The following is a column I wrote for The Capital Journal about the 2012 Presidential Election. It ran this week.

When I meet new Basotho, often on public taxis, they are curious about the foreigner and ask several questions:

Where do you come from? Where do you stay? Where do you work? How do you like Lesotho?

In the last few months, there has been a new one – Do you like Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?

When I left the U.S. a year ago, Obama had announced his intention to run for reelection and the leader of the race for Republican Party nominee changed each week. In my third election as voter, I observed the race from the outside, away from the constant political ads and party phone calls, and obtained most news through social media and the BBC Radio.

What has been most surprising to me about this election is how interested Basotho are in our selection for a new president. Many Americans do not even know where Lesotho is (including myself, until I was invited to serve here), nor that the country held its own election in May, which removed the administration of 14 years and voted in a coalition government. The peaceful election was considered a model for the rest of Africa.

Yet, many educated Basotho understand the importance of the 2012 presidential election and are curious about who will be the next leader of the U.S. They want to know whom I plan to vote for and why. Most Basotho know Obama as America’s black president, but they also know the name of the man trying to unseat him in the White House. I know I am not that attentive with elections in other countries.

Sometimes they even give their own opinion on the race or tell me about the pieces of the debates they saw on television. I recently spoke with a man in his 30s that believes America should give Obama another chance. A 17-year-old boy, hoping to attend university next year, told me he thinks Mitt Romney would make a fine president. They may not know or understand all the issues related to the election, but they have a genuine interest in the outcome.

When I ask why, they say, “Because we love America.” To many Basotho, the U.S. still represents the land of opportunity, a place where you really can make dreams happen. Not only do they see our country for its pop culture, but also the support it gives Lesotho through programs such as The Millennium Challenge and, of course, Peace Corps. Many see America as their brother and that is enough to care about who will be its next leader.

I enjoy sharing what I do know, albeit not as much as I should, about each campaign and proudly state that I sent in my absentee ballot weeks ago. These conversations about health care and the current economy’s role in the election are engaging, like a bridge forming between cultures.

On Wednesday morning, before I put in my contacts lenses, I checked my phone’s Internet for a winner. Then I dressed and went out to share the news the rest of the village. That connection is be there, between my country and theirs, and, for me, that is more important than any outcome.


13 thoughts on “Elections

  1. Hi, my name is Richard Foote and i am a student at The Right Turn. I like how the people there are so interested in the US and they keep up with whos president and know whats goin on here. What suprised me is that they know who Obama and Mitt Romney are. So who is the leader of their country and how is helping change it over there. I really like to know how the country is and how alike it is with the US. Well thats all i have to ask till next time have a good day.

    • Hi, Richard! The prime minister of Lesotho is Tom Thabane and he has been in office since June. Lesotho is a kingdom, so there is a king, a prime minister and a parliamentary. This is the first time the country has had prime minister and assistant from two different parties, meaning that one can’t control the whole country. People really like that and it seems to be going well. Lesotho is a very beautiful country, with lots of dams and mountains, but it is also poor. HIV/AIDS is a very serious problem and there are many orphans because of it. Life is much simpler here than in America and people are very friendly. It is a great place to be for two years! Hope you are well and good luck with your studies!

  2. Hi, my name is Myron Little Bald Eagle and I am a student at the right turn.Im surprised that there are people who wannna know more about the states election then most people who are in the states. I’m a person who used to not care about the election when i had rights to vote but since Im a felon I start to care more about it.Then to know others around the world are asking questions about election time makes me wanna try and get my voting rights back so i can make a difference for the ones who cant vote.well ima end this here until next time thanks for the insight on the other side.

    • Hi, Myron! Thanks for the message! I am really glad that you are starting to understand the importance of voting. I really hope that you share that with others, those who can vote, and help them understand what an amazing right it is. And I am glad that you want to vote when you can. Hope you are doing well and good luck with your studies!

  3. My name is Melda Steensma and I am a student at the Right Turn. I am surprised at how foreign countries are interested in the state of our country and who will be president. I think its awesome and I am interested in how foreign countries run their government. I am more about learning on other foreign countries than caring about my own.. Its a bad habit but I am caring now on U.S.A and I am glad Obama won because I didnt agree on some of Romneys policies.. I do have a couple of questions: Do the girls carry pails of water on their heads or is it food like grains? How do their government work and feel on foreign affairs?
    Thank you,

    • Hi, Melda! Thanks for the message. I too think it is awesome that they care about what is happening in the U.S. and hope more Americans can care about what is happening in Africa. Good for you for wanting to learn more about foreign countries and I hope you continue to do so.

      On to your questions: Women and children carry everything on their head, from water to grain to branches. They usually have to walk far distances and it is much easier to suppor the weight of the item with your whole body than just your arms.

      Lesotho has good relationships with most foreign nations. Because Lesotho is a poor country, it relies on aid from bigger countries like the US, England and South Africa, especially in relation to HIV/AIDs. They receive lots of goods from other countries, as well.

  4. Hi, my name is Tivona Quigley an i am a student at The Right Turn. i liked how the people there knew who the president was a who Mitt Romney was an how they were into the election.

    • Hello! Yes, it is great that most knew about them and it shows they really care about the U.S. elections. Now it would be good for Americans to know more about African elections to creat a better understanding of each other.

  5. Hi, my name is Tyler Black Spotted Horse and i am a student at the right turn.
    i like that the people in lesotho have a big interest in americas next president
    the thing that surprised me was that there the government had some one in charge
    for fourteen year and amarica its only two terns to be president if the president gets elected again thats all i can think of today have a good day

    • Hi, Tyler! Thanks for another message. Their government is very different than ours, but they do seem to understand a lot about U.S. politics. They too hope to have prime ministers that do not stay in office for 14 years because they understand a change in leadership is good.

  6. Hi, my name is Katie Blue Thunder and i am a student at The Right Turn. I liked how losotho was part of her discussion honestly because he maybe a big part of whats going on in the US. The surprise that cought me was the boy talking about how he wouldn’t mind Mitt Romney becoming the next US president i don’t agree but its a natural thing for some to think; i wouldn’t hold a grudge against him because he maybe will become president in the next 5 years; the different things i’ve realised is america has only 2 turns for each candidate to become president with in 4 years.
    My question(s) are how would different countries look at America? How would other conutries re-act to the things there not eligible for that we have and they dont have?

    • Hi, Katie! Thanks for the message. To me, it was interesting to know that he even knew Mitt Romney’s name! Most only know Obama and like him because he is a “black man” as they say so I thought that he must be very educated to know so much about US politics. I too think it is OK for people to have their own opinions and it was interesting to hear why he liked Romney.

      On to your question! The Basotho, those in Lesotho, love America. They think it is a greaty place full of fancy things. They know that it has much more than they have in Lesotho and sometimes that it is not so good. Many think all Americans are rich and live like hip hop stars. I usually tell them that while Americans do have more than the Basotho, most of us don’t have fancy cars or houses and haven’t been to every part of the country. Sometimes I tell them about homeless people and they don’t believe me because people here may be poor but they usually stay with family and have a place to sleep at night. I really enjoying sharing the culture with Basotho and we are learning more about each other.

      Hope that answers your question and good luck with your studies!

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