05 October 2009


So, I realized at Dulles Airport that I had over 100 bucks in US dollars that I hadn't spent. I was tempted to try to spend all of that cash before boarding the plane on 20 plus Chipotle burritos, but I didn't think my fellow passengers would appreciate the carry-on, and I had already distinguished myself as "the one who over-packed". So, I was left with three options: wait until I came back to the US to spend my cash, convert the dollars to pounds at an unfriendly rate, or send "birthday money" to my friends and family for the next few years. I still haven't decided, so you can hold your breath for some big birthday pay-out.

Upon arrival in Oxford, I had to go to the market to buy a map just to find my way to Rhodes House (my first destination). After making a few purchases and accumulating pounds of pounds (literally, we are talking change here), I finally had to stick my hand full of change out and get an education in British coins. After all, some of their coins are worth over 3 bucks, so I don't think I can afford to just not spend them!

So, after a day of running errands, and maybe more efffectively spinning my wheels, I returned to my room to finish unpacking. When I came across a few quarters and some loose change, I almost immediately threw them in the garbage. If I hadn't had such a large sum of cash, I probably would have thought about doing the same thing with my bills. The exchange rate isn't very friendly to American dollars (1.56 dollars to a pound), and without going through the exchange process, the bills have as much value to me as looseleaf paper as currency. Sure, I could still exchange them, but it was amazing how quickly the way I thought about their value shifted with my change in residence.

If those bills were stolen or lost, I probably wouldn't be terribly upset, because turning them into something of value is probably more trouble than it's worth. But being confronted by how quickly I could reassign value made me think about what other things I have valued and invested in that no longer carry value, and more importantly, what I value that doesn't carry any lasting value. While I know that this is a source of great discomfort for many, the value of the dollar could completely disappear. I am not talking about something that is likely to happen or that we should fear or fret about. I simply mean that the dollar has value because we have assigned value to it and because it means something linked to a certain citizenry and culture. It's value is temporary. How tragic would it be to work exclusively for something with temporary and unstable value?

If I were planning on changing my citizenship, it would probably be important to begin to think about investing in the things that my new home culture valued. And then I began to wonder, if I truly believe that my citizenship is temporary, perhaps I should begin to evaluate what things truly have lasting value.

No comments:

Post a Comment