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Obama's Indonesian gay nanny and other things from his past

By Matt DeLong

With Obama visiting Indonesia today, the New York Times has a story that is just chock-full of interesting tidbits about Obama's time living there as a child in the late 1960s. For example, the Times reports that back then Obama was "chubby" and that some of the locals referred to him as "the boy who runs like a duck."

Then, of course, there's this:

His nanny was an openly gay man who, in keeping with Indonesia's relaxed attitudes toward homosexuality, carried on an affair with a local butcher, longtime residents said. The nanny later joined a group of transvestites called Fantastic Dolls, who, like the many transvestites who remain fixtures of Jakarta's streetscape, entertained people by dancing and playing volleyball.

Apparently, such a thing is not uncommon, as Indonesia has a relatively advanced drag culture, the Australian newspaper the Age reported in 2003. Transvestites, known in Indonesia as "waria," are particularly prevalent in the tailoring and makeup artist professions, according to the paper.

However, not everyone in Indonesia enjoys the drag queen volleyball games. The BBC reported that hardline Islamists broke up a transvestite beauty pageant in 2005.

Finally, the Times relates a story from one of Obama's boyhood friends that some might say presaged the future.

One time, recalled the elder son, Slamet Januadi, now 52, Mr. Obama asked a group of boys whether they wanted to grow up to be president, a soldier or a businessman. A president would own nothing while a soldier would possess weapons and a businessmen would have money, the young Obama explained.
Mr. Januadi and his younger brother, both of whom later joined the Indonesian military, said they wanted to become soldiers. Another boy, a future banker, said he would become a businessman.
"Then Barry said he would become president and order the soldier to guard him and the businessman to use his money to build him something," Mr. Januadi said. "We told him, 'You cheated. You didn't give us those details.' "
"But we all became what we said we would," he said.
On a related note, The Post's Felicia Sonmez earlier this year traveled to Indonesia for National Journal and spoke with people Obama used to know. Watch her interviews below.

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This post was updated to correct a quote from the Times article.

By Matt DeLong  | November 9, 2010; 11:16 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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