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November 11, 2008 Obama Conversations

I’m still trying to keep this blog (and, for that matter, my Peace Corps service) apolitical, but I wanted to share these snippets. One quick note: For some reason, possibly related to the fact that most Moroccans I’ve met only go by one name, not two, nobody here says “Barack. Obama.” the way Americans do. It’s either just “Barack” or just “Obama” or “Barackobama” blurred into a single word. Also, the vowels get shifted to local intonations, with different emphasis so it sounds like “BAH rock oh bah mah.”

Last week, on Thursday – two days after the election – I was walking up a street in a major Moroccan city with another female Volunteer. We both noticed a man heading our direction, steadily edging towards us. We kept going, hoping for the best but braced for the worst. (Sexual harassment, usually verbal, is an ongoing challenge for female PCVs in Morocco. I try not to profile Moroccan men – I know lots of really great ones, after all – but I’d probably have been equally tense if a strange white guy edged up to me in an American city.) He opened his mouth. “Are … you,” he eked out, slowly and precisely. I gave him points for speaking to us in English, instead of the usual you-must-be-a-tourist French. He continued, with the same careful construction, “Happy … about … election … of … Barackobama?” (As we started on the next block, my friend said, “He really did say what I think he said, right?” “Yup,” I confirmed.)

Another time, walking through souq in SouqTown, I had someone try to catch my attention by calling out, “ObamaObamaObama!”

The same thing happened walking through the streets of Berberville. “ObamaObamaObama!”

Another town nearby actually threw an Obama party (Hatafl win Obama) about a week after his victory, just to celebrate. American expats provided apple pie and chocolate cake; shopowners provided peanuts, Cokes, tea, and soup.

Regardless of my own personal politics, it does make me happy to see Moroccans embracing the American presidency. :)

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