Locating Cash, New Crisp "Big Face" Dollar Bills, for Central Asia Tour

The Tour Company has made it clear I will be dealing in a cash economy. That leaves me with two problems: (1) Where to put it all and (2) How much to carry and in what denominations.

I solved the problem of carrying it around by opting for some basic security. I decided to put some in a purse when I went to the bazaars, but leave the rest locked up in my suitcase.  I ordered a drab gray purse with a cross shoulder steel wired strap and steel mesh reinforced body. I also ordered a special TSA combination lock for my suitcase. Apparently TSA can unlock it but no one else can. It came in lime green, hot pink, or black. I decided on the lime green. Neutral color but bright enough to spot. I’ll probably leave some cash in my shoe, too, father-style.

Problem number two was stickier to solve. After several  e-mails, mathematical calculations, and debates  with Marty, one of the other travelers, Carol, and Stacy from Geo Expeditions, I came up with a total of $1,500 in the following denominations: 50 one dollar bills, 50 five dollar bills, 50 ten dollar bills, 20 twenty dollar bills, four fifty dollar bills and one  one hundred dollar bill.

And then came the challenge. These had to be crisp, new,unmarked, untorn, unfolded bills. A friend warned me to check with my bank; they might not have them on hand.  I called. No, they didn’t have them. Could they order them.  No. They had to take whatever came from the Federal Reserve and the Fed only sent new bills around the holidays. Actually
several of the bank’s clients who often traveled to Greece, Turkey and countries in Central  Asia always came into the bank around the holidays to pick up a pile of new cash that they hoarded until they went on their trips.They called the bills the”Big Face” bills. But I didn’t have time to wait until Christmas.

I started with a local branch of BMO Harris in Hammond. Although they didn’t have any a crisp new bills, I figured the main branch in Chicago would have them. So I called. No luck. Now  I was beginning to worry.

Carol had managed $1,100 from her Chicago bank and was supposed to get the remainder the following day from another bank. She offered to ask Chase for an additional $1,500 for me.

In the meantime I began to call other local banks. One found enough tens, still wrapped. Another discovered new fifties and hundreds in the vault.  She also had some twenties, fives and ones that were in pretty good shape so I bought them. But I wasn’t comfortable. What if the merchants wouldn’t take them.  They weren’t as “potato chip crisp”  as the others. Then Carol called. Chase had come through. She had my $1,500 but the twenties weren’t too good. Now I had $3,00. And I still didn’t have many good twenties. This was getting complicated.

We decided to meet later in the week to try to figure out our money.

Filed under: Central Asia, Uncategorized

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  • Congratulations on your blog and your brave trip! How nice that we all can learn from your experience and enjoy your wonderful writing. Thank you.
    Our love and wishes to you for a safe and interesting banquet!

    Gobette

  • In reply to gobette:

    I'm so glad that my blog is a good learning experience as well as entertaining. The whole trip has been quite an education for me.

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    Carolyn Boiarsky

    " I am an American," but not "Chicago born" like Augie March. Only Chicago aged. I'd like to think that if Henry Louis Gates were to investigate my geneology, he would discover in my past three women who traveled around the globe, chronicling their adventures. Sarah Kemble Knight traveled 112 miles by carriage from Boston to New York in 1704, a journey most women did not embark on alone (and men did so only with some trepidation). In fact, women were only just beginning to exercise their independence in the 1920's when Emily Kimbrough took off with her friend, Cornelia Otis Skinner, to explore Europe. But it is Auntie Mame, transforming herself from a New Yorker to the wife of an Austrian Baron and climbing the Matterhorn, whose mantra I have adopted. "LIFE IS A BANQUET...LIVE!" I began travelling in the 1960's when I traveled around western Europe between graduating from the Univiersity of Pennsylvania and my first job as a statehouse correspondent for UPI (United Press International) in Charleston, West Virginia, which was about as foreign a place as Europe was to someone who grew up in the environs of Philadelphia. Since then, I've also travelled to Kaunas, Lithuania, to teach at Vytautus Magnus University and to Sheffield, England, to present a paper at an engineering conference. I've been to the Alps and seen Auntie Mame's Matterhorn while climbing, by a series of cable cars rather than by foot, toward the peak of Mont Blanc. For the past 10 years my husband and I have been traveling to unique places: a sheep farm during lambing season in England's Lake Country, a hotel on one of the Barromeo Islands in the middle of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy, and a cottage in Dun Quin on the Dingle Peninsula which the Irish claim is the last parish before Boston. Between excursions, I'm a professor in the Department of English at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Indiana,. My husband passed away recently and, Auntie Mame-style, I am in the process of transforming myself. Last year I joined a tour to Central Asia. This year I'm going to China to work with the pandas. A new adventure. Another banquet.

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