I just sat down to read a chapter or two from David Sedaris’ collection of stories, Me Talk Pretty One Day. Tucked inside I found the crinkled up, tattered 10 spot drawn on the Banco Central De Venezuela I brought home as a souvenir from China.
How did I come to own this precious note worth 0.004660 of a US Dollar? Let me share . . .
Upon boarding the charter bus at the LaoShan velodrome that cold, wet, overcast morning post-Beijing World Cup, I sat down next to a man I presumed was the Venezuelan National Team doctor. We were seated in the back, and I was preoccupied with the men transporting our bikes to the airport—wondering if they would sell mine on the black market. (I’d been pegged for an interloper.)
Here, I thought I’d successfully interpreted the bus schedule (written in Chinese), thinking the organizers hadn’t listed my team on their schedule. I didn’t realize the organizing committee didn’t cover the cost of shuttling trade teams to the airport. So when i got to the velodrome and the American team wasn’t on the list, I was informed they would not take responsibility for my bags and couldn’t guarantee they’d make it to the Beijing Airport. The man preferred I vanish immediately, but fortunately, the Japanese coach is French and he stepped in to say ‘no problem.’ As the only American on a bus filled with Japanese and Venezuelan cyclists, I soon learned this was a vulnerable position.
Back to the Diez Bolivares. What do you do when a 50-something man opens his wallet and gestures madly at the idea of exchanging currencies in a brotherly love, the world is a beautiful place and we’re all family sort of way? If you’re quick on your feet, you say ‘no way, Man! What do I look like? Some kind of fool?” Or, if you’re like me, which is disoriented from the number of languages flying around your head, you don’t realize until you’re pulling out a President Lincoln that you’re in the middle of being taken.
Then you wonder if it’s possible to back out of the transaction gracefully, not knowing how long the drive to the Beijing Airport would be with an indignant Venezuelan man sitting next to you.
Then as you hand over what amounts to $10,729.0 Venezuelan Bolivares, you figure it just cost you $5 bucks American for a momento that reminds you to stop being a gullible fool.
I have no idea what you can buy for $10, 729 Venezuelan Bolivares . . . but I hope it goes far. It bought me a bookmark.
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