Barack Obama is off on another extended vacation abroad this week, this time in Indonesia where he spent much of his formative childhood years.
Since his White House lease expired in January, the ex-president has vacationed at a friend’s house in Palm Springs, on Richard Branson’s private Caribbean island, on David Geffen’s private yacht in French Polynesia and in a Tuscan hamlet purchased in its entirety by John Phillips. Obama appointed Phillips ambassador to Italy. He turned the old town into a private luxury estate.
Now, after a lengthy private jet flight from Hawaii, Obama’s back home again in Indonesia for nine days with a large family entourage, including wife Michelle and half-sister, Maya Soetero-Ng, her family and, of course, Secret Service agents. If you’re walking through Times Square later this week, watch the moving billboards as Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry plays off the Democrat’s trip seeking to attract other foreign visitors.
The Obamas are reportedly staying in a $2,500-a-night set of suites in the Four Seasons Resort on Bali and making several excursions to cultural and heritage sites. Last weekend the Chicagoan was photographed walking among rice paddies. Obama is also scheduled to give a speech next weekend in Jakarta, capital of the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
After his birth in Hawaii, Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, divorced his biological namesake father, who returned to Kenya where he died in an automobile accident.
Dunham then married another foreign student, Lolo Soetoro from Indonesia. They moved to Jakarta in the mid-sixties. “I was raised as an Indonesian child,” Obama once said, “and a Hawaiian child and as a black child and as a white child.”
He obviously recalls fondly his childhood years in the Muslim Soetoro household. During presidential visits Obama reminisced with Indonesian crowds about his happy years in Jakarta, recalling the regular sounds of Muslim calls to prayer echoing through his neighborhood and eating local fare, including dog.
Following her divorce from Soetoro, who died later of liver failure, Dunham shipped her son back to Honolulu to be raised by her parents in Honolulu, where he attended junior high and high school.
Dunham stayed in Indonesia to continue anthropological research. This week Obama and his half-sister intend to visit the ancient city of Yogyakarta, one of Dunham’s research sites.