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.
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:
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.