Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inauguration Night in Cambodia

Siem Reap, Cambodia

On Tuesday the 20th, as I walked the streets of this small tourist haven in the north of Cambodia I was asked by several people, Americans, Euros,Japanese and Cambodians where they could watch “our president” take over the helm of the United States.

It was a surreal day. All over town the talk wasn’t of the growing economic crisis in this country, the lack of tourists, or the continuing friction with neighboring Thailand over the temple of Preah Vehear. It was about the hope and the expectations the world has for Barack Obama and the return of the United States to leadership in these trying times.

The inauguration happened at midnight here and I, along with at least 100 others gathered at the Warehouse Bar to watch the festivities. As Barack entered the stands a cheer went up, and when he took the oath of office you could people all over town cheering as hundreds gathered in different restaurants and bars to watch the vent.

You could hear a pin drop during his speech.

I’ve been traveling the world for several years now, from Peru to Nepal, Tahiti to Cambodia and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to call myself an American and not have to defend my country. Today I can say I’m from the United States and people smile and tell me how happy they are that Obama is leading the world to a better time.

As I left the Warehouse at 1am, a tuk tuk driver came over and said “Obama is okay”.

Imagine that, people all over the world watching the US with hope and happiness instead of fear and loathing.

It was a good time to be an American.

I’ve waited my whole life for a time like this.

Babu in the jungle

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