Friday, January 23, 2009

Kua 'Aina

On Wednesday, some 15 hours after Obama's swearing in, I took the boys to dinner, to a "Hawaiian sandwiches" joint in Aoyama. We had been meaning to try this place, Kua 'Aina, mainly because it seemed to be the one good burger restaurant in town that we hadn't tried yet. The point is, there was this big framed photo of Obama by the register. The picture shows him at the Kua 'Aina in Honolulu. Now I had been kinda down this week in the days leading up the inauguration, I think because I had been feeling completely disconnected to what was going on, removed from this Big Moment in History, so out of it, being so far away, and the fact that the live coverage was at 2 am local time didn't help.

But seeing that photograph, which shows a beaming Barack in a gray T-shirt and Chicago White Sox cap, standing at the counter with two of the shop's employees -- I don't know, it just cheered me up. And when we got home, after the kids were squared away, I went online and watched a bunch of video clips of the events and read some of the articles and blog posts and looked at some friends' inaugural ball photos on Facebook, and, bit by bit, that bummed out feeling went away. I used to live in Washington DC, and I'd been to two previous inaugurations (the first Bush in 1989, Clinton in 1993), but this week was the first time in the 16 years since I'd moved away that I actually missed the place and wished I could've been there, watching a Jumbotron with the huddled masses.

Around here, at least around the British School, nobody was really talking about the inauguration, and why would they, anyway, right? But the election had been a hot topic of conversation in and around the halls of the school and at the Starbucks where the moms tend to congregate after drop-off. I had Brits, Aussies, French and Japanese moms all talking to me about it. One Japanese mom told me she had been moved by Obama's acceptance speech, when he talked about the "old lady." I had people patting me on the back, giving me high-fives, congratulating me for electing the right guy. "I'm so happy for you," they would say, sometimes pausing for a moment and adding, "you are happy, right?" One English lady who lived in Westport, Conn., for two years (and absolutely loved it) said that on election day she wished she was an American just so she could've voted for Obama. It was exciting. We finally had a cool president! No more shame over the screw-ups, no more having to join in the eye-rolling, (like yeah, I know, we suck) because now we didn't suck. Back in November, a week or so post-election, Garrison Keillor wrote that "We all walk taller this fall." Well I certainly did. Maybe the inauguration was anti-climactic on this side of the world. But it would've been nice to get a few more of those high-fives.

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