18 February 2011

Living in Niger Will Force Me to Count

16 September 2011
I ventured out on my own first thing this morning . . . okay, so really I just crossed the street to go to the patisserie  . . . but it was on my own.  
The bakery was quite large inside, but also quiet empty.  After living in France I got used to small boulangeries packed with bread and pastries: in glass cases, stacked on shelves, hanging in baskets on the walls.  And while my bakery this morning had an enormous glass case in the front, only 1/4 of it was full.  They had nine types of bread, including baguettes, which were sold by man sitting at a lone table in the middle of the room.
I had already ordered a croissant when then the pain au raisin caught my eye.  So I asked for one of those too (Hey!  No judging!  We don’t get these things in Galmi!).  At the register, la madame behind the caisse said ‘Six cent vignt-cinq’ (see-sant-van-sank).  I looked in my wallet at the colored paper that will soon become understandable currency.  ‘Six cent’ I said to myself. ‘Oh, duh, easy, six hundred . . . vignt-cinq . . . mince!  What’s vignt-cinq . . . vignt-cinq???’ I looked at my bills . . . all 1000cfa or higher.  I dumped my coins in my hand turning each one over to find the number.  The shiniest silver and gold colored one (that looks an awful lot like 2euros) was 500cfa.  ‘Now to find that blasted vignt-cinq.  If only I could remember what that number is!!’  There was a 50cfa coin in my pile, right under the 25, so I gave that one to the lady.  Figured she stare at me if it wasn’t enough and then I’d try again, or she’d give me change. 
As she was doing the math herself, vignt-cinq came rushing into my mind: ‘IT’S 25 YOU DUMMY!’  I had always been good at the 20’s . . . it’s the hundreds (cents) and the thousands (milles) that I have trouble with . . . but since 10,000cfa is about $5, I’m going to get really good at those big numbers!
Speaking of food shopping, we stopped yesterday at a little store where a lot of expats like to stop.  I was really surprised by what they had!  (and I confess, in the midst of being overwhelmed, I was also excited)  On the shelves they had many of the Kellogg’s cereal names that I’m familiar with (rice krispies, frosted flakes, coco puffs, etc), extra virgin olive oil, Heinz ketchup, Bonne Maman jam (my favorite from France!), Pringles, a shelf full of cookies that looks like it came straight from any Cora or Carrefoure (grocery stores we have in France), they even had packets of Ramen Noodles!  We will definitely be stopping there before heading to Galmi! 

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