This is the way to watch the elections unfold: Bocas and Fresca

Thank goodness it’s finished. President Obama has been re-elected to serve a second term, Mitt Romney can spend more time with his extensive and much-loved family, the news can get back to normal, and Washington can get back to – well this time let’s hope, to work. If not, we’re all in trouble.

Expats from the U.S. of both major parties gathered Tuesday night to anxiously await the outcome of what was expected to be a close and long election night. The American Embassy had a gathering at the Crown Plaza Corrobici Hotel in Sabana Este to watch the proceedings on two large screens. As a member of the press, I spent some time there.

At the top of the curved and carpeted stairway one was welcomed by half a dozen smiling women at a table with badges and handouts, and inside by half a dozen no-nonsense men with serious looks and arms crossed.

Inside the ballroom the din of voices was so loud it was impossible for me to understand the words of anyone I tried to engage in conversation. But busy waiters were weaving among the standees in the crowded room with trays of the largest variety of bocas I have ever seen or carrying wine bottles and trays of soft drinks. I took a Fresca and wished I was hungry. The din didn’t seem to bother some people who chatted away making the din even worse.

One amused man, tall and broad enough to be mistaken for an embassy guard looked like an American but not an anxious voter. In fact he was an IBM executive. He introduced himself and told me first that the high ceiling was responsible for bad acoustics, and secondly, he hoped the contest would be a tie so that he could tell his children years later that after he had left the States the country couldn’t make up its mind without him. At least I think he said that. His lovely Paraguayan wife returned from the ladies room to save us both from an involved and hopeless conversation about the consequences of a voter tie.

In the alcove of the ballroom there was a large map of the U.S. with the states delineated with the number of electoral votes each state commanded. A lecturer was explaining them to a small audience.

There was also a table of attractive booklets of information like the one I picked up: “E.E.U.U. Elecciones en sintesis.” Complete with pictures, it is informative in clearly written prose. It even explains the Electoral College and notes the fact that unlike most democracies, voters in the U.S. must register first in order to vote. I had the hope that the embassy would pack up the leftovers and send them to schools in the U.S. All of it was educational and probably by today, diplomats from many countries, and lucky students from the various schools in Costa Rica who were invited, know more about voting in the United States than most U.S. citizens. We Americans are sorely in need of more knowledge of how our democracy works – or doesn’t.

Standing for hours is not my strong point, so I left the reporting in the capable hands of Kayla Pearson and went home to a chair, and then to bed, happy that what had to be the longest running presidential contest in history was over.

There were two memories of the evening that stuck with me. One was a TV interview with a ‘millennial’ voter about the social network’s involvement in the election. He said he was annoyed with the messages he got on Twitter because all the tweets simply quoted one or the other of the candidates’ sound bites, whereas he would have liked to know how that tweeter personally felt about the election. (Talk about brainwashing.)

The other was a young Costa Rican at the embassy gathering who told me that we were luckier in the States to be so enthusiastic about an election because in Costa Rica everybody just dislikes the government. If she meant by “dislikes” is fed up with, well, maybe we are not so different after all.

At 10:18 Tico time, I turned off the light. Wolf Blitzer, the electronic town crier on CNN, had declared Barack Obama the now and future president of the United States. I hoped, not prematurely. . . . Are you listening, Florida?

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