Friday, November 28, 2008

Political buzz and a prayer for Obama

sent via e-mail 11-27-08

Hello everyone,

For those of you back in the chilly USA, I'm sure the country is buzzing with the anticipation of a change of president and political administration. Classrooms and coffeeshops are no doubt full of dialogue and debate; people are ready for change and everyone seems eager to weigh in on what our new President-Elect ought to do first.

Let me assure you: We Americans are not the only ones excited and ready for change.

Here in Guinea, Barack Obama has achieved, in a matter of mere months, mythical, almost deified status. In rice bars and buvettes, salon de coiffures and taxi cabseverywhere I go people only want to talk about one thing: Obama, Obama, Obama. Some enterprising Guinean has started printing laminated "ID cards" with a picture of Obama and the White House on it. The card reads:

"M. Barack Obama. The First Black Prsident in the Maison Blanche."

Somebody's gotta tell that guy to pick a language and stick with it. Still, our bilingual entrepreneur has hit it big: Everyone, from high school students to local butchers to ladies selling onions in the marketplace, seems to have an Obama card clipped to their shirt or pants. Local politicians have even started promoting their own campaigns with messages like:

"Barack Obama and Idrissa Diallo: Both young. Both leaders. Both with the same goal: change."

I hope Mr. Obama knows he's got a kindred spirit way over here in Guinea ;). You bring that change, Idrissa.

The day after the elections, I sat down and spilled some thoughts into my journal, reflecting on the history that had been made in my country and the ripple effect this history-making would have on places like Guinea.

Let me share these thoughtsuneditedwith you now:

11/6/08 Salon de la maison

Wellit's official: Barack Obama is the President-Elect of the United States! Unbelievable. On Tuesday at about 16h30 I grabbed my bike and rode up to Dalaba to join Katy, John, Marg (other PCVs), and the Campbells (the missionary couple) to watch the returns together at Katy's host family's house.

We chatted and dozed and ate popcorn, watching Wolf Blitzer and the gang make their "CNN Projections" and analyze exit polls (ah, the beauty of satellite TV ;). By 3am here it was clear Obama was going to win, having taken Pennsylvania and Ohio, but we wanted to wait to watch the various speeches, which we did. McCain's speech was classy and gracious, which really impressed me, and Obama's was good as well, although there weren't any history-making lines.

Manwhat a moment for America and the world! A black man as president of the US. Incredible. I got back from Dalaba yesterday morning and greeted the folks hanging out at M. Diallo's, and we all shook hands and cheered and Mme Diallo showed off the Obama bracelet I gave her. Everywhere I go in the village people are buzzing, talking about Obama and the changements he's going to bring to the world. M.Sow: "Maintenant Obama va arranger le probleme de visa, n'est-ce pas?" Now Obama's gonna fix the visa problem, right? (read: visas for everyone! Especially Guineans like me!)

Sitting on the Diallo's porch last night chatting about all this, Elhadj Khalil made an interesting point: if things aren't going well in the US, they aren't going well in the world; if things go well in the US, it's like a door is opened to allow the world to function better. I'm inclined to agreeand I'm also excited to respond to the next person who calls the US layli portoland of white peopleby saying president amen ko o baleejoour president is black! What an amazing thing.

Despite the excitement, of course, I am sobered by the huge problems in the world right now and the reality that Jesus, not the American government, is the force that can really bring lasting, true change in the world.

I pray for Obama and the people around him, for his new cabinet, the new Senate, all the changes taking place at the highest levels of government. Lord, I pray that you would use these authorities and powerswho have their power because you have let them have it to bring relief and aid to the suffering people of the world, to help the poorest of the poor, to bring peace in the war-torn regions of the world, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, to bring an end to US-sponsored torture, to bring concrete, visionary legislation on climate change and solid steps forward in changing the way we Americans think about resources and our hallowed consumerist "way of life."

I know that your Kingdom does not work like the Kingdoms of the world, least of all like the "American Empire" which dominates right now. Yet, Lord, good can come out of government, and presidents, and policies, and I pray, for the sake of rich and poor, black and white, American and Iraqi and Guinean and Chinese, that the folks in those high-level positions would truly seek you and seek to have America bless you, and not necessarily the other way around.

In the meantime, here I am in Boulliwel, eating rice, shaking lots of hands, trying to spread love and kindness and relevant health teaching. I wonder what kind of an impact a new president would have on a place like Boulliwel, if any, and I'll be interested to see if, between now and Feb. 2010, the new administration makes any realistic, concrete changes to the Peace Corps.

Whether or not it does, I want to continue seeking you, Jesusto honor you with my service here in Boulliwel and open my heart, mind, and body to you to be used by you. This is the greatest privilege in the world that I could possibly think of. Live through me today as I hang out with kids, finish my analysis of my health survey, and chat with the folks in the community.


Well, guys thanks for reading, once again, if you've got this far. No matter who you voted for or where you stand on the political spectrum, I encourage you to join me in praying for our leaders and the world during this time.

Once again, I'm coming home for Christmas, from 12/23-1/14. My folks have moved to north of Boston so I'll be with them for most of the time. I'm planning on taking a quick trip up to Middlebury and maybe a trip to the Brookwoods Winter Reunion, so I'd love to see any and all folks who are around!

In the meantime,
Much love,

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! They sent us a turkey way up here in Labecan't wait to mange! ;)