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Obama in Indonesia: a whirlwind tour

Jakarta residents answer one question: If you had one hour with Obama, where would you go?

His friends nodding in agreement, Mapatola lamented the American president’s trip, saying he wished it could be longer and could take in much more of this sprawling country of more than 17,500 islands.

Where would he take Obama? To one of the city’s smaller, shabbier parks, where he could sit down with the president and try and tell him about the real Indonesia and about really connecting with this country’s Muslims, Mapatola said.

One of this city’s hundreds of shabby parks is where Dany spends much of his time, wheeling his siomaymobile and drizzling spicy peanut sauce and thick sweet soy sauce onto his steamed fish cakes and vegetables.

Business was slow today, he said, thanks mainly to the men in olive green.

Where would Dany take the president? To Ancol beach, of course. There he and the president would swim and lounge on the warm sand.

But he couldn’t possibly get to the beach and back in an hour. OK, he relented, so he would probably take the president to the mall — Plaza Indonesia mall, to be exact — the capital’s largest and grandest shopping center, where they would dine in style on imported food.

At the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant in Plaza Indonesia, Lita, a waitress, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and lamented that the office and government workers who form the staple of the lunch crowd had stayed away today.

Lita said she wouldn’t waste time eating with the president. She would ask him to take her straight down memory lane.

“I’d like to see his old house, his old school,” she said. “It would be nice to see if he really remembers what life is like here.”