Durham, North Carolina
A President’s Day project: my collection of 2008/9 election + inauguration newspapers (plus one in-flight magazine!) from China, the Philippines, & the U.S.
I sent my absentee ballot to Virginia from China and found candidate Obama seemingly everywhere I traveled. There he was, on a Chengdu billboard, selling who-knows-what that he definitely didn’t agree to sell. There he was, being interviewed on a TV hanging from the ceiling in a Hong Kong restaurant. There he was, on the radio in a Shanghai taxi: I suddenly realized we were listening to a report about the U.S. elections when I heard, “mandarin mandarin Obama! mandarin mandarin McCain mandarin mandarin Vir-gin-ee-ah mandarin mandarin Obama!” That’s my guy, my state, my vote. I felt so much distance in that moment that I welled up right there in the back of that dingy little car.
I paced around my pollution-lighting-gray Chengdu apartment the night & morning of the election (twelve-hour time difference) — alone, antsy, & so far away — with the Chinese news coverage muted on my TV and constantly refreshing my VPN-enabled, Great-Firewall-defying view of nytimes.com.
When he won North Carolina & Virginia, we knew he’d won the whole thing. I cried, oh, I cried; it was a good thing I was alone. Little me, child of immigrants, on the other side of the world: I felt so proud of my country, my president.