Wednesday, Nov. 5
“Tana,” Madagascar

I had hoped to have a good story to tell about local reaction to the American election.

But unlike the parts of western and central Africa I visited, who had all eyes on Obama, very few people here in Madagascar seem to care about the outcome.

In Tana, Madagascar’s capital, we’re a full eight hours ahead of America’s east coast, so it was in our wee hours of the morning that election results began coming in. I had asked around for a bar or restaurant where folks might be watching election news, but to no avail. Even the U.S. embassy said they weren’t aware of any American hangouts with televisions; they had organized only a private party.

So when I woke up this morning at 6 a.m., excited as a child waiting for Santa, I hailed a ca to the Carlton hotel, the most upscale accommodation in town. Surely they would have a television with international channels.

Inside the lobby, I posed as a guest and waited for the bar to open at 7 a.m.; I could see through the glass windows a beautiful television waiting for me.

The waitress and I flipped through channels looking for election news in English. None. So I settled on a French channel and hoisted myself up onto a bar stool — just in time to see them call the election! Obama had won! The anchors jabbered away in French — it took some concentration for me to understand when they spoke that fast — and I watched my fellow Americans celebrate in the streets. Their chanting was muted, but I could read the lips of the crowds who yelled, “Yes, we can!”

(more…)