Bahia and money game
Trip Start May 05, 2009
35Trip End Sep 03, 2009
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Upon reaching Bahia, I hoofed around for a while, found a hostal, and decided this would be a one-day stopover. Since I found litte to reccommend Bahia-wise, I am going to digress a bit, and discuss an interesting Ecuadorian phenomenon I call "The Change Game".
For those that don't know, Ecuador scrapped their own "monetary system" (forgive my lack of precision in terms, I am not an economist) due to crazy volatility in value, and switched all their money over to U.S
I have not pinned down the exact reason for it, but apparently trying to pay for anything without exact change is akin to tempting a cat into a bathtub filled with cold water. Here is a typical scenario:
Scene: I want to buy a couple yummy-looking breakfast pastry for 25 cents each. Hand vendor a five dollar bill.
Response: Sour look, a bit of quick Spanish-slangy discussion with nearby vendors, no doubt disparaging the silly gringo for trying to pass such a large bill for such a small purchase. I wait around for 5 or 10 minutes, until the seller resurfaces with my change.
Initially I thought maybe this was an unusual situation, but each time I made a purchase along my journey, I found the situation repeated itself. Handing someone a 20 dollar bill was almost unthinkable, unless the total was 19 dollars and change. I had to visit several banks just to get a few 100 dollar bills broken down
Even at the bank, with the man in front of me sporting a 6 inch thick stack of 20's, changing my hundred dollar bill was frowned upon--literally. I gave my saddest set of tourist puppy dog eyes and had to plead for "billetes mas pequenas" (smaller bills). It is an almost humorous situation, but stress-inducing at the same time.
Okay, money rant over. The moral is break down your bills at every possible opportunity, and don't even think of entering the country with hundreds.
Thanks for reading, next stop: Puerto Lopez!