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Whenever the president travels overseas, journalists tend to be surprised by at least one or two things they find in the nations they visit. No matter how cosmopolitan the observer, there always seems to be an anecdote or moment from a presidential visit that gives professional journalists pause, usually buried in the middle area of an article. Oftentimes it's an indication that a perceived third world country is more progressive than they had thought - such is the case today in the New York Times concerning their report from Indonesia, which contains this surprising note:

[Obama's] nanny was an openly gay man who, in keeping with Indonesia's relaxed attitudes toward homosexuality, carried on an affair with a local butcher, longtime residents said. The nanny later joined a group of transvestites called Fantastic Dolls, who, like the many transvestites who remain fixtures of Jakarta's streetscape, entertained people by dancing and playing volleyball.

Matt DeLong notes this item with a degree of surprise. While I can't speak for Indonesia, nations like Malaysia have an interesting and surprising feel, without being overtly westernized in the way of, say, Singapore. Of course, this also leads to clashes between the old Muslim guardians of culture and a community that is by its nature more multi-ethnic and relaxed - but the good news is that the theocrats, for the time being, are getting the short end.

In any case, "surprisingly open minded" is a positive phrase to use when applied to Muslim countries, especially as the mix of culture with Hindus and Christians reaches a point where the minorities hold positions of authority.

(AP Photo)

Benjamin Domenech is editor of The Transom. Click here to subscribe.