feel like blowing 20 thou’ on lunch?

the first time i went to kazakhstan, i entered the country with like 18 bucks or something ridiculous like that. when i had to declare how much money i was bringing into the country, i wondered whether i’d have to open my suitcase and declare all the loose change strewn about.

one thing i’ve learned about traveling, especially in countries where you don’t know the language, is that you should always be carrying some local currency. money breaks down all known language barriers.

i like to create a quick rule of thumb for understanding the local currency in terms of dollars (usually by chopping off a certain number of zeros, and/or dividing by some number). i didn’t really come away with a good understanding of the exchange rate in ghana until i pulled some money out of a decent looking atm with my credit card.

theresa had changed about $300 in the airport, and came away with just less than 3,000,000 cedis in two bricks of currency, literally. so when the atm offered 800,000 cedis as the max amount i could withdraw, i knew that was about $80 (just chop off 4 zeros). seemed decent. what i *didn’t* realize was that the highest denomination of cedis appears to be a 20,000 bill (roughly $2), so this atm spit out a wad of 40 bills! try sticking that in your wallet. talk about walking away from an atm feeling like a marked man.

understanding the exchange rate in dollars is useful to prevent getting swindled out of an unfamiliar currency. especially because things usually cost a lot less than they would in the US. for instance, the canteen at usaid is staffed by locals who cook all types of local ghanaian dishes like banku and fufu. and they usually cost about 12,000 cedis, plus 2,500 for a tall glass bottle of coke (my favorite), and 5,000 for some ice cream—or around 20,000 cedis.

Ghanaian fufu
First Ghanaian fufu by Terrie

6 Comments

traci

I know you are just there for work but it is hard not to want to pick up and go when I read about your trips…

yeah, the work aspect makes it weird, because i’ve still got to get dressed and wake up early and put in 8+ hours, but outside around me it’s africa.

traci, just curious if you’re a traci i know.

traci

yes, justin you know me but I was away last year in NZ so you have not seen me in a long time… whenever I was wondering what was ‘really’ happening back at home I would check people’s blogs, the news does not really tell so much about every day life…

ah-ha. i was wondering if that was you. so you’re back from NZ now? how’re things?

traci

Yep! I am back (for now). Things are going pretty well and I am just taking one class this semester. I still dont know what to do with my life, but I am (mostly) ok with that for now. hmm the only other ‘newsworthy’ happening in m life is that I really hope to get married (fingers crossed- if the paperwork comes through on time) over christmas break in Amsterdam. Other than that, life is more or less the same.

Maybe it is nice to work when you travel. It might give you a better idea of what it would be like for you to live there.. maybe not living the typical african lifestyle, but not completely on holiday either.

Finally! Thanks to Terrie who is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, I now have a photo of fufu to illustrate this post (seven years later).

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