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Saturday, November 15, 2008


I cannot believe that Barack Obama has been President-elect for 10 days and I haven’t written about my experience of election night. Other significant events have prevented me from writing, and yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t write about my wonderful and unique experience of watching the Obama presidency unfold in Sorrento, Italy.
Of course, Italy was behind Obama and that was very fun. To be an American in Europe for the past 8 years has not always been such a wonderful thing. It was great to finally have Europeans excited about the candidate that I loved and wistfully supported. The election came up in almost every conversation where nationality was mentioned. When we checked into our beautiful room in Sorrento, the first thing I did was to make sure that the TV had CNN! I was afraid that the landlady would think I was crazy to be so interested in the television when I was on the Amalfi coast of Italy and so I made a shy mention of the election and she immediately lit up with shouts of Obama! We shared a wonderfully bonding moment and wished each other luck for the night ahead.
Italy is 6 hours ahead of East Coast time in the United States so the reality for me was that it wasn’t going to be until the wee hours of Wednesday that I would fully understand what was unfolding. So Tuesday afternoon, I wandered around the charming town of Sorrento, talking to shop keepers and enjoying the warmth and beauty of the Italian culture. One shop was especially lovely, Antonio’s. He made these amazing chocolate covered almonds that were infused with lemon. Lemons are grown all over the Amalfi coast and the delicious liquor Limoncello is produced by the vat here. Antonio was also a maker of such and along with numerous candy samples, he poured us a Limoncello and tonic to enjoy with him. Inevitably, the conversation turned to politics and we too bonded over our love and support for Obama!
I left the television on CNN all night long and through the night tried to discern what was going on through a fog of sleep and disorientation. Finally at 5.00 my phone beeped with an SMS text from good friends in Texas. All it said was OBAMA ROCKS! I immediately got up and sat down in front of the television and realized that Obama had won the presidency! I started sending texts to my friends in Sweden and was very sad to be separated from my husband during this historic moment. We exchanged texts and knew that a celebration would await us…a celebration that would now last for at least 4 years! Like so much of the world, I was just overwhelmed with joy and awe. McCain’s concession speech was classy. Palin looked visible shook up. Obama’s acceptance speech was historic, moving and amazing. His words about his wife…”my best friend, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the next first lady of the United States”…wow. It’s the stuff of legends. To see the tears and relief on the faces of the diverse crowd gathered in Grant Park moved me to tears. I sat there in the quiet dark of my little room in Sorrento, Italy and just wept tears of absolute joy. I finally went to sleep about 6.30 and woke up a couple of hours later with a huge grin on my face!
It was great to taste the mood of the Italians the next day. Jubilation filled the newspapers and coverage of other European nations expressed the solid support that America’s choice was receiving. It was quite a contrast to 4 and 8 years ago when the mood was surly and disappointing.
I couldn’t wait to return to Antonio’s shop to raise another glass in celebration! He popped open a brand new bottle of Limoncello and we cheered wildly! Upon returning to my room Wednesday afternoon, I discovered that our landlady had left us two little bottles of Italian champagne, little plastic champagne glasses and the most amazing note…Best Wishes for your new President, B. Obama. Kind regards, Mrs. Giovanna.
I uncorked the bubbly and started dancing around my hotel room! It was a great moment of celebration.
I really missed being with my husband on the night and the morning of the election. We have been so engaged in the electoral process and we were so expectant of a great, new change for America that I would’ve loved to have kissed him right when we realized that Obama had won. But even though we didn’t get to share the moment side by side, we will both always remember exactly when we realized that Obama would be our next President, I in Sorrento, Italy and he in Stockholm, Sweden. And while I missed being with Doug, the Italians were worthy co-celebrants.
It’s been over a week since Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. The thrill has not diminished. The hope burns bright.