An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Posts from — November 2008

Strawberry. American. Proud.

There was a moment the other night when I realized no one was saying anything. I paused, looked around. It was one of those moments when you look back and recall “where you were when.” It was history in the making.

Even as a traveler I knew this election was one for the books. Of course, I wasn’t inundated with the yearlong barrage of campaign ads most Americans were. But the key points did make international headlines: Barrack defeats Hillary, McCain chooses Palin, neck and neck campaigning.  I suppose much of that is normal, but I could tell the world was watching especially close. “Who’s going to win?” was always the immediate follow-up to my exposed citizenship. Even in the most remote African village I visited, people felt inclined to share they were “praying for Obama.”

Presidentially, the race was historic-personally, it was against time. I am registered in Flagstaff, Arizona, so I knew I had to there by November 4th to exercise my right to vote. However, there were a couple things I needed to tend to first, and both were in different parts of the country.

I spent the week prior with family in Southern Oregon, where times are tough. Finances are tight; life is, to say the least, less than ideal. My days were filled with meetings that including mortgage brokers, family members and piles of papers explaining reverse mortgage options for an elderly couple: two people whose income is hardly enough to meet the demands of their house payments. I was present to ask questions for them, and for me, to make sure two of the most loving and loved people in my life were not taken advantage of. Not a place you really want to be. However, we found comfort in each other and stood on the knowledge that, no matter how difficult times got, we were still very blessed.

After several days and a reasonable understanding, my travels continued to San Francisco. A beautiful city known for its rolling hills, cloud covered landscapes, and according to several sources one of the finest Halloween spots in America. That, of course, was all I needed to hear. Pressed for time, I did the first thing I knew to prepare, I went to the Salvation Army-in some small town off an Oregonian highway where I found my costume or to be more accurate-my costume found me. The Super Berry had been born!

I arrived San Francisco at noon on Halloween Day. Perhaps it was felt berry (most likely made for 7 year old). Perhaps it was the tight green and red pants, which maintained its modesty with a leafy diaper. Maybe it was the strawberry cape, or sandy superhero wig with complimentary mustache, or the black dish-gloves modified to spray whipped cream on command. Whatever it was, there was no finer “Super Berry” in all of San Fran. Children wanted to shake hands, as they pointed and yelled “Strawberry…” with star-studded gaze. Drag queens wanted to bump chests. Ladies wanted their pictures taken. Somehow Super Berry even got access a San Fran doctors’ 80’s party.

With the clock ticking and having effectively put the “awe” back into “strawberry”. I boarded my flight for Phoenix. Unfortunately, Phoenix is still 2 hours from Flagstaff, where I had to vote. I turned to Craigslist. At 4:30 pm, voting day, I climbed into the truck of a young man just enlisted in the Army and on his way to New Mexico to spend a couple days with family before going to boot camp. He was kind enough to drop me off at the door of my voting station, and with 15 minutes left, I made my voice known.

That brings me back to “the moment”. Like millions of others, I sat with friends around the television and watched as the results pored in. Some were happy, some vocally concerned, but we all watched as history was made. McCain was first to speak and whether you voted for him or not, you watched as a proud American, humbly and respectfully conceded both his love for his country and his position in history in one of the most gracious concession speeches I have ever seen.

Moments later the room fell silent.  We watched as the new face of America-strong, focused, black- stood tall between bulletproof glass walls. We watched as he spoke of the challenges of the past and the hopes ahead. And whether you voted for him or not, it was a special moment. It was in that moment that I paused… I looked across the room and saw every eye glued to the unprecedented image before us. The same image that filled households throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

I sat and watched as just engulfed as my neighbors. In that moment…after month and months of traveling the world, after seeing different people in different cultures with different governments, I was reminded of what we have. Where a man, with modest roots yet drive and vision, stood before a crowd, a country, a world and accepted the challenge to lead. In that moment… I was proud to be an American.

November 20, 2008   3 Comments