Tuesday, November 09, 2010


I am at a vergence of worlds again.  "My" president, as a friend put in last night in a next about him holding up traffic, is in Jakarta.  He had planned a trip here twice before and was subverted by the healthcare legislation and then the gulf oil spill.  I think many people, myself included, doubted that he would really make it here this time. There was talk of another "postponement", they never used the word cancellation, when Mount Merapi decided to really give this explosion thing a go. Instead Obama arrived but had cut his trip short due to the ash cloud that might impede his departure to . . . . .Seoul, South Korea for a G20 conference.  Yes, I am in Indonesia teaching at a Korean school when the American president came to Indonesia and left for Korea. Very cool actually.
courtesy of the Jakarta Globe.
I was interested to be in a place that the president came to visit, I can't say I've ever been this close.  If I didn't have to work, I probably would have tried to catch a glimpse. He did manage to muck up traffic worse than a wet season afternoon rain storm. The majority of the toll road was closed for his motorcade yesterday.  My route was only barely inconvenienced as we (ojek and I) were able to detour without too much hassle.  On Monday I think SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian President) went through my route.  There was a massive motorcade and traffic blocked off but not nearly to the extent it was yesterday.   Upon an evening trip to Grand Indonesia Mall, near the "center" of the city, I saw 12 motorcycle cops, 2 Military police on motorcyles, 5 military vehicles and a tank parked out in front.  I wondered if Obama was staying at the Hyatt there.  It turns out he wasn't, supposedly booked at the Shangri-La instead.  On my drive to work today, we passed no less than 2 dozen armed, camouflaged soldiers walking near the toll road.  It's starting to feel like I live in a police state!
courtesy of news.bb.co.uk. They looked like this minus the blue helmet.
Most Indonesians were initially excited about Obama's presidency and what it might mean for Indonesia.  They generally seemed to think it would help tourism and trade. Many thought it might help dispel myths and rumors about how backward or hostile it is here. Consequently, there was a feeling of general heartbreak when his trip was put off and then put off again.  This time he did finally make it here but was literally on the ground about 24 hours.  Barely a day.  a couple meetings, a speech at the university today and that's it.  The speech was lots of sounds bites (see http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/at-home-in-indonesia-obama-reaches-out-to-muslim-world/405876 for more information) but he is still a rousing speaker.

Will things change here?  Will the US do more than send anti-terrorism money and tsunami aid? We can only wait and see.

No comments:

Post a Comment