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Obama's Indonesian classmates reflect on "hari pertama"

It was "hari pertama," the first day, and Barack Obama's old classmates, teachers and supporters packed a downtown hotel ballroom here to witness the presidential inauguration of a man they have claimed as "one of their own." The crowd waited for the big moment for nearly six hours, in the meantime listening to speeches and performances by children who now attend the same elementary school that Obama attended during his four years in Jakarta.

"We long for friendships full of love and compassion within the human race," Naura Asyifa, an 11-year old student at Besuki Elementary, said nervously into a microphone. "I hope that this wish reaches President Barack Obama, and he would make it true."

The crowd, watching huge jumbo televisions and feasting on cheeseburgers and hot dogs, anxiously awaited the moment when Barack Obama officially became President. And when that time finally came, at about midnight here, the crowd leaped to its feet cheering, waving signs bearing Obama's face across an Indonesian flag. Then, just as quickly, they stood silent, listening quietly to his speech, erupting only one more time at his mention of a need for mutual respect between America and the Muslim world.

Indonesians hope Obama's experience living in Jakarta and witnessing firsthand Islamic culture, will lead to a better understanding between the two civilizations.

Perhaps the only disappoint of the evening came when his speech finished with no mention of the place he once lived. Many Indonesians are hoping Obama will make this country one of his first visits as President.

Outside the downtown hotel, taxi drivers, food vendors and others waiting for customers, knew exactly what was going on inside. They joined in the celebration screaming, "Obamaaaaa!" to all those who passed by.

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http://www.globalpost.com/notebook/indonesia/090120/obamas-indonesian-classmates-reflect-hari-pertama