Obama's unlikely question to Jokowi: How's Puncak?

Obama's unlikely question to Jokowi: How's Puncak?

Remembering his childhood in Jakarta in the late 1960s, US President Barack Obama shared a light moment with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and First Lady Iriana as they sat side-by-side during a dinner hosted for leaders attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on Monday evening.

As Obama was seen actively chatting with Iriana, questions were asked about the topics of their discussion.

In a press conference later on Monday, Jokowi disclosed that Obama asked whether his favourite grilled-fish restaurant in Puncak, Bogor, West Java, was still open. Puncak is a popular mountain resort surrounded by shimmering tea plantations, and is located around two hours from Jakarta.

"His childhood memories of Jakarta are still profound," said Jokowi.

"He asked me about this grilled-fish restaurant in Puncak. I told him to ask my wife [who knows the area better] and then I told him that such a restaurant was now flourishing," said Jokowi.

Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, married Indonesian Lolo Soetoro in the early 1960s while they were residing in Hawaii, in the United States. Lolo returned to Indonesia and was followed by Ann and stepson Obama, who was six years old at the time. Both stayed in Jakarta for four years before returning to the US.

"We had a light chat with Obama. I told him that my [gubernatorial] residence was located just 100 meters from his [former] school," said Jokowi.

"He can still speak rather fluent Indonesian. He told my wife: 'Saya sudah ngantuk' [I am already sleepy]; 'Saya sudah kenyang, tadi sudah makan di hotel' [I am already full as I had dinner earlier at the hotel]," said Jokowi.

Obama, who is traveling without First Lady Michele Obama on the trip, was also said to have asked questions in Indonesian about the condition of Puncak and Bandung, the capital of West Java, to several Indonesian officials during a bilateral meeting between Indonesia and the US earlier in the day.

"I heard Puncak is now 'macet' [plagued with traffic jams]," said Obama as recalled by an official. "So how do you get to Bandung if Puncak is 'macet'?" he asked.

During the bilateral meeting, Obama told Jokowi that he had a very close association with Indonesia, having spent a good deal of his childhood there.

"I hope that we can develop not only a strong personal friendship but can continue to build the strong friendship between our two people," said Obama during the meeting.

Obama has invited Jokowi to Washington next year to discuss the expansion of the comprehensive economic and security partnership between Indonesia and the US.

Aside from discussing regional security issues during the meeting, Obama also talked about controlling the Ebola outbreak, as well as Indonesia's efforts to reduce Islamic extremism and the increasing number of Islamic State followers.

Obama praised Indonesia for its extraordinary efforts in the campaign for tolerance and pluralism.

"I want to thank Indonesia for the work that it's done to isolate extremism and to work with other countries on counterterrorism efforts."

Other areas of discussion with the US covered investment and the development agenda after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

More about

Barack Obama
Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.