Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Study Abroad: Part 20 [Twitchy Fingers, Coffee, and a Sleepless Night]

My eyes are tired, darting between three television screens.  My back hurts: I'm hunched on the arm of a sofa, with my knees drawn towards my chest.  I'm on my third cup of coffee, it's only 1am in Morocco, and there are four more hours before polls are closed.  People are speaking (French, derija, Fus'ha, English) as music is playing from the speakers.  There are constant camera flashes.
I'm at ISIC, the journalism school, participating (passively) in Election Night Rabat.  We have four television screens tuned to France 24, BBC, Al Jazeera and CNN.  There are students live-blogging, live-tweeting, doing podcasts, looking for interviewees, and guzzling tea.
The US Embassy is sponsoring this event: they've helped with the equipment, but the decorations, the paintings of Obama and Romney, the poster board of United States Presidents have all been set up by the Moroccan journalism students.
I see Imane walking in her coat and hat, scarf around her neck.  She tells me she left at 4pm after helping with the decorations, took a nap and came back around 11pm.

Karis and Olivia have set up camp on a table, their fingers typing furiously as they hit refresh, check Twitter and play their recorders.
Rita's running around, doing radio interviews in a shirt that proclaims: RADIO ELECTION NIGHT RABAT.  She latches onto me, asks me what does this election mean to you, who would you vote for.

There's Khaoula talking quietly with Will and Tanur, I think I see Walid, I meet a few other students.  I go for another cup of coffee.

I'm Canadian.  I can't vote in these elections, and usually, I don't care about elections.  Back in the States, in my tiny world (also known as my apartment), I might skim the ticker feeds on CNN or MSNBC and then I leave it alone.  Oh, I could pressure family and friends to vote a certain way, but I'm never emotionally invested.
But this time, I am.  This time, in Morocco, with Facebook feeds and constant tweets, I feel more connected and am definitely invested.  These Moroccan students, who may never fill out a ballot, may never register, may never even physically BE in the United States, care intensively about these election results.  These students want to know about Morocco-US relations, know more about US foreign policy than I do (and I've spent the past decade-or-so living in the states), and CARE so much more about a political system they cannot be part of. 
I feel guilty about friends who don't vote, about my own inability to vote, and about the political flaws that are exposed in the course of the election.
Eight cups of coffee.  One cup of tea.  Three handfuls of trail mix.  I've listened to Fulbright Scholars, a woman who worked on Obama's campaign in 2012, Sam from the Embassy, and other students. I'm watching tracked numbers: Obama in the lead with 244 on CNN, Obama behind with 234 on BBC, Obama tied with Romney at 213 on France 24.  ISIC had their own little election: out of 123 votes, 107 were for Obama, nine for Romney, and seven blanks.
Suddenly, there's a stunned silence.  Al Jazeera, hidden in the corner, where I can't see it, has suddenly proclaimed that Obama has won.  And then it spreads: BBC flashes "MSNBC PROCLAIMS OBAMA WINNER" while CNN officially projects Obama's win at 11:18pm EST and France 24 is replaying Al Jazeera. 
We start laughing and cheering.  It's a swelling that spreads from the back, then suddenly, I'm laughing and cheering as Rose grabs me.  Karis is dancing, Olivia's grinning, I think I see Josh fist-pump and there is this feeling that I'm part of something bigger than myself.
We go back to my apartment: five giddy, excited college students. It's past five in the morning and we're planning on streaming Romney's concession speech as we talk, listen to music and wait.  Of course, the internet is spazzing, YouTube won't load, and we hear that Romney's team is contesting states.  This leads to: a need for food, some cursing, and more waiting.
After all this, it's 7:30am, the birds are chirping, and I plan on closing my eyes for a few.  Obama will be big news in a few hours.  

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