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Originally published Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Coffee, treats at Café Obama? Childhood Jakarta home draws interest

Anticipation that Barack Obama may become the next president has sent a steady stream of visitors to the colonial-era Jakarta house he lived...

The Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Anticipation that Barack Obama may become the next president has sent a steady stream of visitors to the colonial-era Jakarta house he lived in as a child, from potential buyers and journalists to an entrepreneur who wants to turn it into the "Sweet Home Obama Bar."

Tata Aboe Bakar, 78, the owner, is in no mood to move out.

His family has lived in the main house on a sprawling plot of land in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Indonesia's capital since it was built in 1939.

"My brother was born here, my parents died here," he said, taking a drag from his third cigarette as he recalls the curly-haired boy who moved into the two-bedroom pavilion within the compound with his pregnant mother and Indonesian stepfather in 1970.

But with a potential price tag of $3 million — and even more if Aboe Bakar can believe one broker's claims that a U.S. Embassy official is ready to pay five times the market price if Obama wins — he said he'll seriously consider it.

Tristram Perry, the embassy's public-diplomacy officer, was not aware of any such proposal.

Obama's family moved to Indonesia in 1967 and spent two years in a humble home where chickens and ducks cackled in the backyard and two baby crocodiles slithered around in a fenced-off pond.

They relocated to the small, red-tile roofed pavilion with art-deco windows on Taman Amir Hamzah Street when Obama was 9 and stayed there for the next two years.

Aboe Bakar has few stories to tell about Obama as a child, except the time his poodle ran away, never to be seen again.

"Oh, he cried for two days," the former Navy admiral said, flashing a photograph of the young family sitting on a wooden bench in the front yard that, like much else, remains in place nearly four decades later.

Among those who have expressed interest in the house has been Bartele Santema, a Dutchman who owns several popular pubs in Jakarta.

Santema said he offered to rent the pavilion that had been home to the presidential candidate so he could open a cafe featuring an "Obama-blend coffee," a mix of Kenya and Java beans. He'd also serve "stroopwafels," a caramel-type treat brought to Indonesia during the centuries-long occupation by the Dutch.

"The idea is to have snacks, simple food and maybe some merchandise," Santema said, adding that he was not certain, with all the recent interest, if Aboe Bakar would go for it. "We'll see. It's mostly just for fun anyway."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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