HAWAII KAI, Hawaii (Reuters) - Barack Obama, trying to enjoy the last semblance of normal life before he becomes U.S. president on January 20, caused a commotion when he took his daughters to a shopping mall in Hawaii on Friday.
It made for a surreal scene -- the president-elect, daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, and family friends eating at a table at the mall watched by a crowd of onlookers and surrounded by anxious-looking Secret Service agents.
The agents struggled to hold back people trying to get closer to snap pictures of Obama eating a tuna and melted cheese sandwich and the girls enjoying shave ices, a local treat made from finely shaved ice and fruit syrup.
Earlier, as Obama strolled through a mall parking lot, dozens of onlookers swarmed around, snapping pictures and cheering while Secret Service agents tried to keep a protective screen around the soon-to-be first family.
In interviews since his election on November 4 Obama has said he wants to maintain some degree of normal life for his daughters. He has also said he fears becoming isolated and losing touch with the world outside the White House “bubble.”
But family outings such as Friday’s are likely to become rare after he enters office and the already strict security measures that surround him now are intensified.
Obama has kept a low profile since arriving on the Hawaiian island of Oahu for a 12-day holiday with his family on December 20. Apart from two golf outings and daily trips to the gym, he has remained sequestered in his beachfront holiday villa.
Media traveling with him have been barred from approaching the heavily guarded house, whose access road has been blocked. That did not stop one enterprising paparazzi photographer from snapping Obama shirtless on the beach earlier this week.
On Friday, after exercising at a gym at a nearby Marine Corps base, he made a surprise visit to a waterpark with his daughters and several other children for a dolphin show. It was his first public outing with his family since arriving on the island. His wife Michelle did not accompany them.