This dispatch from Johannesburg appeared as part of Roads & Kingdoms' election night special.
Location: Aguil & Byron’s house, Westdene, Johannesburg
In the air: Crush of damp grass, spring chill, waft of wood smoke, Marlboro Light ash, sparks.
– “Wow, that’s a spangly election night shirt.” “No, it’s my Kinshasa popper shirt.”
– “Personally, I’m excited and apprehensive.” Snorts to my left.
– “The last time we saw each other in Gaza, I ran the other way. And ducked.”
On the breeze: Rodriguez’s Sugarman on iPod
Ongoing topics of conversation: President Zuma’s failed diplomacy, Bruce Springsteen, teleprompters.
On the deck:
Spotted: A 2010 Team USA jacket, paired with Malawian fabric coloured earring hoops.
Amidst the crowd: CCTV (Chinese television)’s posh British Southern Africa correspondent, plus a jazz drummer and a Swedish anthropologist, drinking sparkling wine from the bottle.
Discussion by the basil herb garden: Genocide and Rwandan local transitional justice (in Swedish).
On the table: Johnny Walker Double Black, bottles of Stella Artois, tealights, plastic plates with babaganoush overflow, half-filled glasses of Stellenbosch red.
In the air: Deep voice with an American accent (east coast), smell of match sulfur, clink of glass on tabletop.
- “So, is Obama winning?”
- “What, you want Romney?”
- “Everyone wants Obama, except… Pakistan.”
- “He’d better win, otherwise lots of people will be moving to Canada.”
In the living room
Masai blankets, burnt orange floor cushions, South African and USA flags leaning on the grate.
On the wall: Laminated electoral college map, USA electoral vote calendar, Mandela portrait clock, half-blank A4 pages with red and blue scrawl “[?]/538”, acrylic sunflowers on
canvas. NATE SILVER IS EVERYWHERE
On the television: CNN election coverage live, Volume: 39 [out of 100]
On the couch: 4 people, all clutching drinks, none looking at the television.
Spotted: 1 x I [heart] NY t-shirt on Variety’s Africa correspondent, 1 x newly-shaved ex-boyfriend, 1 x Obama ’08 baseball cap.
– “Wait. Did I miss the Johnny Walker?”
– “Oh, are those exit poll results? Did you know this pizza is gluten-free?”
– “No, she’s not coming. She says this isn’t a babysitter kind of election.”
- “I had to wear gumboots in Kugelo last year. They were all sitting there in the rain, keeping tally. It was a kind of, victory of humanity.”
In the front garden
On the walls:
South Sudanese flag, South African flag, summer rain stains, American flag
At the table:
A dreadlocked South African social entrepreneur, a freelance French journalist, Business Day, South Africa’s financial broadsheet, pondering.
– “I asked my colleagues what they thought, and they said they were jealous. Jealous that we don’t have the same excitement around elections here. Unless you’re the ANC.”
– “He sounds tired. And Romney doesn’t. That might matter, last minute.”
- “I think in some ways, it’s good there isn’t the same hype this year. He’s becoming normalised, just another American President, not the first black American President. But it’s no less important.”