Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We Saw Barack Obama!

Wow, what an exciting day. I dropped the girls off at school, went home, my sister in law called, and we decided that she would park in our driveway and we would walk over to JMU together to see if we could get her in to see Obama. John and I had decided that we would see the speech with MeiMei at a downtown restaurant while JieJie had her dance class, so I knew I wouldn't be going to the speech, but I really wanted to see what it would be like where everyone was waiting.

The JMU Convocation Center seats 7600 people. It's hard to eyeball a crowd and figure how many people there were, but around noon when we got there, the line was down the sidewalk toward the University Recreation building...or I should say LINES because they were allowing people to line up at several entrances. We decided to wait on the astroturf field between UREC and the Convo Center, found the end of the line and sat down. By this time the line already went around the perimeter of the soccer fields and they were zigzagging the line up and down the field. We were in the third row from the fence...and this was 3+ hours before the doors were to open!

We sat with a very mellow several thousand people on the astroturf, and waited and talked for a couple of hours. Then it was time for me to walk over and get the girls from school, proceeding to have our usual Tuesday afternoon routine. Suddenly it hit me...WHAT WAS I DOING??? A presidential candidate is visiting our city and I'm just going to give up??? So I walked to their school, pulled them out of class, told them to leave their prohibited backpacks behind and called a taxi. We were dropped off just a short ways from the soccer field, found Aunt K and the line began to move. When we were at the opposite (far) corner of the field, we started to notice that some police were doing security checks at a small stage that we hadn't even noticed earlier. Some spectators were walking across the field toward the small stage, away from the Convo Center. This is when things happened really fast. We found out that the Convo was packed to capacity and that the thousands of people standing outside were out of luck. Suddenly we heard an oddly familiar voice say "Is this microphone working?" or something like that. OBAMA! We realized he was going to speak at the little corner stage right here on the soccer field...what luck! I grabbed the camera and the girls, put MeiMei on my shoulders, begged a strong-looking man to put JieJie on his shoulders so she could also see, and then Barack Obama jumped up on the stage. I could not believe my eyes, and to my complete surprise...I screamed. I couldn't believe he was really standing 30 feet away, and that the girls were seeing him. People cheered and cheered as Obama looked west to the snow-dusted Blue Ridge Mountains and said "wow...this...this is really nice...I have never been to this part of Virginia before, and this is really beautiful." It is...I was amazed that he had the presence of mind to notice, and took the time to remark on it. He gave a short speech, interrupted by choruses of cheers, of O-BA-MA and YES WE CAN and all that good campaign stuff. He shook some hands and that was it. Still, WOW. It was really cool!

JieJie was a trouper about no access to a bathroom for over an hour, so I hid her with my winter coat so she could relieve herself behind some shrubs...we ran into one of my students who said he had held two friends' places in line but they got in and he didn't (just so wrong)...My sister in law just called and said we were definitely in the wrong line because people who lined up at a different door at 1:30 got in, but her friend who was on the soccer field at 9:30am didn't...but these things happen, and still WE SAW HIM.

Then we went to TDU (Taylor Down Under) where they were showing the speech, as well as Gov Tim Kaine and soon-to-be Senator Mark Warner's speeches, on university closed-circuit tv. TDU has a coffee was nice to have hot cocoa while we listened. JieJie drew a picture of Obama, complete with sticky-outy ears :) She continues to be observant!

The election is one week away...we are optimistic...we've already hired a sitter so we can go out and celebrate! LG

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Trip Across Town...To See Obama

I will resume the Antwerp recap shortly, but first I must share tomorrow's exciting itinerary. I am going to the James Madison University Convocation Center (aka the basketball arena, cap. 7600) to see the next President of the United States, Senator Barack Obama! My college students have been so excited about this election, actually asking me to delay the start of class to help one another register to vote, and all they could talk about this morning was how or whether they would be able to see Obama tomorrow afternoon.

Everyone kind of wants to know Why Is He Coming Here??? Well, from what I understand, Harrisonburg is apparently the swing area of the swing district (Shenandoah Valley) of this swing state, and boy have we gotten attention this time around! We have an Obama office just a couple of blocks away, and for the first time in my life, I've now worked on a political campaign, making calls several hours a week to talk with voters about their thoughts. It has been really interesting to talk with so many people I might otherwise never meet, even when we don't agree. This area has changed so much in the last 20 years, and you just can't make assumptions anymore about the likelihood that a person of a certain age from a particular zip code is or is not going to support McCain or Obama. I also learned that it doesn't bother me that much to be hung up on. Comes with the territory, I guess.

Anyway, on Sunday, I took JieJie the Princess and MeiMei the Tiger to a costume party at a neighbor's, and then walked over to another neighbor's to deliver pumpkins for the pumpkin carving party planned for last night. On the way, I bumped into our friend Joe, who was canvassing in the neighborhood. He introduced me to his canvassing partner, Former Secretary of the US Navy, John Dalton!!!! I mean you have to understand, things like this don't happen in Harrisonburg. Usually we get ignored, or there's some candidate who stops into the photogenic L&S Diner for a quick meet and greet, and we see it on our (sorry) lame local news channel that night. But this time our looking-suddenly-less-lame local tv station is broadcasting Obama's speech for those unlucky enough not to get in to see him.

I'm so torn about whether to get the girls out of school early and wait out in the cold to be a part of history or not. If I don't get them from school early, I'll be picking them up right when the doors open, and will almost certainly not get in. John mentioned something about picking up the girls and bringing them to me...if the weather's ok, that could work.

Regardless, though, I am definitely going to go over to the Convo tomorrow just to see the whole scene...the media...the lines of students and community members...the protester...

Anyway, if I get any good photos, I'll try to post them (regular readers are now saying Yeah, Right). Wish me luck on getting in, preferably with the girls in tow, for what promises to be a historic day in our little burg!


You can search FTJ for past posts, e.g. China info...