A Window into Life in the Suburbs


"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Currency

The 9 year old asked for $4 today...  Not that that's unusual. At her age, she's regularly asking for money in the hope that she catches Mummy and Daddy in an expansive mood. Afterall, money appear to grow on trees or magically reproduce in parental wallets.  Anyway, the $4 is her contribution to a school break-up party which includes sausages, drinks etc etc. Well, I don't mind... saves me frying up a whole bunch of wontons this year and trying to tee in with the class teacher to come in at the right time bearing freshly cooked, piping hot dumplings. Cruncheee dumplings. Wontons are no good cold... awful... like chewing on rubber gloves.

The 9 year old, a throwback to her under-the-mattress-stashing ancestors, doesn't believe in wallets, purses or pockets. At least she doesn't think that money's safe unless it's in her hot little hand. Pleased as punch with her acquisition, she was rattling the gold coins in her hand in jolly fashion and my mummy senses could see trouble ahead. I cautioned her before the drop off to "put them in your pocket before you lose them". "Okay, okay... I will." She assures me knowingly, no doubt thinking that mum is sucha nag.
Sure enough... she managed to lose $2... (Oh for $2 every time a mummy prediction comes true) and now she wants me to bail her out.

Yeah... she tries... Yes, she does. She is persistent. Gotta give her that. (Wish she would apply the same kind of energy to school work though) But I gently remind her that she gets regular pocket money and that she can dip into her current stash (which is currently quite considerable) to make up for the loss. Surprisingly this little lady didn't protest too much. Tomorrow, however, is another day.

Before our Indonesian trip, we were advised that it would be prudent to have some US currency handy to pay for travel visas. So we procured some at Changi Airport (in Singapore) but not enough... as it turned out. The 9 year old was excited and curious... "I've never seen American money before... can I have a look?"
I thought a bit and thought... well, why not... it would be educational. So I pull out the different denominations that I had a fifty, a couple of twenties and some two dollar notes.
"Wow... fifty American dollars!" Her eyes lit up and she waved the bill around like a steroid ingesting cheerleader.
"Shshsh... keep it down... you don't have to announce it to the entire airport."

She's an artless child... and loud... Very loud. Not yet attuned to the dangers of real life.  But money is money... and even if she doesn't appreciate the value of money, she knows that money carries with it a certain power. Like the power to buy things. Things that inhabit her universe like lollies, junk, books and cute little toys.

During our brief sojourn to Central Java, plebs like us indulged in the fantasy that we were minor league tycoons. It is a testament to the strength of the Aussie dollar that $1 AUD could buy us eight and a half thousand rupiah. Relying on a couple of locals to steer me through a labyrinthic, dilapidated and stifling hot wet market, I stumbled on a couple of very nice T-shirts (Tassie Devil and Snoopy) for myself at a dilapidated (and stifling hot) wet market for 30 000 rupiah which works out to be about 3.50 AUD. And no bargaining (in this instance) was required either.
Cheap as chips.
But we are foreigners... travellers... passers-by. We come, redistribute what little wealth we have and go... In some areas, modernity hasn't completely taken a hold on things. In others, it's like waltzing into a parallel universe Westfield shopping centre department where the sales people stalk you and speak almost no English.
Money, however, talks big... cash, or Visa... the locals know that language. It matters little where you're from as long as you can pay.
Money is the great interpreter between strangers... and seldom lost in translation...

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