Monday, May 21, 2012

Things that count (aka 1st world problems in 3rd world countries)

I'm paid in US dollars. This is very nice because I don't have to worry about my 3-year contract eroding 35% or more during its course.

The problem is when I want to exchange dollars for naira (NIGH-ra). I go to the bank and hand them $2000, let's say, and then I need to stand around counting out 310-320 thousand naira bills because the exchange rate stays between 155 and 160 per dollar. I'm not nearly as confident and rapid a counter as the locals, so it takes a while and I invariably make mistakes and have to recount. If they hand me a wad of 500-naira bills, it takes twice as long.

I have more than once wished they would print a N5,000 ($30) or N10,000 ($60) bill to speed the counting process along. Imagine trying to get along for a year with nothing larger than a $5 bill and ALL your financial transactions are in cash.

Then I think better of it. Most of the time, I go to buy bananas from a street vendor and the chap has to wander around to all the other nearby vendors finding change. Because I only have thousand naira bills and can't hand him anything closer to N300, they invariably have trouble making change. I think of the challenge of asking someone to break a 10k naira bill....

Yeah, no. More than half the population doesn't even earn N10k per month. Imagine someone asking you to make change for one month's salary! Oh, the idle and unthinking rich. Wo unto us.