Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Fistful of Sum

For some reason unknown to any but the powers that be, the largest bill in Uzbekistan is the 1000 sum bill, worth about 75 cents US. There are also 500 sum bills, 200 sum bills, and 100 sum bills. We have not yet seen any coins whatsoever. Rumor has it that a 5000 sum bill has been designed, but it has been several years, and it still has not appeared.

(We remember being in Turkey when the exchange rate was 425,000 lira to the dollar, but the government had printed 10,000,000 lira bills.)

Hence $100 US equals at least 140 bills, more if some 500s are included. On Aug 15, when Mike changed $200 US, the pack of bills he recieved was 1 3/4 inches, or apx 4.5 centimeters. This is way too much to fit in a pants pocket, both for weight and size. Mike carried the money in his pocket at first, and got comments from people about the money being too dangerously visible. Eventually Carol tried carrying the money in her concealed waist pack, but that too was way too bulky. We finally started carrying the huge wads of cash in a side pocket of our carry on bags, violating the cardinal rule of secreting all reserve money hidden well inside our clothes.

Just imagine how difficult it is to carry $1000 US, or as Said hinted, how difficult it was to carry all the money necessary for the wedding party. In this country, you don't have to be a gangster to be carrying around a suitcase of money, and you don't have to be a bank to own a money counting machine.

As Mae West said: "Is that a pickle in your pocket, or . . ."

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