Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saigon was Watching

I was out at a bar with Saigon until after one last night.

Again, it was an international crowd. Of course, Democrats for America were in the majority, but we were joined by people from France, Italy, Belgium, England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China - and lots of Vietnamese. Leading up to the speech, the noise in the bar drowned out the t.v, but the moment the main players walked out, two hundred (pretty drunk) people were absolutely silent. (Except for when Bush was introduced...let's just say this crowd was not brought up to respect the office of the presidency.)

During Obama's speech, many of these people, from all over the world, were sobbing. I'm sure it was the same for you.

We - about ten AIS staff members - got there early (7:30 pm) to get good seats next to one of the big screen t.v's at a restaurant/bar called "Xu." We were the first ones to arrive, except for one other woman we ended up adopting. She has been selling real estate in Saigon for only four months and couldn't bear to watch the inauguration by herself. Turns out she worked in the White House under G.H.W. Bush for his four years. She was hired as a three-month intern - just returned from working in the Peace Corps in Honduras - and after H.W.'s speech about "A Thousand Points of Light," she proposed the practical application of that idea (awarding individuals across the country as "points") and was hired after her three month volunteer internship.

Very interesting woman. Throughout the night, I grilled her for White House stories. She said Barbara and H.W. were both wonderful, grandmotherly and grandfatherly people. She said lots of stars came in and out all the time, so no one really took notice of them. Except for Michael Jackson. She said his face is really so freakish that you just can't look away.

As more and more people poured in, we got news of big screen t.v.'s on all over the city, broadcasting CNN.

It was great celebrating with the world, but of course, my homesickness factor in times like this is big. I will be revelling in what America did and what Obama will do all day in my delirium.

Also in my delirium, I will be adminstering finals and entering grades. No internet connection for three days in the castle, so I am at school, pretending to be a good, awake teacher.

God bless America. Wow.


Brian Bowker said...

Here at WWU the network activity spiked during the inauguration as everyone connected to the live feed over the Internet. Classrooms turned on their TVs and the phones stopped ringing. It seemed like everything stopped for a little bit to see it, to see history taking place.

Last night we went to a friend's house and watched it again with a group. After Obama's speech there was a poet (who was not very interesting) but then after her a small, black preacher-man came up and gave a prayer. Did you see it? It was probably the best prayer I've ever heard; very eloquent and intelligent, but also extremely sincere. Then at the end, in a surprise ending, if you will, he busted with a humorous mocking of racial stereotypes. Here's the video. It was priceless, and also full of hope.

Cecilie said...

I spent the whole afternoon and night watching Obama, too! His speech was amazing and packed with poetic devices. I will definitely use this one with my students (as I did with the Berlin speech)! And our national TV channel NRK had a viewer record on the 20th!

marjie said...

Brian, thanks for putting in that link...after the speech, the crowd got so loud, we missed it. That was a great prayer.