Friday, October 3, 2008

Finding Time for Election Coverage

My first month in Ecuador has been filled with news and talk about the important election that took place last Sunday for a revised constitution. Because I've been thinking and dealing with all things Ecuadorian, I haven't had much time to focus on the upcoming election back home in the United States. I don't even have much time to scan through articles and see what's going on half the time, but tonight a few of us were able to watch the Vice Presidential debate.

It was a beautiful day; a welcome relief after a couple of days of rain and dreary weather. My classes have been going well all week, even though I'm starting to feel like I'm repeating myself too much, but it's been a good first week overall. I got a text from Lauren asking if I wanted to go to a bar with them near the university because they'd be showing the debate. I don't even know how she found a place that would show it, or why the bar would show it in the first place, but I was glad there would be a place to keep up on American politics. Naturally, when I think of a bar in South America, televised American politics is one of the first things that pops into my head.

After my class got out at 8 p.m. I headed over and met up with the 3 other Americans sitting at the table in the corner, focused on the already in progress debate. It was kind of a weird place to watch. The lighting was extremely dim and occasionally would flicker as power was drained away. Though I've been told bars have been getting busier on Wednesday and Thursday nights, the social scene down here is usually restricted to Friday and Saturday.

The bar was pretty empty except for some rowdy people in the next room playing billiards. In the background Semisonic, Beck, and Red Hot Chili Peppers were among others that set the soundtrack for the debate. But that was all put mostly in the back of my mind as I tried to eat a chicken sandwich, drink a beer, and figure out where the politicians stood.

Politics aside, it was just nice to hear some people talking about the issues that are relevant to my family, my friends, and of course myself. I could imagine thousands of other expats throughout the world crowding around the neighborhood TV and hissing or cheering with every other comment. There were a fair amount of cheers and jeers at our own table, and I found it funny that no matter how far away you get from home or try to learn about a different culture, you still have your own invested in you deep down, so that you never truly leave home without it.

It's so ironic that we should be out of the country, missing this historic election that could determine the fate of the country. Yet we found ourselves in another country with its own historic election. We're Americans, but we live in Ecuador now. Which election is ours?

As it turns out, I might not even get my absentee ballot in time. It's probably headed to Machala right now, where I no longer hold residence. By the time it gets sent back to Quito, if it does, it would take another stretch of time to get down to Cuenca, and then I'd have to ship it back to the States via Pony Express. The notion of an absentee ballot counting is pretty far flung, but it's the idea of it that counts, and I want to be able to look back in the years that come and say that I took part in an historic election.

In the meantime, I'll just have to keep getting my information second hand and simply scan headlines for information on what's going on. But next week, we gringos will meet up again and watch the next debate at the same darkly-lit, mostly empty bar, save for a few Americans, hungry for news of the old country.

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