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Friday, December 09, 2005

A Friend Heads for Brazil with a New Perspective

I'm at my Mom's cleaning up yesterday when I find this old clay piggy bank. It's nothing special but it has a single coin in it. I open the bottom and pull out what looks like a nickel. On closer inspection it turns out to be 5 Shillings from the Republic of Somalia. On the back is stamped: XXI CENTURY 2000 FOOD SECURITY FAO.

I place the coin in my pocket and go into town to run some errands. On my way back I stop for coffee and drop the contents of my pocket --including the 5 shillings -- into the tip jar.

Just then a friend I haven't seen in months walks in. The guy has a tour boat and restaurant business that failed last year. As a result he's hard pressed for cash. He tells me he's heading for Brazil to run a 125' supply vessel for the Tidewater Company. He chose that over the Gulf of Mexico and the Persian Gulf.

I say to myself: "Brazil, Gulf of Mexico, Persian Gulf -- Somalia! My coin!"

I go back to the counter and ask the guy if I can rifle through his tip jar. He shoots me a look but I ignore it. I dump the contents of the tip jar into my hand and search for my coin. My friend is mortified until I show him what I was after.

Holding it in his hand, he says: "It's like plastic."

"I know," I say. "I think it's aluminum."

He looks at the coin up close and reads where it says Food Security, then he bounces the coin in his hand a few times.

"Just when you think you have nothing," he says, "you're reminded of people who have less than nothing."

"That's why I wanted it," I add.

After we say goodbye I come home and do some research:

FAO is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.

The coin is a commemorative minted in Slovakia. It has virtually no monetary value.

There are 1789.78 Somali Shillings in one U.S. Dollar. (An Iraqi Dinar is worth more. Curiously, an Iranian Rial is worth almost five times less than a Somali Shilling. How is that possible? Says something about the situation in Iran.)

The average life expectancy for a male in Somalia is 46.36 years.



Anonymous said...

make sure you tip the guy who gave you back the coin....

seabgb said...

Don't worry. He made out OK. I had about a buck in real change that I'd already put in the jar.