tolerant America…” My gosh, how truly that resonates in me. It’s the tolerance of difference, of uniqueness, that I miss so much here in Tanzania. Obama said, “What makes America exceptional is the bond that holds together the most diverse nation on Earth.” Even now, I nod my head in agreement, and with pride. So that’s why I wanted to stand out today: well, it may sound cheesy, but I really believe that it was because I wanted to remember that I come from a place where difference is celebrated, where being weird isn't all that weird at all.