One of the things I find myself still trying to learn about in Palau is differentiating the coins and their respective values.
When we arrived here a couple of months ago, I had only one US dollar in my wallet, a gift from a Balikbayan friend from Canada years back and the edges are already worn and stained. I had been tempted to encash it many times when I had no money but the dollar bill never left its sanctuary in my wallet because of sentimental value. I dragged along plenty of Philippine coins with me I had to pay extra to the local airline we boarded from Davao City to Manila because I forgot to have the contents of my coin bank changed to bills but these are useless in Palau.
Aside from the solitary dollar, I was practically “penniless” until we were given loans from the office to tide us over until we get our first paycheck. Used to the heavy coins we have in the Philippines, I just tossed the coins around in my room during the first few weeks, leaving them on the bed, on the drawer, in my locker and practically anywhere. I did not feel its real value because they felt like useless coins. I was able to immediately recognize the quarter dollar because I had one in my coin collection years ago but I get confused with the nickel (five cents), the dime (ten cents) and the penny (one cent).
At a glance, the nickel and the quarter (twenty five cents) look almost the same save for a little difference in size but they could easily be mistaken for the other. The washing machine at the laundromat taught me the difference. A load of laundry here costs $.75 and you have to feed the machine three quarter coins. The dryer demands the same price. Without meaning to, I dropped three nickel coins and the machine refused to budge. People here very seldom handwash clothes. It’s faster and easier to wash and dry it at the Laundromat and you’ll be spared the waste of time and energy worrying if your clothes are still at the clotheslines when you come back.
During my first week here, I often wondered and asked why the nickel is bigger in size than the dime when the value of the dime is twice than that of the nickel but now I don’t. I have many things to worry and think about than coin sizes, my expanding waistline for instance (I’ve graduated from small to medium size now) but I can’t talk about it yet.
Many a time I have experienced embarrassing moments when I had to stand in the counter and fumble in my coin purse for the loose change needed, with an anxious-looking cashier trying to figure out if I have enough money to pay for my purchases and the long line of customers shuffling their feet behind me. It’s funny but customers all seemed to be in a hurry at the times like these.
I was at a gasoline station in downtown Koror, (Palau’s capital) counting (or trying to figure out which is which to be able to pay $1.75 to the cashier when I went out to buy bento one time for a late lunch. (Bento is a meal that comes with rice and usually two or three viands, packed in a transparent disposable container and tied with rubber bands. It is the instant solution for people who are too lazy to cook their meals like me.)
Hungry and pressed for time, I got exasperated in pretending to act like I know my coins and poured out the whole contents of my purse on the counter. Coins of various denominations rolled out in different destinations so that the cashier and I had a busy time catching and stopping the coins from rolling on the floor. I made her pick out the appropriate change she needed so I won’t have to wrack my brains trying to figure things out.
After two months, I still have to look up at the ceiling for a few seconds to calculate things before I will be able to extract the exact loose change I need for my purchases. Maybe I should paste coin samples in my headboard so I can study them before going to bed and upon waking up. What do you think?