The 2012 American Presidential campaign is in full swing with the first of the debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama last night. Election time is such a wonderful chance to see our democracy in action and I enjoy learning more about the candidates and their ideas.
I like following politics and can be pretty opinionated sometimes so I always vote in every election. A typical presidential Election Day will find me heading to the polls and then dorkily, but proudly wearing my "I Voted Today" sticker to work. In the evening I eagerly watch the election returns come in, often times inviting people over to watch for an election party.
During the last presidential election, however, I had quite a different experience since I was living in Japan in 2008. One of the biggest differences was my exposure to campaign ads. Back in the US it is common to be continuously bombarded with election information and advertising. In Japan I had the luxury of choosing how much I wanted to be exposed to since I was seeking information out myself on the internet. I found it quite refreshing actually and had a lot of fun following how the campaigns unfolded from afar.
Having the chance to talk to other expats from different countries and my Japanese colleagues about what they thought of the election was interesting. Hearing an outside perspective was thought provoking and I had a number of fun discussions learning about how elections are run in other countries and how it contrasts with the United States.
A little town in Fukui Prefecture in Japan is named Obama (小浜) so during the election it received a lot of publicity in Japan for sharing a name with one of the American Presidential candidates. The town capitalized on its newfound fame by making all sorts of memorabilia with the candidate's image on it. They even made sweets emblazoned with Barack Obama's face.
Actual voting was quite different for me while I was in Japan. I wasn't going to let being overseas keep me from voting so I applied for an absentee ballot which I had never done before. It seemed really strange to vote by mail in October a few weeks before the election instead of going to my local polling station on Election Day but I was still happy to be have my chance to exercise my right to vote.
The weirdest thing for me was watching the returns come in. Instead of watching at home they were coming in while I was at work due to the 13 hour time difference from Eastern Standard Time and Japan Standard Time. All morning as I was working at my desk I kept peeking at the Internet to check the electoral college standings. By lunchtime I knew that Barack Obama had won over John McCain. This was a far cry from the election eight years prior to that where I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning during the 2000 election only to learn that the decision between George Bush and Al Gore would not be decided that night.
Despite already knowing the outcome of the election, I wasn't deterred from having an election party at my apartment that night. I decided to make American comfort food. With my Japanese kitchen only equipped with a stove top and a small convection microwave and my grocery access limited to Japanese offerings I had to be creative with my menu. I wanted to make burgers but since that wasn't feasible in my kitchen I made sloppy joes served on some rolls that I found instead. For sides I made potato salad and green bean casserole. I also decided to make curried apple pumpkin soup since I had some canned pumpkin that I had brought from the US to Japan with me for something special.
To add a little patriotic flare I added some skewers to the sloppy joes. I had found a package of red, white and blue twist ties at a Hyaku-En Store and attached them to the top of the skewers making little pennants.
We had a fun night and for the Americans in attendance it was nice to eat some food we hadn't had in a long time. I never knew before that I could crave potato salad...
What do you normally do on Election Day?