Thursday, August 21, 2008


I was leaving work when one of the Chinese women in our "Foreign Affairs Department" (i.e. glorified babysitters for foreigner employees) passing me in the hall, stopped, took a breath and said, " Justin! Congratulations!"

"Uh...oh, thank you, I think," I replied, trying to sort through my shattered memory files (What had I done? The last time I was congratulated by anyone from Foreign Affairs it was for putting out a motorcycle fire with three cans of beer about 3 months ago, surely this wasn't about that again). "For what?"

"Obama is your new president!" she said, beaming at me.

"He is? What? No, no," I said. "The election isn't until November."

She was puzzled. I was even more, and thought perhaps she'd mistaken some news about the Democratic National Convention for Obama winning the election. But the convention doesn't begin until Monday. Maybe he'd made a veep pick? Who knows? He and McCain are non-news here, anyway, during the Olympics and most Chinese I've talked with about the election still think Hillary is in race.

As succinctly as I could I gave her a American Presidential Election Process for Dummies 101 explanation, skipping the part about the Electoral College - which I understand about as well as string theory - and repeated that November would be when the next US president is selected. I resisted the urge to say something like "The Party's Standing Central Committee will select him based on the harmonious will of the proletariat.." and thanked her again.

She nodded, clearly only slightly less confused than she'd been when I'd told her he wasn't president yet and left, presumably to go tell her colleagues that the weird Americans clearly have no idea who their new leader is.

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