11 am Indonesia time, January 1, 2009. Present our boarding passes to uniformed military police supervising the entrance to an international airport in Indonesia, for first of several connecting flights back to Beijing. For reasons that will be evident after the next posting, I'm not naming the airport.

"Where you from? Australians?" one of the policemen asks. It is the most likely guess for people who look like us in this part of the world. Amerika Syarikat, I reply - "the United States." We used to live in Malaysia, and after our struggles with Mandarin the Malaysian/Indonesian language feels practically like our native tongue.

The officer pulls himself up to attention and with a huge smile gives us a snappy military salute. "America - very good!" he said. He lowers the salute and says "Barack Obama!!" with a big thumbs up.

It's been a while...

(Yes, yes, Obama is a particular favorite in Indonesia because his childhood years in Jakarta make him seem a local boy made good. Still, this is not the spontaneous reaction to the name "America" that traveling Yanks have gotten used to in recent years.)

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