Thursday, 12 February 2009

Another country, another devaluation

Our first ever stint abroad was a move to Sao Paulo in Brazil and five days after we arrived there was a maxi-devaluation of the currency, the Real, which was a crash course in economics (and Portuguese) for me. I remember sitting in our serviced apartment with a dictionary and a copy of the newspaper Folha De Sao Paulo, trying to work out what the paper was saying and also, just in basic terms, what “devaluation” meant, since I had never heard of that (in those days I guess I thought that pound sterling was also invincible, but I was young and na├»ve then). It was disappointing when it slowly dawned on me that what had been worth X yesterday, was today worth half of X. Even for someone with my patchy grasp of maths, that didn’t sound like a very good thing at all. And I was right, it was a very bad thing indeed. We were fine as long as we stayed inside Brazil  but many of  our travel plans in S America suffered for three years as all flights were based on petrol prices which were set in dollars and against which the Real had more or less halved. And it took us years to get over the pain of buying rounds in British pubs when we went home, which during the devaluation years, could cost us as much as a months socializing in Sao Paulo. 

So it is a slightly older and wiser me which greets the news of a 26% devaluation of the Kazakh Tenge today. Usually these things are good and bad. Any money we bring in from abroad will now go further than it has been. Any money we earn here will of course go less far than we had hoped. Such is life. Just have to weather it.

I might have known that something like this would happen today. The hot water still not working, and as I opened the curtains of the baby’s room I noticed that one of our gates to the road was slightly open. Husband had pressed a button on the controller and not realized that he had half opened it before driving off. Because it had snowed in the night, it hadn’t been able to fully open but it was open enough to let a small and roving pack of wild dogs into the garden. The dogs had a great time, they peeed all over the un-finished igloo (now known as Mowat’s Folly) and finally Baktiyar came back and chased them away – I was not for going out and chasing them in my pyjamas in the snow!

I wonder whether drivers realize the variety they will encounter when working for a family. I also wonder whether their job description includes the line  “Must be able to drive away packs of wild dogs as and when required”!

But just as I suppose I feel disappointed to realize that what we thought we would earn while here is unlikely to fully materialize in the current credit crunch crisis and with this devaluation, so Baktiyar (who we recently found out worked as a sniper in the army before he became a driver) probably never thought he would be battling wild canines at 8.30am before driving a spoilt housewife to her Pilates class. 

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