Learning to count

Piggy_bankOne of the things that I worked on when I first got back was learning to count to 1000.  After I had that down, then I had to work for another week to be able to get the money right. 

if I go to the market and am told in the language that a pile of tomatoes costs 50 francs, I will hand the woman a 25 franc coin (about 5 cents) and we will both be happy.

Saying something costs 50 francs when all it takes to pay for it is
a 25 franc coin is not, at this point, a bargaining technique. I’ve already greeted and bargained, this is the end of the transaction.

People here have been handling 500 franc (about 1 dollar) bills and calling them "one thousand francs" for as long as any one can remember. Never mind that it has "500" printed on it! A bill that size and that color is simply called "one thousand francs". That ‘s just the way it is! Why?  The explanation that I usually get is that it’s a way to trick outsiders at the market.  Insiders know to divide by two.

This is why it takes me so long to figure out how much my pile of tomatoes or onions is at the market – or (more often) my bottle of Coke.  First I have to understand the numbers, then I have to divide in my head.  When I get it right, everyone is thrilled.

One thought on “Learning to count

  • That sounds almost like what I experienced in Haiti. Their official monetary unit of exchange is called a Gourde. The real fun is nobody uses it in the marketplace. Everyone refers to prices in Haitian dollars. The trick is to remember that there are 5 gourde to a Haitian dollar. Pretty easy math if you know the trick. Of course the funniest part is Haitian dollars do not really exist.

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