I will, below, do my utmost to reliably re-create (in translation) the dialogue, as it happened:
Nine Students Present (born between 1985 and 1994): Seven Chinese [two absent during the below episode], one Singaporean, one Russian (Siberian ancestry) [absent], three White-Americans. (Those absent this lesson have a habit of disappearing during reading class.) Two of the present Chinese and one American (not me) are featured in this episode.
- [Featured Students]
- D.D. : Chinese Female (from somewhere around Shanghai) born circa 1992
- J.R. : Chinese Female (from near Xian) born circa 1991
- L.A. : American Male (from Texas) born 1985
We sat in a kind of modified semi-circle, with the teacher at the center, and the white board behind her.
Episode 1: In Which the "Obama Origin" Question is Discussed (Yet Again)
One of our reading passages dealt with Kenya. It talked about safaris; wild animals; coffee. The main comprehension questions were knocked out without much difficulty. Then this:
Teacher: Alright, class. How about famous people from Kenya? Do we know anyone famous from Kenya?
D.D. (Chinese): Obama! Obama is, uhh --
Teacher: Ah, Obama. [quizzically] Was he born in Kenya? [Pause] Where was Obama born?
[Indistinct noises as people whisper things or make inaudible comments]
D.D. (Chinese): Isn't he from Kenya?
J.R. (Chinese): [eagerly] No, it's Indonesia! He has--
Others: Huh? / Yes! / No, no. / What? / But...! / [etc.]
Teacher: Let's ask the American students. How about you, L: Where is Obama from?
L. (American): He was born in the USA.
Teacher: Right, okay, but Obama's parents were born in Kenya, right?
L.: Actually, his mother was born in the USA and his father was born in Kenya.
Teacher: Oh, is that right? [Wide eyed]. Really? So it's not both parents. Huh.
[Murmurs of agreement from others]
L.: [Chuckling] Some Americans who don't like Obama say that he was born in Kenya.
Teacher: I see...
Obama, in his heyday, was hugely popular across the world, both in 2008 and to a lesser extent in 2012, and South Korean was on board too. They were polled about their own preference in 2012, and South Koreans favored Obama over Romney by 7-to-1 according to a BBC poll in October 2012 (of those with any opinion. (Specifically: 57% Obama, 8% Romney, 35% No Preference.)
The experience I relate above leads me to wonder, tangentially: How much have Obama's many fans across the world ever really known about him? I don't know. I'm not foolish enough to try to draw any conclusions from one incident but anecdotally, I can expand it to all the Asian students in the class on that day. My impression is that five of the six East-Asians present in our class that day were at least a bit mixed up about it. Only the Singaporean, P.G., born 1988, seemed to know about Obama's origin correctly. (There are a few Singaporeans who study here, and I am impressed by them. There is also currently one Chinese-Malaysian I know of.)