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Waiting for Obama

Bali Officials Want Both the People of Bali and the Island's Monkeys on Best Behavior during U.S. Presidential Visit in Late June 2010.

(5/22/2010) While the exact date for U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Bali in late June remains a mystery, the regency of Badung in Bali is busily preparing for the brief stopover of America's Chief Executive. The Ulawatu area on the island's southern peninsula is getting a spruce up in anticipation of Obama's arrival. No doubt included on the list of preparatory steps are ways to keep the U.S. First Family, Secret Service and presidential entourage safe from the notoriously naughty monkeys that populate the sacred temple at Uluwatu. Adept at trading food for just snatched cameras, pens, glasses and any other loose articles snatched from visitors, the Uluwatu monkeys collect enough booty in an average day to stock a large pawn shop.

Imagine the pandemonium and world headlines that would result if one of the Uluwatu monkeys grabbed the weapon of a secret service officer or, heaven forbid, the legendary briefcase containing the codes to launch Armageddon that always follow just a few steps behind the U.S. President?

On a more mundane and less speculative level, the Regent of Badung, Anak Agung Gde Agung, told the Bali Post of his appreciation to members of the public working to ensure a cordial welcome is extended to Barack Obama. Insisting that Bali must present a united cultural front to welcome Obama, he urged the airport, hotels and every element that comes in contact with the U.S. President to use the opportunity to showcase Balinese culture. In specific terms, Agung hopes the President and his large entourage will see Balinese costumes, enjoy Bali's rich cuisine and encounter the Balinese sign of welcome (respect shown the placement of the hand across the chest) as part of their welcome to Bali.

Badung's regent said the welcome of the U.S. President will include special welcoming billboards featuring the U.S. and Indonesian Presidents in the exit lanes of Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport, and large flag displays for both Indonesia and the U.S.A..

In addition to any efforts to tame the monkeys, the Uluwatu temple area is being repaved and the local population is being asked to support the planned visit to their corner of the island.

"I hope Obama will not only come to Uluwatu as a tourist, but also encounter the special ambient of the sacred temple by witnessing the daily religious rituals of the Balinese carried out there," explained Agung. In conjunction with the planned visit, special offerings and rituals are now in motion to seek continued harmony between Indonesian and the U.S.A.

Agung has even devised a strategy for dealing with the recalcitrant primates that exercise hegemony over the Uluwatu temple. The regencies leader has suggested the monkey's be "paid off" through the presentation of large amounts of food to the troupes of monkeys in the three days prior to Obama's visit. If Agung's plan to distract the monkeys fails, extra guards will be placed at the site to help keep the "snatch and run" monkeys a respectable distance from the group of official visitors.

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