Saturday, November 22, 2008

OK, now the downside

The Five Worst Parts

1. Missing the two hour lunches I routinely took in Ecuador

2. Crowded subways in the morning

3. Not having time to shop for a bed, get cable installed, go to the bank, get a haircut...

4. Rats in the subway. OK, everything about the subway.

5. The fact I am in my office on a Saturday. See Item 3.

Top Ten Lists

Top Five Best Things about the first month back

1. Listening to Pandora's "Julieta Venagas Radio" in my office. All the time. It's like no other music exists besides, Juanes, Shakira, Julieta, and Mana.

2. The commute from my house to work. The M98 takes you down Harlem River Drive and drops you off right by the 6 at 116th Street. Being overground for half of the ride is so freaking great.

3. Thai Food for lunch.

4. Eating Ethiopian Jill, Michael, Michael, Sarah, Tiffany, Susan, and Erik.

5. Having my stuff stored in the basement, so I can move in a little at the time.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Remember this feeling

So of course I have to blog about this week, after imagining myself part of the Obama team back in 2007. I continue smitten and now am just very, very gratified. Very proud. Obviously, the last few days have been unlike any other time we have ever lived.

Getting on the plane Monday, going to volunteer in North Carolina, which was just called by the way, I found myself thinking about this expectancy, this certainty that everything had the potential to change and how we are never going to feel exactly this way again. During election day, I started to get nervous, glancing anxiously at Palin signs, accidently canvassing the house of a Bush supporter, phone banking to harassed young women. The organizers gave us phone lists and instructed us to call people who said they were on the way to the polls to keep calling until people told us that they had actually voted. This one poor young woman said to me laughing, "Ya'll have called me four times today. I am going, I am going."

Of course we now know that is was that how he won states like North Carolina. By bugging people.

Election night, there were the first fearsome minutes when Barack Obama only had three electoral votes. And then polls started to close. States started to light up. We had planned to go the Kay Hagan party at the Coliseum, although my father refused to commit to going until he knew she had won. He thought her concession speech would be too depressing. But we headed out the door right after they announced her Senate victory over Elizabeth Dole. And we were at the Coliseum, listening to a blues band, when they called Pennsylvania. When they called Iowa. When they called Ohio.

It was at this juncture that there was one of these most spontaneous moments, when two strangers hug one another. The woman standing next to me looked at me and we just embraced. And when I looked at her face, I realized, without asking, that she was my kindergarten teacher. And then I was almost hysterical in frantic conversation, explaining who I was, when I was in her class at Brooks Elementary. We both started crying from the impact of our lives crossing in these two very different moments in history, one 1978 the other 2008. I can only imagine the meaning of the night for her. But, thinking of it now I realize that it is my first years of education are more than any other thing, except for my parents, the basis of why this election is so moving to me. In 1978, I began kindergarten at a school which had only been really integrated with a cross-town bussing initiative a few years before. In that school, where I had Mrs. Sharp, I learned about the civil rights movement. In that school, I had my first encounter with difference between myself and other students. Although I didn't have words for it then, I became conscious of class differences, differences in social capital and racism. I was raised on the lore of how much had changed in my city from just a few short years before.

My dissatisfaction with my country, my disaffection with this society that I fiercely love comes out of those experiences. The idea that we have made some mistakes and gotten things wrong, but every once and awhile we get things right, and things move forward is what simultaneously fascinates and enrages me about the United States. And the only times I got into political arguments in Ecuador was when I tried to explain this to someone and couldn't convince them.

And here in this election is the overwhelming evidence that it's true. When we get it right, we really get it right. It's the in-between times where you have to take it on faith, that justice will be done. The in between times are often long, and sometimes faith wavers.

What I have noticed among some Obama voters is that the election has taken on dimensions that go beyond politics or even social justice. The election has become spiritual for some of us. I think it is because Obama's election is evidence of so many things that people want to be true. It proves their faith.

And I think its not just in the United States but in other parts of the world that people live with this paradox. My friend Maria, a leftist activist of many years from Argentina said right after she bought the election night bottle of champagne.

"Mañana estaremos pensando en vos y yo especialmente en ese país que me ha llenado de ira y tambíen de emociones y alegrias."

"Tomorrow, we will be thinking about you and especially about this country that had filled me with such rage, and emotion and joy."

Monday, November 03, 2008

Almost Two Weeks in New York

Being back has alternated between being exciting, stressful, numbingly similar to how it felt before, and then sometimes, nice. There are people everywhere. You forget how far it takes to go 2-3 miles on the subway. The morning commute can be harrowing. Of course, I knew this culture shock would happen.

Needless to say, I am very, very, very excited (and nervous) about the election.

Estar aquí ha alternado entre ser emocionante, estresante, y similar a como siempre sentía y de vez en cuando lindo. Hay gente en todos los lugares. Se olvida cuanto tiempo se lleva ir 2 o tres millas en el subte. El viaje a trabajo puede ser espantoso. Por supuesto, sabía este choque de la cultura me iba a pasar.

Estoy muy, muy, muy emocionada sobre la elección.