Follow the money

By Gordon W. Draper
This item appears on page 39 of the May 2019 issue.

This month’s winner is GORDON W. DRAPER of Livonia, Michigan:

While on a tour of Burkina Faso in West Africa in 2011, we stopped at its capital, Ouagadougou. As in many economically developing countries, getting small-value currency there could be a problem, yet you need this type of money to tip for taking pictures or to go into WCs.

Banks don’t like to exchange bills smaller than $50 or $100, however, and shops usually don’t have small bills to give in change. Forget about travelers’ checks, charge or debit cards or even ATMs!

I was heading back to my hotel and saw a shoeshine man by the front door. Knowing I didn’t have anything small in local currency, which I assumed I would need in order to pay him, I went into the hotel thinking that surely the largest hotel in the nation’s capital would be able to give me something smaller.

I presented the smallest bill I had to the desk clerk. He looked inside his cash drawer and shrugged his shoulders. But he knew where to get change. He took my bill outside to the shoeshine man!

The shoeshine man gave him bills in change, which the clerk handed to me. I then handed a few of the scarce bills back to the “banker” for my shine.

Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.