Jesse Lonergan

Money

July 6, 2009 by  
Filed under NBM Blog

A little bit more about Turkmenistan and the background for my new book Joe and Azat.

One of the things that it took a little while to get used to in Turkmenistan was the money. The Turkmen manat was valued at about 25,000 to the dollar. The largest bill was for 10,000 manat. I made about two million manat a month and I was always paid in cash. This meant that I was paid with at least two hundred 10,000 manat bills. Sometimes I was unlucky and I would get paid in 5,000 manat notes, which meant four hundred bills. I always walked out of the bank with a brick of bills. You could get a polyester suit for about a million manat (mine was brown), but when you bought it you had to count out all those bills with whomever you were buying the suit from. 1,2,3,4,5… all the way to 100, and then maybe you’d have an argument about whether you had shorted the seller or the seller was trying to rip you off and you’d have to count them all over again.

It could be a real hassle.

But for me it was rather easy. I got paid every month on time with no problems. Turkmen teachers would go months without getting paid. Then suddenly the money would show up at the bank, but the teachers couldn’t just go to the bank and take the money out. The director (the principal) would have to go the bank and take out all the teacher’s salaries at once. You would see the director carrying tarpaulin bags the size of trash bags filled with money.

Totally ridiculous.

But I did feel a little bit like a high roller with a giant wad of 10,000 manat bills in my pocket.

Too bad each one was only worth about forty cents.

Of course, you could get a beer for forty cents.

Anyway, check out my book when it hits stores in September. And check out my blog for non-Turkmenistan related stuff.

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