Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gas Doesn't Come By The Gallon Here.

Bucharest, Romania
Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ok, now where was I before I was so toothily interrupted?

Oh, right. I was telling you that I’m back in Bucharest.

First, let me answer the most asked question from y'all, so we can get it out of the way and get on to some good, juicy dish about people you don't even know yet.

"How much does a gallon of gas cost?"

Everyone wants to know, so here goes.

Gas in Bucharest is now about 3.3 RON per litre. Approximately 4 litres to an approximate gallon. like quarts, or bottles of Pepsi. So 3.3 times four would be 12 and 12/10ths per kililitre. Oh no. Let me see. 10 tenth’s to a RON with two left over and three times three is nine, oops, no, three times four is twelve, plus the two extra from the 12/10ths. Okay, got it. That’s 13.2 RON. RON is new Lei, which removed three zero’s from the old money, which they changed out of after I left last time. Now where was I? 13.2 RON, which as of Yahoo financial today, is worth, um, forty two cents, oh, wait, let me check again, because the RON is rising against the dollar (darn!) and every penny counts. Ok the RON is at forty one and an half cents. (Hey, I made money. Half a cent. I think. Or I lost a half. This is too confusing.) So forty one and a half cents USD times 13.2 equals …ta da!...FIVE DOLLAR$ AND FORTY-EIGHT CENT$ A GALLON. Approximately.


Welcome to my daily world.

I get to do the same math dance for every loaf of bread, can of corn and IKEA chifferobe I decide to buy.

Before, it would have cost me 132,000 (yup, thousand) Old Lei. It was mostly an all cash society when I was here in 2003-2004, with no credit cards, certainly, and absolutely no debit cards. But now Romania is part of the EU and getting ready in half a dozen years or so to switch over to the Euro, just to make poor foreigner expats like me even more confused.

When I was here before, I got paid mostly in wire transfers into the US, but still got about an inch of old Lei on payday for my everyday purchases (like expensive benzina/petrol (gas).

The people who worked for me, and didn't have a US bank account to wire transfer into, all got paid with about 3-5 inch thicknesses of money monthly. In a sealed white business envelope the likes of which you could just imagine George Raft slipping subtly into the breast pocket of his expensive suit jacket while Eliot Ness (to mix my metaphors again) looked the other way.

It was even tougher calculating the price of anything on the spot then than you just joined me doing above. But you know something? I kind of miss the old lei system.

Sure it was hard to count and looked like monopoly money to an expat. But for about thirty bucks a million, once a month, I could honestly tell my folks that I was, at last, finally, a multi-millionaire.

Today it would have cost forty-one, fifty.

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