One of the most bizarre and amazing things I saw in Ethiopia was the plethora of Barack Obama T-shirts. The President of the United States was everywhere. This felt so jarring because we weren’t in the United States.
One member of our travel group was wearing his own Barack Obama shirt and was approached by a local about it. The two even tried to negotiate a trade. When we were walking up and down a row of shops one of the kids who continually begged for money was wearing a T-shirt showing the Obama family.
In one store I saw a blaze orange T-shirt with simple black letters that said “Obama” across the top in all caps, then “Yes We Can” in the middle, and then “Yes We Can” repeated at the bottom in Amharic. It was so simple. And, unfortunately, too small.
I understand the historic nature of Obama’s presidency and how much of Africa is understandably head over heals to have one of their sons in the White House. But you don’t quite grasp that until you see it for yourself. And I imagine it has nothing to do with Obama’s politics, but it’s especially jarring when you try to imagine children anywhere outside the U.S. proudly wearing George W. Bush T-shirts four years ago. But I suppose children wearing any U.S. president on a T-shirt would have seemed absurd. At least until Obama.
P.S.: If anybody can find that blaze orange Amharic Obama shirt, I wear a large.