A minor victory

17 September 2005
5:53 PM

I’m pretty comfortable talking with people that I know in Spanish now, but complete strangers are another thing entirely. Yesterday I took another baby step in language acquisition: I walked up to a store, asked if they had Simba Manzana (I didn’t try to find out ahead of time!), how much it cost, and then bought it and thanked the saleslady. Simba is a brand of soda here and they have an amazing green apple flavor. If you’ve ever had a green apple lollipop, it’s a drink that tastes like that but a little less intense. At dinner last night my host family and I drank the Simba that I brought home like a proud Neanderthal hunter.

Bolivian bills

Since I’m on the topic of money, the currency in Bolivia looks like this (see photos at right). The current exchange rate is about 8 Bolivianos to the U.S. dollar, so the money pictured is worth less than $20. As associates we receive roughly Bs. 200 each month in spending money (roughly $25). Here are some examples of things we might buy:

  • an hour at an internet cafe, Bs. 3 or $0.45
  • a two liter bottle of Simba, Bs. 5 or $0.60
  • a three course lunch, Bs. 16 or $2
  • a car wash on the street, Bs. 5 or $0.60

We’re always excited when we travel and find that things are very cheap. Of course, it generally means that someone is getting a raw deal somewhere along the line, the economy is comparatively underdeveloped, or that people are desperate enough to accept little for their work. I should throw in a disclaimer that I only took one economics course in college, so I’ll return with some better answers after I consult my econ friends Vince, Percival, and Kate M. who took Developmental Economics of Latin America.