a church community center. Barack explained to me that he worked for a priest and that his office and his colleagues’ offices were in this community center. We went in through a side entrance, and shortly thereafter, we stood in a large, very simply furnished room teeming with people. Barack went from one person to another and introduced me to his colleagues. Everyone greeted me very warmly. Afterward, he led me into a room. He wanted me to meet his boss, an older white man with a charismatic aura. Finally, he showed me his own small workstation.
I liked the atmosphere in the community center. Everyone gave the impression that they believed in what they were doing. Their commitment was palpable. After we had stayed there for a while longer, so Barack could take care of a few things, he showed me the projects and described his work to me in detail. Meanwhile, we kept returning to the subject of our families. He told me about his little sister Maya, his mother’s second child. Maya’s father was Indonesian, and she lived with her maternal grandmother in Hawaii.
“You’ll like her,” he said. “She’s charming.” It sounded as if he loved her. Might he talk about me the same way one day? I thought fleetingly.
“My mother lives in Indonesia. She’s diligently doing research there for her dissertation,” Barack went on with a laugh. “And I think she’ll stay there for a long time. She loves the country and simply can’t stop pursuing her research. Anthropology is her life.” As he said that, he shook his head with amusement, as if he had long ago given up the attempt to understand her.
“I’d like to meet her. I’ve heard a lot about her from our father.”
“Did he talk about her? What did he say?” Barack asked with curiosity.
“Only good things. After Ruth [their father’s second American wife] left, he kept promising us that you and your mother would come visit us in Kenya.” I smiled somewhat wearily. “I believed him and waited a long time in vain for your visit.”
Barack looked at me with astonishment. “I knew absolutely nothing about that,” he replied after a brief silence.
“They wrote to each other. But you know that, right? Your mother always sent him your school report cards and regularly told him how you were doing. He always knew what was going on with you. He told us and anyone who would listen about you. From his descriptions, I knew you pretty well. So I thought at the time, anyway.”
I couldn’t interpret the expression on Barack’s face, but I nonetheless had the sense that what I had just said moved him.
“But that wasn’t enough,” he said finally.
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