I don't think anything could have prepared me for today. The world has changed a lot since 2004. One of the greatest changes is social media. Because of social media I have a better feel for what is going on back home than I ever had before. Another change is live-streaming. Right before I left China in 2005 I tried to stream my first video ever (it was a movie trailer). The Internet speed was too slow to actually see anything in the video. Today, you can easily watch live updates and stream video commentary (although from China that can still be a touch difficult) and with the time difference lunch time (noon) was right when most of the west coast polls were closing.
My morning was lived in a state of normalcy. My afternoon was not. I got to school and spent a little longer on breakfast than I had planned to because my Chinese co-workers were asking me questions about the election. One of the questions they asked me was who I voted for. I explained to them that we vote by secret ballot and that oftentimes we don't tell people who we voted for (possibly not even our families). They then told me similar stories to what I had heard in 2004. One of my coworkers told me the only time she had ever voted was in college and the teacher handout the ballot and told the students which name to pick. She told me she was sure that the teacher was just passing on the instructions that had been given to her and that the election had no meaning to her. My other coworkers agreed.
I left breakfast and figured I was done with election talk. I taught my morning Chemistry classes, graded papers for a while and then went to lunch. As I mentioned above, noon was when the west coast polls closed and I quickly realized two things 1) my international co-workers were watching the election results very carefully and 2) they felt a vested interest in the election. Throughout lunch every time a state was projected to be won by either Trump of Hillary you would hear cheers or sighs (I'll let you guess which way the thoughts were going). I got asked quite a few questions about how the electoral college and other related things worked. After I explained several aspects to one co-worker his response was, "now I understand so much more about what I've seen in American television programs."
The most interesting part though was how frustrated my International (read non-Chinese and in this case non-American) co-workers felt. They were frustrated because I think they feel just as strongly as Americans do about the results of the election (they feel that what happens in America greatly effects them, and I think they are probably right), but also feel helpless because they don't have a voice.
On Wednesdays we have staff meetings and the first thing that happened in the staff meeting is one of my Chinese coworkers sat down beside me to show me a Chinese website that was calling Trump the winner (none of the U.S. media had done so yet). Throughout the meeting everyone was watching phones and computers to keep up with the results. While the principal was telling us about report cards and other typical things one of my co-workers informed him Trump had won. My principal is an American and he looked at the guy who said it and replied, "aren't you a Canadian?" (Knowing full well he was). As he said this another Canadian walked in to the room and he turned to her and said, and what update on the U.S. elections do you have for us. I have to admit with so much focus on the election I was glad to go home (not that my whole subway ride wasn't about politics - it was). Thus, being overseas doesn't in anyway limit how much the election is talked about or the strong feelings. I for one am at least glad it is now over. Hopefully, we can unite and end the divisiveness that I've seen of late.
One last side note. I mentioned in 2004, I applied for an absentee ballot that was mailed to me and then I mailed it back. This year, I could receive my ballot by mail and mail it back or I could receive my ballot electronically or by fax. In all three cases you had to complete a voter identity confirmation and have it witnessed by someone over 18 (I witnessed for a friend and had a fellow American colleague witness mine), then if you received it electronically you could mail it back in or return the ballot electronically (if you received it by mail or fax you HAD to mail he ballot back in)