Statue of Barack Obama as a child in a parc in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. Image posted on Facebook.
Barack Obama said it was “wonderful” but “a little disorientating” to be back in Indonesia, a country he spent four years in as a schoolboy, for his first official visit as US president. One of his old schoolmates remembers the boy Indonesians know as ‘little Barry’.
Obama, who lived in the capital Jakarta with his mother and Indonesian stepfather as a child between 1967 and 1971, said he could hardly recognise the teeming, modern city. Speaking at a press conference after talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, he said he had "great affection for the people" of the mainly Muslim south-east Asian country. "Obviously I have a sister who is half Indonesian, my mother lived and worked here for a long time, so the sights and the sounds and the memories all feel very familiar," he said.
Nevertheless, the president was forced to shorten his whirlwind visit to his childhood home by two hours due to fears that volcanic ash spewing from Mount Metapi volcano in central Java, which has recently plagued aviation in the region, could ground his flight.
The US embassy invited 26 of Obama’s former classmates to hear him speak at the University of Indonesia. They say they clearly remember a tall, slightly chubby boy they called “Barry”.
The two metre high statue bears a sign that reads : "The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams".

Barack Obama's life in Indonesia

Barack Obama's class picture at the Besuki Menteng public school in Jakarta, in 1970.
The courtyard of the Besuki Menteng school. A small moque was built in it, but it didn't exist when Barack Obama was a pupil there.
Barack Obama's former classmates took a picture of themselves in front of the school in March 2008.

"He made a big effort to adapt and make friends"

Rully Dasaad was a classmate of Obama's in 1970 in Jakarta.
Barack Obama, "Barry" as we called him, was always a good pupil. Always in a good mood, always smiling. He made a big effort to adapt and make friends; being different was no problem. At that time, the scout captain named Barry leader of group A. I was in that group. It was him who gave the order to stand to attention or at ease. At school we all spoke in Indonesian, and he learnt how to speak it too. He knows our language.
He spent two years at the Catholic school and then two years with us. The rumours about him attending an “Islamic Madrass” are nothing but lies. It's just because his step-father and father are Muslim. At that time there was no mini-mosque like now [there's a small mosque inside the school now]. This school was a normal public school. There were Chinese Buddhist pupils, Hindus from Bali, Christians and Muslims. Everyone was mixed up. It was not a school reserved for Muslims, not at all. Most children from well-off families came to study at the school. Suharto's young children also went there.

We lost touch with Barry after he left. And then suddenly a few years ago a friend said to me "I saw Barry in a magazine, he's putting himself up for the presidential election". I said "are you sure?" and went to find out if it was true - which it was. We took this photo to show Barry our solidarity and support. We sent it to his office in Illinois when he was running for president. I'm sure Barry has great memories of Indonesia."