Obama returns to childhood home Indonesia

Obama returns to childhood home Indonesia

Few here now believe he will change American policies in the Middle East or improve US relations with the Muslim world. And hopes that the two countries would march forward together on the world stage have been cast aside.

While Indonesians take tremendous pride in having partially raised the American president, who spent four childhood years in the country, the plans for his long-anticipated homecoming today have been accompanied by a sadness that he is not fully theirs.

He's already cancelled two planned trips and planned to stay for just 24 hours, meeting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, touring the country's largest mosque and making a speech intended to reiterate his commitment to bridging the divide between the Muslim world and the West.

That will give him no time to visit his old neighbourhood in the sprawling overcrowded capital, a jumble of houses and narrow streets that has changed little since he was here from 1967 until 1971, although it is now in the shadow of luxury shopping malls and high-rise buildings.

And, he will only have a few, hastily arranged minutes with family and friends.
"I have waited so long for this visit," said Katarina Fermina Sinaga, 61, who taught the chubby, vivacious boy, then known as "Barry" in the third grade. "I know as the world leader, his schedule is tight, but I still hope to meet him. I just don't want him to forget us."

Though religious leaders still believe in him, they, too, have lost some of their gushing enthusiasm.

With peace talks in the Middle East moving slowly, many believe he is not much better than his predecessor, George W Bush. Still, there is sense, even here, that what Indonesians want most is a little attention.

"He's not even taking time to meet with us," said Din Syamsuddin, the leader of the country's second-largest Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, whose 30 million members had high hopes for Obama.

Obama moved to Indonesia when he was seven after his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, married her second husband, Lolo Soetoro, whom she met when they were studying at the University of Hawaii.

The neighbourhood they first called home was Menteng Dalam, a Dutch-era neighbourhood with red-tiled roofs in Jakarta's center, where many share fond memories of the young Barry.

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