It’s 1:36 a.m. and I’m at my desk, staring at my computer. This never happens. The reason it’s happening now is because: 1) I’m jet-lagged; and 2) I’m sad. I doubt I’ll be sleeping for a while so I might as well do something useful.

Two days ago I caught a flight from Washington D.C. to Johannesburg. It was the night before the American election. I arrived in Johannesburg a day later, Tuesday, while the election was still in progress. I couldn’t stay awake late enough to see the results — South Africa is seven hours ahead of the American east coast. But when I switched on my phone this morning, Wednesday, there it was:

“Trump looks set to win presidency.”

It’s weird that this happened just after I returned from a trip to America. I was shocked beyond belief at the headline above but I think the shock would have been greater — perhaps heart-attack-inducing — if I’d been living my normal life in Joburg for the last two weeks, with my head in the sand regarding U.S. politics.

Even though I was there in America, watching hours and hours of news coverage and talking endlessly with everyone about the election for two straight weeks, I did not see this coming. When my friends and family expressed concern that Trump might really win, I laughed dismissively. Not possible, I said, over and over. Never in a million years.

American flag at Dulles AirportThe American flag at Dulles Airport, just outside Washington D.C.

I apologize, family and friends, for laughing dismissively at your fears. You were right and I was so very wrong.

I could go on about my shock and outrage, my bewilderment, my despair, my embarrassment and shame, my abject terror about the future. I could rail against Trump’s bigotry and misogeny, his nastiness, his lies, his ugly orange skin and expensive fake hair. I could express optimism and hope. I could try to convince you (and myself) that things aren’t as bad as they seem. I could implore us all to process our feelings and move on and work together, sing kum-ba-yah, etc.

But everyone has said everything already. Every human being on earth with a Facebook account (including me) has already posted his or her own little blog post, or several, about the U.S. election and what it means to them. We’ve already had millions of online spats and love fests. We’ve screamed, we’ve sobbed, we’ve gotten drunk, we’ve blocked people from social media. There is nothing more to say, and maybe nothing more to do, at least right now.

Instead of saying all that, I’m going to write a gratitude list:

  1. I’m grateful I got to visit the U.S. one last time while Barack Obama is president.
  2. I’m grateful my sister is pregnant and I’m going to become an aunt for the first time this March.
  3. I’m grateful to have spent time with so many wonderful friends in America.
  4. I’m grateful I visited my mom in South Carolina, which was recently hit by Hurricane Matthew, and Mom is okay and her house wasn’t damaged by the storm.
  5. I’m grateful that both my sister and I happened to be with my dad this past Sunday, when he had a serious medical emergency and had to be admitted to the hospital. And I’m really, really grateful Dad is okay now and back at home.
  6. I’m grateful to be an American, despite the current situation, because America is still a beautiful country and my citizenship affords me many great privileges. Let’s hope it stays that way.
  7. I’m grateful to be back in Johannesburg, which is home to me now, with Ray and Smokey, who I missed terribly while I was away.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Heather and Claire in Meridian Hill Park

My best friend Claire, who I’ve known since birth, and I in Meridian Hill park in Washington D.C. We were trying to take a selfie with the bad-ass statue of Joan of Arc in the background.

Bob and Heather in CharlottesvilleMy dear friend Bob and I at the Carter Mountain Apple Orchard in Charlottesville, Virginia. Both Bob and I went to college at the University of Virginia, which is in Charlottesville. This was my first time back in years.

Bob and Tim in CharlottesvilleBob and his partner Tim at their cute little bungalow in Charlottesville, where I stayed with them for the weekend.
 Donald Scott in CharlestonDonald Scott, who my mom and I met on the streets of Charleston, South Carolina. Donald sells handmade sweetgrass baskets and he gave me a great deal on one. Please look for Donald the next time you’re in Charleston — his email address is donwaynescott@gmail.com.

Mom in Hilton HeadMy mom, Jeanie, on the beach in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Dad and SassieMy dad, Tenney, and his funny dog, Sassie, on the steps of my childhood home in Maryland.

Susanna and baby XMy beautiful sister, Susanna, and her unborn Baby X.

Leaves in MarylandChanging leaves in Maryland.

As President Obama recently said, the sun will still rise tomorrow. And with that, I’m going to bed.

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