Barack Obama Spent His Childhood at Menteng

Obama Anak Menteng (Obama the Menteng Boy). A novel about Barrack Obama's childhood written by Damien Dematra.
Obama Anak Menteng (Obama the Menteng Boy). A novel about Barrack Obama's childhood written by Damien Dematra. | Source

About Menteng area.

Jakarta comprises 42 subdistricts which includes Menteng subdistrict at central Jakarta and Menteng Dalam at South Jakarta. Being located at the heart of Jakarta which is also recognized as the golden triangle and offers favorable locations for living, Menteng has widely gained popularity as a favorite place to dwell with its green, shady streets and enjoyable parks scattered around several locations. In short, Menteng combines property value and atmosphere which has got to be scarcely found in Jakarta today. Modern, luxurious houses combine with antique art deco residential buildings dated back to dutch colony era are found along the streets of Menteng

Foremost politicians, businessmen, the ambassadors of partner countries, expatriates, and celebrities are among those people who enjoy the convenience of living at Menteng.


Adjacent to Menteng, another area with similar name called Menteng Dalam has also gained its popularity. The area is called Menteng Dalam or inner Menteng due to its location which goes inside a more populated area at Southern Jakarta.

Menteng Dalam was on the spotlight when people found out that the most influential figure in the World, the President of The United States today, Barack Obama spent his childhood, living and mingling with common Batawinese (native Jakarta people) here at Menteng Dalam for about 3 years. His friends and neighbors knew him as Barry Soetoro taking a nickname given by his mother and his stepfather's last name Lolo Soetoro.

Many people still have good reminiscence and will tell the stories proudly about their unforgettable times with Barry, the-so-called active and adorable kid spending his childhood at Menteng Dalam and Menteng, Jakarta.

Statue of little Obama at Menteng Park.
Statue of little Obama at Menteng Park.

Little Barry spent his time at Menteng and Menteng Dalam.

At an area called Menteng Dalam, on KH. Ramli street No 16, lies a 300 sq m house which keeps great history in it. In that modest house once lived a small family of Lolo Soetoro, Barry's stepfather, his mother Stanley Ann Dunham (many also knew her as Anne Soetoro), Barry's half sister Maya Soetoro, and Barry Soetoro who is today the world knows him as the President Barack Obama.

Obama's house at Menteng Dalam doesn't change much until today. The house has got another owner and he's only changed the floor tiles so far and still keeps the rests the same with two stories at the back part of the house.

Another change is the street in front of the house. It was just an earthy street in Barry's time but it has got asphalt layers at present.

With denser population, narrower streets and more working class living in it, Menteng Dalam is surely not as glamorous as central Menteng although this condition makes people there living in more familiarity one another, including Barry with his neighbors.

The Soetoros humbleness and unpretentious life, was shown how his mom Ann Dunham raised Barry. Barry as an active, very sociable, and funny boy is what most of his old friends at school and his teachers still remember about. One of his teachers at SD Asisi, Israella Pareira (62) also added that Barry she knew was a well-behaved, smart (he was good at math) boy, and always avoided conflict with his friends.

Living for 3 years at Menteng Dalam, Barry had different kinds of friends. Adi and Amir were among his friends in the neighborhood who still remember about Barry. They laugh telling how Barry would come out with his little crocodile to scare his friends when they mocked him.

The game they used to play together was battle games at what they called hutan Asisi (Asisi jungle) which was actually an empty field. The field no longer exist today and has been occupied by buildings and homes.

The discipline his mother taught only allowed him to play outside with his peers at noon, after taking some rest at home from school.


Another person who was close to Barry was Suwardi, 67. Suwardi was a close friend of Lolo Soetoro and his son Asep Suyatna also made friend with Barry while his daughter Irma Dewi Sukanti was Maya Kassandra Soetoro's.

Suwardi had a funny remembrance about Barry when he tasted salty fish for the first time.

Salty fish is favorite and commonly eaten by local people accompanying their rice and other dishes. This fish was sold at H. Asmari food stall in front of Barry's home. When Barry was served with the salty fish, he found the taste was very strange and tried to throw it up in funny expressions making people around him laughed out loud.

Shrimp paste.
Shrimp paste.

Barry's different background also resulted some 'amusing" culture gaps. It was revealed when he mistakenly ate shrimp paste for chocolate bar. In its solid state, shrimp paste, normally used as seasoning in making sambal dish, might give a tricky look like a bar of chocolate. Shrimp paste's contrast taste and flavor certainly didn't match Barry's taste and he tried to throw it up in lively expressions :).

Barry's elementary education at Menteng.

Barry attended two elementary schools in Jakarta. First he went to Fransiscus Asisi Elementary School at Tebet area near their his house on KH. Ramli street no 16. Registered at the school on January 1, 1968, he sat in class 1b for 3 years. Being much bigger in posture than his classmates, Barry liked to sit at the back row just not to block his friends' sight to the blackboard and teacher in front of the class. His mom, often addressed Mrs. Ann Soetoro, often walked on him to the front of the school gate and always brought him some bread for his favorite breakfast. Although his difficulty in speaking Indonesian gave him drawbacks in understanding the lessons, but his scores got a lot of progress in line with his improved skills in using the language.

When the family moved to another house at Taman Amir Hamzah street no 22, Menteng, his parents moved him to go to Sekolah Dasar Negri (State Elementary School) 01 on Besuki street for practicality reason because the school was closer to their new house.

At this SDN 01 he spent the rest of his elementary education until 1971 before he finally moved to Hawaii.

Some people's impressions about Barry.

Interesting information about young Obama when he lived at Menteng still lingers until today. Here are some testimonies taken from several sources about little Obama's life at Menteng.

Coenraad Satyakusumah (Obama's neighbor) :

Satyakusumah was impressed by how Obama's mom, Ann Dunham Soetoro, raised and taught Barry. She treated him in an egalitarian way that he had to mingle with common people around him closely. Like all children of his age, Barry liked to play hide and seek around the mosque with sarong wrapped around his waist together with other children at Menteng Dalam.

Besides from the school he attended, Barry also learned to speak Bahasa Indonesia from his friends who also taught him the language and even mixed with slang and colloquial expressions that he didn't get from school.

Being a smart pupil, Barry learned Bahasa Indonesia pretty fast. According to Satyakusumah, Barry also shared his ability in speaking English by teaching his friends English at the front porch of his house.


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Bandung Winardiyanto (a classmate of Barry's at SDN Menteng 01) :

Being an active boy, Barry didn't like to be idle. He had once broken the school fence caused hyperactivity.

Bandung said: "The school fence was still made of wood not of concrete like today. He was running around and knocked down the fence. He got up and smiled and not long after started to run around again."

He said the next day Barry's stepfather, Mr. Lolo Soetoro, turned up at the school with workmen to fix the broken fence.

Bandung said Barry's parents often came to the school. Bandung added, He used to take food from the vendors without paying. But, at the end of the week, his parents would come and pay for it....

Fermina Katarina Sinaga Suhanda (Barry's teacher at 3rd grade, Menteng Elementary School 01) :

Barry showed his leadership instinct since in elementary school. He always gave orders to his classmates to stand in a line and he would stand at the front to lead them before entering the class.


Lia
Lia | Source

L i a (Obama's friend and "adopted" sister) :

Lia was brought by a woman who worked for the Soetoros and they treated Lia kindly like their own daughter. The closeness was shown when they moved to Hawaii in the late 70s and asked Lia to come along with them.

Their attention to Lia was also shown with memorabilia Lia neatly keeps at her home until now. Ice cream glass, blue striped sheets, and Torajan souvenir were among other things Lolo Soetoro always bought in pairs for both Barry and Lia.

Lia has deep memory living together with Barry's family in Hawaii although for lived for only 3 months there. When her time to go home to Indonesia had come her eyes' glazed in tears since she didn't know if she would see the family again.

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Comments 4 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very interesting. I did not know this, and I thank you for the information.


agusfanani profile image

agusfanani 3 years ago from Indonesia Author

Hi billybuc,

Thank you for reading and commenting.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Very interesting. I found the shrimp paste story cute.


agusfanani profile image

agusfanani 3 years ago from Indonesia Author

@FlourishAnyway :

Yes, that was a true incident...lol. Thank you for reading the story.

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