I happened to meet an older woman in Nottingham's Market Square last Saturday, and as soon as she heard me speak she asked the inevitable question:
"Whereabouts in America are you from?"
I smiled and answered, "From Chicago, most recently."
"Ah," she said, and gazed piercingly at me. Not sure what to say next, I responded politely.
"Do you know it?" I asked.
"Yes," she said. There was another pause and she said, "My husband and I used to travel to America quite frequently. But we haven't been in the last eight years."
"Oh, really? Why is that?" I asked.
The woman gave me an incredulous look for not immediately knowing the answer.
"Because of Bush, of course," she sniffed.
"Ah, right," I smiled. "Well, that will all change after Tuesday."
"That's right," she said. "Maybe I'll go back after all."
This is a true story, albeit a dramatic one. As I've reported here before, all of the English and other Europeans I know (and, for that matter, Canadians, Australians and South Africans) are elated by Obama's election. My Austrian friend Robin pulled me aside last week to show me his electronic planner.
"Look, Steph!" he exclaimed. "I've got it booked in. I'm going home early from work to watch it"
Sure enough, the time from 1 pm onwards was blocked off by the words "Obama."
I myself made lunch plans for tomorrow, but now that I've realized they cut into the inauguration (it's at 2 pm here in England) I'm sure my lunch mate will be amenable to finishing early. I know she's interested in the inauguration, as well.
However, politicos and analysts on this side of the pond are being cautious about Obama's impending presidency, just as they are at home. I found this Daily Telegraph editorial today by Janet Daley who, from the stories she tells, must also be an expat American. The Daily Telegraph is a conservative paper. I found a slightly different take on Obama on the Web site of the Guardian, a liberal paper. Although both appear to have been written by Americans, I find it interesting that one paper highlights the similarities between Bush's policies and Obama's apparent policies, whereas the other highlights the differences.