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   ROUND AND ABOUT... (July 11, 2004)

The election year 1984, I was in the US, on a state department tour (junket), observing how America votes. Myself and 26 other news people from across the world, rich countries, poor countries, newspapers, television. We were one happy group on a holiday, since nobody at home was interested in our coverage.

President Reagan was recontesting ("four more years"), and if we were covering, it would have been easy. Since Reagan was the great communicator, full of quotable quotes. For that matter, all Americans are quotable, they are an exceptionally articulate community.

Our four-week tour took us from the East Coast to the West Coast, from Washington to San Francisco. In between, we visited New York and Detroit, the automobile city, North Carolina, Tulsa in Oklahoma, we visited Jefferson's house, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the Rev. Jerry Falwell's church and a Sunday service in Lynchberg, and another Sunday service in a black church.

And we attended seminars, lectures, briefings, on the American democratic process, for reporters coming from countries which had a similar process and those who did not. We even attended a Ronald Reagan election meeting, though this was by chance.

Our paths accidentally crossed in a white suburb of Detroit.

The meeting was held in a school gymnasium, and their gymnasiums are huge, as large as the portions of food they serve in their restaurants. There were about six school bands with cheer leaders, and when one stopped playing, another started. Reagan was brilliant, as he unwrapped the great American dream, half fulfilled. If you were an American, you could not help cheering him, and later voting for him.

But it was not all seminars and speeches, a lot of it was fun. A bookshop in Washington, where we were told, all 27 of us, to buy books worth $1,000 each, which the American government would pay for us and ship to us back home. And, after the purchases, we sat down to a champagne-and-orange brunch in a little restaurant of the bookshop.

A vintage lunch of turkey and double fried beans in a historic old inn going back 200 years, and dimsums in a two-storeyed dim-sum restaurant in 'Frisco's China Town, and an Italian in New York, where an old woman with an accordion sang bawdy songs.

If you descended into the bowels of a hotel we stayed in Tulsa, you came across a shopping mall, and carved in the centre of the shopping mall was an ice rink, and under the rink, and the people skating on it, was a cinema. The film it was showing was Harrison Ford's Temple Of Doom, about India's Kali worshippers.

This morning, I live again those wonderful days as out in America Bush meets Gore. And I am really not concerned who wins.

 
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