Tag Archives: Money

Money, money, money

26 Jun

“Money speaks sense in a language all nations understand.”

~ Aphra Behn

The Honduran unit of currency is called the Lempira (HNL). Twenty lempiras is roughly the equivalent of one US or Aussie dollar.

Lempiras_front

Compared to Australia, everything here is cheap. After a few weeks of mentally converting prices from lempiras to dollars, I gave up the habit as I never found a price tag that was cost-prohibitive.

It’s funny how quickly you get used to the new ‘normal’. In my first month here I decided a second pair of jeans would be a useful addition to my wardrobe so went shopping.

I wandered around the local equivalent of Myer* until I found a pair of jeans that not only fit, but were on special for HNL$525.

*A department store called ‘Carrion’, which always makes me imagine vultures feasting on dead animals.

Five hundred and twenty five. That seems like a fairly large amount. Especially when you write it out in words and not numbers.

I ummed and ahhed for about 20 minutes. Did I really need that second pair of jeans? Was it worth spending so much money? Were there other more important purchases I should direct my budget towards?

My indecisiveness was quickly eliminated when it occurred to me HNL$525 was only AUD$27.50. Not a huge expense and certainly not worth the 20 minutes of dithering.

But when you consider the family I met with TECHO had an income of $4750 lempiras per month, HNL$525 suddenly looks like a huge amount of money again.

And the Zara jeans I saw for HNL$1190? Exorbitant.

I guess it’s all relative. Five hundred and twenty five. A pittance for some, a huge amount for others.

Which leads me to the best $25 I’ve spent while here in Honduras.

No, it’s wasn’t spent on my pair of new jeans, or on chilenas de leche, or on my hammock. (Although I am pretty damn excited about the hammock.)

It was a $25 Kiva loan to Don José so he could buy raw ingredients for his business, selling breakfasts and lunches in San Pedro Sula.

If you haven’t heard of Kiva I strongly encourage you to check out their website and consider making a loan.

$25 probably isn’t much for you, but it can make a huge and lasting difference to a Kiva loan recipient.

Lempiras_back

Note: I have no affiliation with Kiva, apart from having made several loans; I just think they’re a super organisation and well worth supporting.

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My arch-enemy: Ramón Rosa

7 May

“El aporte de Ramón Rosa para la cultura y la política hondureña es de primer orden, de hecho es uno de los más grandes pensadores que ha tenido Honduras desde que existimos como nación.”

~ Mario Argueta, Historiador

Ramón Rosa was born in Tegicigalpa on 14 July 1848. He was a prominent journalist, liberal politician, lawyer, diplomat and writer in Central America throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The historian Mario Argueta wrote: “Ramón Rosa’s contribution to Honduran politics and culture is of the first order, in fact he is one of the greatest thinkers Honduras has had since we began to exist as a nation.”

He sounds like a decent bloke, and undeniably made many important contributions to Honduras’ development, so why is he my arch-nemesis?

This is why:

500 lempiras

It’s his face that graces the Honduran 500 lempira note.

It’s legal tender, but pull out one of these bad boys to pay for anything less than 400-and-something lempiras and you’d think you’d offered to pay with a wad of chewed up gum.

A few weeks ago on the cab ride home I opened my wallet to find that I’d spent all my 100 lempira notes. Cue mild panic. I asked my driver if he had change, which of course he didn’t.

No worries, there’s a drive-through Espresso Americano near my house, so I figured I’d treat myself to a coffee and break the note. It was 5pm, so after a full day of service surely they’d have plenty of cash on hand.

We arrived at the service window and I ordered my latte. Before she’d even finished relaying the order to the barista, the hawk-eyed cashier spotted the 500 lempira bill I was nervously clutching and asked me if I had anything smaller.

I gave her my most winsome and apologetic smile and told her that this was all I had. She promptly refused me service.

That’s right, rejected by the coffee shop because I had too much money. For a second or two I contemplated buying 400 lempiras worth of coffee (which at 24 lempiras a latte is a LOT of coffee) but I decided that was a tad ridiculous.

Fortunately my taxi driver is lovely, and he knows where I live, so he agreed to let me pay him the next day.

Carrying around a wallet full of 500 bills is like carrying a pocket full of unstable uranium isotopes. You’re constantly worrying about where, how and when you’ll be able to safely get rid of them.

I’ve started taking out 900, 1400 or 1900 lempiras at ATMs. At least then I know I’m guaranteed to be given four 100 lempira notes which will hopefully tide me over until I can work out how to break the dreaded 500 lempira bills.

I’m a bit obsessive compulsive so I normally make sure the notes in my wallet are aligned the same way with the famous faces to the front. All except the 500 bills with Ramón “Hard-to-Break” Rosa. I turn his note the other way.

I can’t stand looking at his smug, unbreakable face.