Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to Africa

I can hardly believe that I am really here, back in Africa.  And what seems more amazing is that I am in Nigeria!  Nigeria!  A place people have heard of, and as is true for most of the continent, usually not for anything good.  It's all so very strange, being here.

As I expected, I am a bit homesick for Zambia.  This place is unlike anywhere I've ever been before, but bares enough resemblance to several places I know as to make me homesick for all of them at once.  And although I knew I would feel this way, at least in the beginning, it seemed impossible to really prepare for.  I just have to keep reminding myself, "I'm in Nigeria; I'm in Nigeria."  But that fact is still so amazing to me!
Perhaps the biggest surprise here is how expensive everything is.  The exchange rate right now is about 100 naira to 1 dollar.  This should make things easy.  I ought to be able to just put a . into prices to read them.  If the signs says "350,"  I should think "$3.50."  But it doesn't happen like that.  You see, the prices look just like they did in Zambia, but the actual cost is hugely different.

For example, a box of corn flakes here is #11000 and in Zambia was K11000.  I wouldn't buy them in Zambia because K11000 had the buying power of $11, although it was really was worth about $2.50.  Here however, the cornflakes actually cost $11!

Since the prices look familiar to me, I find myself not thinking in conversions but automatically deciding if something is a good price or not.  We got ice cream today from a little vendor for 300.  I thought, "wow, 300 is a really good price for ice cream," because it would have been in Zambia.  However, $3 is not a good price for ice cream.  (There's a reason I don't do Ben & Jerry's or any of those other fancy schmancy places.  I'll take my very yummy well-priced Leon's, thank you very much.)  The money stuff will just take some getting used to... a long with several other things.

Good news!  Good news!  Since writing the above,  I have learned that the store I was taken to is the most expensive store in the city.  It is not good that she took me there.  It is good that things shouldn't cost that much anywhere else!  Now, why anyone would take someone to the most expensive store is beyond me, but oh well.

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