After answering the phone and sharing our greetings, Maiga asked me if I had voted. "Of course!" I said. "Who did you vote for?" he asked. I told him I voted for Obama. Who would you vote for if you were American? I replied. He said he would have voted for Romney and then let out a peal of laughter, the distance between our phone lines becoming momentarily invisible as I pictured him sitting at the front of his shop, a line of ceiling fans whirring above and rows of dusty packaged goods sitting on shelves in the aisles before him. Sometimes Mali can feel so close.
On Wednesday morning, after passing colleagues in the hallway with deep circles under their eyes, I sat down at my desk and saw the screen of my phone light up with a text message: "CONGRATULATIONS. MAIGA."
PS I'll never forget watching Obama's inauguration in 2009.