I am proud to be an American. I left Maseru, Lesotho to travel to Durban, South Africa. My only objective for the day was to get into town to watch the Obama Inauguration. Since Durban is a large, international town, I figured I could find some Americans to watch the historic speech with. To commemorate the day, I put on my baby blue Barack Obama shirt. The shirt was a gift from Kelli Baird, the woman who designed the logo for Singh Around the World.
The trip to Durban would require two taxis vans and about six hours on the road. The taxi vans usually held 12 passengers and they only leave when they get full. My first taxi van left from Maseru. It filled up fast and I found myself at the border town of Ficksburg,South Africa at 10 am. After walking across the border of the two countries, I found the taxi rank for Durban. There was one person in the van so only ten more to go! I put my backpack in the van and started the exciting process of waiting. After a year of travel, I have become very patient. I needed to be on the road by 2 pm in order to be in Durban in time for the speech. By noon, we had two more passengers. Around 1pm, there were no more new passengers and I reluctantly came to terms that I would be watching the speech on youtube. At 1:30, the taxi driver made the call that there would be no trip to Durban that day. He needed eight passengers to make it worth his while. We were only four. I was stuck in Ficksburg, South Africa.
Ficksburg is a sleepy town with one hotel, two pubs and a number of mom and pop shops. I checked into the hotel and the room was only $14 US dollars. They didn't have a TV so I ventured into town, a thriving five block metropolis! The pub closest to my hotel was the Bottling Company and the bartender gave me the remote to the TV so I could find the news coverage of the inauguration. Their CNN and BBC channels were not active so I had to watch the coverage on Al Jezeera News. I found it to be amusing that I was watching an Arabic news station in South Africa broadcasting the inauguration of the American President.
The pub had about 15 patrons in it. It was a mixed crowd of black and white South Africans. After I found the news coverage, a group of the pub's regulars invited me to join them for a beer. We proceeded to have a lengthy conversation on the election and their support of Barack Obama. I was amazed at their depth of knowledge about the primaries and the general election. They wanted my opinion on a number of topics including the global recession, the Iraq War, and Guantanamo Bay. They talked about the speeches that Obama gave that inspired them such as the speech on race relations and the one in Berlin.
It was an amazing experience to watch the inauguration with this group of South Africans. The entire bar and wait-staff watched the speech together. When the crowd in Washington, DC was asked to stand during the administration of the oath, the people in the pub stood to their feet. At five different points during the speech, the patrons in the bar clapped about something in the speech. I was in the front of the room but I could hear the comments being made behind me. One patron said, "America will be a great nation. It was always a great nation but it will now be greater." Near the end of the speech a woman said loudly, " May Obama give the world what it needs." At a few points it felt like church, as people shouted out amen during the speech.
After the speech, I bought the bar a round of drinks. An older man black man had tears in his eyes. He gently asked me if he could have my shirt. I proudly switched shirts with him so he could have my Barack Obama shirt. My friends in Lesotho were watching it at the US Embassy. A number of my friends were in Washington, DC. I was stuck in Ficksburg. Though I wished I was in DC, I think I have a better appreciation of being an American by watching it with a group of South Africans. I am proud to be an American.