Wednesday, November 10, 2010

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When President Obama visits Jakarta on Tuesday, he will find a city that, in some ways, has changed beyond recognition. A city of one luxury hotel and one shopping mall when Mr. Obama lived here between 1967 and 1971, Jakarta is now the overextended and overcrowded capital of the world’s fourth most populous nation. But Jakarta’s neighborhoods, including the two where Mr. Obama lived, retain enough of their former selves that the president would quickly find his bearings.

Jakarta regards Mr. Obama as a local boy made good, and he remains extremely popular throughout Indonesia. But his last-minute postponements of three previously planned visits here have clearly sapped the enthusiasm surrounding his homecoming, even among his most ardent supporters.

“He’s not as popular here as he was before,” Mr. Salam said.

In 1967, Indonesia was still reeling from the aftershocks of an attempted Communist coup that led to the killing of at least 500,000 people. Suharto, the general who would rule Indonesia through the late 1990s, was about to assume power and launch an authoritarian era called the New Order.

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As MSNBC reports, authorities have been on high "primate alert" since the president touched down in India on Saturday.

According to the Telegraph, Delhi's police force have opted to build 30-foot-tall towers not far from the exclusive ITC Mauriya Hotel, where the Obamas will be staying for two days, in order to shield the president and his wife from both potential terrorists and monkeys. The hotel's proximity to the capital's Ridge Forest means the menacing animals have relatively easy access.

In addition to general daily mayhem, the red-bottomed bhandar monkeys have been known to bite through expensive cables and attack people carrying food.

Indian police officer Taj Hassan told the Hindustan Times, "This aspect of security will be discussed in an all-agency meeting on Monday.

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Obama's Indonesian gay nanny and other things from his past
By Matt DeLong

With Obama visiting Indonesia today, the New York Times has a story that is just chock-full of interesting tidbits about Obama's time living there as a child in the late 1960s. For example, the Times reports that back then Obama was "chubby" and that some of the locals referred to him as "the boy who runs like a duck."

Then, of course, there's this:

His nanny was an openly gay man who, in keeping with Indonesia's relaxed attitudes toward homosexuality, carried on an affair with a local butcher, longtime residents said. The nanny later joined a group of transvestites called Fantastic Dolls, who, like the many transvestites who remain fixtures of Jakarta's streetscape, entertained people by dancing and playing volleyball.

Apparently, such a thing is not uncommon, as Indonesia has a relatively advanced drag culture, the Australian newspaper the Age reported in 2003. Transvestites, known in Indonesia as "waria," are particularly prevalent in the tailoring and makeup artist professions, according to the paper.

However, not everyone in Indonesia enjoys the drag queen volleyball games. The BBC reported that hardline Islamists broke up a transvestite beauty pageant in 2005.

Finally, the Times relates a story from one of Obama's boyhood friends that some might say presaged the future.

One time, recalled the elder son, Slamet Januadi, now 52, Mr. Obama asked a group of boys whether they wanted to grow up to be president, a soldier or a businessman. A president would own nothing while a soldier would possess weapons and a businessmen would have money, the young Obama explained.
Mr. Januadi and his younger brother, both of whom later joined the Indonesian military, said they wanted to become soldiers. Another boy, a future banker, said he would become a businessman.
"Then Barry said he would become president and order the soldier to guard him and the businessman to use his money to build him something," Mr. Januadi said. "We told him, 'You cheated. You didn't give us those details.' "

"But we all became what we said we would," he said.
On a related note, The Post's Felicia Sonmez earlier this year traveled to Indonesia for National Journal and spoke with people Obama used to know. Watch her interviews below.

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This post was updated to correct a quote from the Times article.

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