I started to get hungry on somewhere on the long train journey between Cologne and Baden Baden, and so I flagged down the man pushing a food cart down the aisle.
It became clear that his English was just a bit better than my German. This meant that we were not going to have a detailed conversation, but I communicated my wish for a cheese sandwich and he let me know the price. “Change, change, I need to find some change,” I muttered to myself, as I rummaged through my wallet. “Change!” he said, loudly, with big bright smile. “Change! Obama!” And he raised his hands over his head in a victory salute.
I grinned back at him. “Yes! Yes! Obama! Yay!” It was just a few months after the inauguration and I was still a little giddy. We beamed at each other for few minutes, and then he pushed his cart away.
As I munched my sandwich and watched the Rhine river unwind out the window, I reflected on how different that exchange was from similar conversations I had during the George W. Bush presidency, when international sentiment had soured….