Tuesday, April 04, 2006

In search of osan-rahun

There are a mere three banks in Timor: the Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) bank, a Portuguese bank and an Indonesian bank. Naturally enough, we frequent the ANZ bank. One of my many gripes about living in Timor is the incomprehensible difficulty in obtaining “osan-rahun” (small change – coins). Every time we go to the ANZ we are greeted with “laiha” (without) when we ask to “osan-troka” (change money).

The ATM machine only dispenses with $10 and $20 notes which is fine when paying the rent, or for my impulse DVD and supermarket shopping sprees, or the six monthly sanity trip to Bali, but it is absolutely impossible to pay for our daily lunch in Timorese restaurants, taxi rides and “mikrolet” journeys with such large notes. Why does the ANZ bank never have $1 notes, 50c and 10c coins? Why is it near impossible to obtain? I simply do not understand.

Timor’s currency is the American dollar which I assume they have to import from that country’s Federal Reserve Bank. However, Timor produces its own coins which of course are also probably minted elsewhere. When I ask the teller, “when will you receive small notes and coins?” they always shrug their shoulders and say, “hau la hatene” (I do not know) and “mai fali aban” (come back tomorrow). And the next day when I dutifully make my way to the out of the way bank in the sweltering daylight heat, I am greeted with the same response “laiha”. Ugghhhhh!

Today we spent fifteen minutes in the queue and then another fifteen minutes in front of the teller who found it difficult to count out $595 in $5 notes (the smallest note they had) and $19 worth of 25c coins in lieu of $1 notes and 50c coins. I could feel my blood pressure rising and told Daniel that I had to exit the bank immediately before my arteries exploded.
Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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