Look, I’m a billionaire!!!
Forget about the Benjamins (US$100 bills); it’s all about the Billions, Baby.
Trading artifacts is definitely an activity common to foreigners and locals in countries everywhere. Items from the United States that are very “normal” and indistinct to me can make a unique and invaluable treat to someone in a country or environment where international travel is not frequent. Similarly, items that I think are rare and exotic may be overly abundant and ordinary in communities that produce them locally. This is where trade becomes fun and mutually rewarding.
Today, my trade was in money. I should note that In addition to the Namibians with which I work and live, I have friends and colleagues in Khorixas from a variety of countries, including Nigeria, Canada, England, Malaysia, and Zimbabwe.
I gave a few US bills to a local friend from Zimbabwe, in exchange for a few Zimbabwean bills that bear numbers that most of my peers/countrymen would never see on green paper in their US wallets.
I am pictured with Zimbabwean notes valued at $1 million, $100 million, $200 million, and $1 billion. Talk about bling! BUT…..the figures can be deceiving.
According to a January 2009 BBC report (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7859033.stm), Zimbabwe “ is in the grip of world-record hyperinflation which has left the Zimbabwean dollar virtually worthless...
“Teachers, doctors and civil servants have gone on strike complaining that their salaries - which equal trillions of Zimbabwean dollars - are not even enough to catch the bus to work each day.”
Time.com reported last year that bank note denominations ran to 75 billion Zimbabwean dollars. A pint of milk, if it can be found at all, now cost 3 billion dollars, or about 30 U.S. cents.
The Zimbabwean government recently suspended the use of the local currency and now uses the US dollar.
So maybe I’m not a real billionaire, since my bill isn’t valued at more than about 10 US cents; but, it’s still a pretty cool piece of (rather unfortunate) history.
And as I now have friends from the country of Zimbabwe, I’ll be keeping a closer watch on how the country’s economy is recovering.