Fair Trade

#5 collects special money. People who know him bring him back leftover currency when they go out of the country.

Image: anorak.co.uk

We have friends who come from a missionary family in Zimbabwe, where for several years inflation has been out of control. These friends brought #5 back a $250,000 Zimbabwe bill from a visit in 2009. He thought it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen and at first thought he was rich. But to put it in terms the kids could relate to, our friends told them that you would need a whole wheelbarrow full of money to buy a pizza. When he understood the actual value of bill was pretty much nil, he still thought it was neat.

Zimbabwe’s political climate is painful and heartbreaking and we worry a lot about our friends when they’re over there, which is most of the time. So like I always do to deal with something that sucks, I’m on the lookout for anything to lighten up the situation. In my family, you don’t usually have to look far.

One day, #5 came home from school with some extra Bakugans. If you’re unfamiliar with these, they’re one of the most popular non-electronic toy for boys, kind of a more intricate version of a Transformer, or as the company describes them:

Exploding Sphere!


#5: Look at all the Bakugans Matthew gave me!

Me: That’s great, sweetie.

Something about the sound as he dumped them out made me stop what I was doing and actually go over and look at all the Bakugans Matthew gave him. There was a pretty sizable pile.

Me: Wow, that’s a lot. How many did he give you?

#5: All of them. Like thirty.

Me: You mean all the ones he had?

#5: Yes.

Me: Why would he do that?

#5: I traded him.

Me: What did you trade him?

#5: My $250,000 Zimbabwe money.

My mouth fell open. I could just imagine the exchange. Matthew probably thought he was going to take this $250,000 bill out and be able to buy every Bakugan ever made, a sports car, a Wii and every possible game for it, a jetpack, and still have money left over to treat every pretty girl at the elementary school to a new pair of Uggs.

Me: Did you tell him it’s basically worthless?

#5: He didn’t ask.

Our school gives a directory out every year with all the families’ phone numbers and addresses in it. I like to think it was created specifically for times like these. I looked up Matthew’s phone number and called. I got his middle-school-aged sister on the phone, who told me neither Matthew nor their mom were back yet. As I explained the situation, I grew confident that none of this information was ever going to be passed on.

Me: Just do me a favor. Tell Matthew, and your mom, that if he gets bummed out and wants his Bakugans back, we’ll trade back. Okay?

Sister: Yeah, sure, okay.

It took much longer than expected. A couple of weeks, in fact. But eventually, Matthew discovered that he couldn’t even buy a single thing with that bill, and the trade was made back.

And that’s the story of how #5 rented thirty Bakugans on the cheap for two weeks- with a little help from President Mugabe.


25 thoughts on “Fair Trade

  1. Great story! I didn’t know they had bills as big as that in Zimbabwe, even with the super-high inflation. A joke about that one is how people would rather pay for their meal at a restaurant after ordering the food, for fear that the price would be much higher by the time they leave.

  2. Great story – I forwarded it story to my Mom, who hails from Rhodesia originally. She’s always saying it used to be a nice country.

  3. That. Is HILARIOUS. LOVE that story. #5 is a great character, and you’re a great storyteller.
    I thought about collecting money from different place too. Then I realized that I don’t really have anywhere to keep/display it. Same as my shot glass collection. And teacup collection. *sighs* Someday, I’ll have a house with a room just for collections and trophies and such.

  4. #5 is a freaking genius. I’m pretty sure that’s how people get rich: by making someone believe what they have is valuable, or at least not telling them it isn’t valuable at all, and then taking their actually valuable stuff as trade. Brilliant. Also, what a good half-assed stepmom you are, making sure Matthew knew the real score.

  5. That was a great story! You know nearly every time I read one of your posts I can relate, and usually it will spiral me back in time. My boys were famous for ‘trading’. Unfortunately I felt like we always got the short end of the stick. Expensive new tennis shoes would be worn out, then another pair would find it’s way onto one of my son’s feet (usually it was my youngest that participated in the ‘swapping’). When I’d ask where the new pair went, I’d get back “I liked his better and he liked mine.” I stare down at the old pair on his feet with some other kids graffiti scrawled all over it, and tell him to take them back…NOW! Cd’s, Playstation games, etc.. something was always coming up missing and there would be another in it’s place. Gotta love em.

    1. That’s funny. We generally have the opposite problem of random things showing up in our house. Sometimes they remember where they came from and sometimes they don’t. I can’t keep track myself.

  6. This is a great story!! #5 is a smart kid!! And you’re hilarious. Your line about that is why the school makes directories had me cracking up. That and him wanting to buy all the girls Uggs. You’re awesome and your posts always make me laugh.

Comment. It gives me a reason not to clean my house.

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