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Barack Obama Visits South Africa!

Obama came to Africa only once before as President -- a short pass through Ghana. He made his first long trip at the end of June 2013 -- Senegal, then South Africa, and on to Tanzania. We saw him just as he arrived for three days in the Pretoria / Johannesburg area. He came along with the rest of the family (Michelle, Sasha, Malia) but we only saw him.

We happened to be in Mexico City a few years ago where there were visits by Barack Obama in 2009, Michelle Obama in 2010, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (all separately) -- check out my earlier photos from those visits.

Apparently presidential visits at embassies are somewhat rare, though being in a big country helps. Keeping Africa stable and positive is certainly a big interest of the US's. And of any continent with a potential for huge growth and change in the coming years, it's certainly Africa. I find the map here stunning, showing how invisible Africa is/was... and a complete non-player in a big part of the modern world, at least as of 2008.

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We show up at the Embassy at 5:30 PM. There were protesters here in the day earlier, but none here now. Piper has her photo in hopes of getting it signed. Finn and Astrid are at home.
George shows off the special presidential M&M's!
Alex also has some of those M&M's.
Crowds outside the Embassy wait for buses to arrive. No self-driving allowed!
Alex manages to stay awake, barely.
Martin works on science policy, like the SKA = Square Kilometer Array, a huge radio telescope. The US isn't involved heavily in the SKA, but he is working to build connections.
Cruising out from Pretoria. About 10 blocks in this direction is where Mandela is hospitalized.
And arriving in the Sandton suburb of Joburg, where the consulate is. That's the security line out front.
Preparing to deboard the bus. I love everyone's faces in this photo!
Now we're in line again -- this time to enter the Consulate.
Victor runs training for the Peace Corps in South Africa. Groups of 40 Americans show up every two months to be given 8 weeks of language training and learn everytthing about being a PCV, before being sent off to a rural village.
Meanwhile, Heidi is waiting at the Waterkloof Air Force Base back in Pretoria. This is where Air Force One is supposed to land. But no plane yet! That's the waiting limo in front of the stairs.

Heidi spent many many hours in the last two weeks at the air force base, since she was planning for the president's arrival.

According to local media reports, apparently several limos and a whole fleet of Blackhawk choppers were all flown in on cargo planes... something like 30 shipments of C-141 Starlifter cargo planes.

The limo here is The Beast. And in the background (above the driver side door) you can see Marine One, which is his chopper.

Sara and Matthew get off the bus.
George and Alexandra.
Almost in!
We're waiting! The crowd starts to build at the consulate.
And he's here!!.

Oh, no. Sorry. That's just the snack bar selling popcorn. It was soon shut down. Also, Secret Service did not allow any food in the balcony, so they claimed because they did not want popcorn thrown down.

Meanwhile, Heidi is texting updates from Waterkloof.

10 minutes.

Coming in now - maybe one minute.

It's down

We wait! A few minutes later, Secret Service closed off the area I was standing in to take this shot.
Through the consulate windows, we see a couple of Blackhawks go by. A few minutes later, an extremely long motorcade.
And here he is! Woo!!!
What do US diplomats do when their boss shows up to talk to them? Get out their phones and start taking movies, of course!
Go Obama! He talked for probably 10 minutes... an informal chat about thanking diplomats for their work and everyone is an ambassador. He talked about his time in SA before -- he went to Robben Island, where Mandela was jailed for 27 years. This wasn't a political policy talk - just a friendly thank-you before he went off to his hotel for the night.
That looks like Pete Souza to the left... Souza was presidential photographer for Reagan, then for Obama as Senator, before returning to the White House.
Piper and I are in the balcony -- a bit more kid-friendly viewing than down below.
The room here was a little odd... deep and narrow, so Obama got to do handshakes with a few dozen people in the front row, but no one else. In Mexico City, the hotel ballroom allowed for many more shakes.
See Pete Souza again there to the right. The Newseum in DC had a big exhibit on him two years ago.
And then everyone compares photos!
A bit more lingering as we file out...
Piper in front of the limo! That's a secret service lady behind her.
Thokozani is a driver at the embassy in Pretoria.
Back home in Pretoria at 11 PM -- many tired kids!
Two days later, Heidi is back again at the airport as Obama heads to Cape Town.
Careful with that red carpet!


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Henry Throop

Last modified Mon Jul 8 20:10:27 2013