Journey Across Africa

Below you'll find stories of my two year experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the small West African country of The Gambia. After my service I traveled solo, with only a small backpack, across West Africa; reaching N'Djamena, Chad after two months. Visa problems for Libya and Civil unrest in the Darfur region of Western Sudan made Chad my last stop.

Peace Corps Service: Aug. 2003 - July 2005

Journey Across Africa: July 2005 - Sept. 2005

Name:
Location: Boston, MA, United States

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Response to Questions

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Anonymous said...
Mike, you're a crazy guy. Maybe instead of carrying cash, you could carry something else like gold so you don't have to worry about exchanging your money at every new country.

8/17/2005 07:32:10 PM
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I know it's somewhat of a joke, but there is some merit to the question. Other than Mauritania every country I've been in has been on the same currency, the CFA Franc. There are actually two franc used in Africa - the West African CFA and Central African CFA.

Benin, Burkina, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo which form the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), whose common central bank is the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO)

Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad which form the Central Africa Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), whose common central bank is the Bank of Central African States (BEAC).

And so, other than a small side step in Mauritania changing to Ouguiyas I've been using the same currency throughout the past month - just had to convert from the hard currency to the CFA's.

When I cross Niger to Chad I will have to change over all my West African CFA to Central African CFA, with a theoretical one-to-one exchange.

Today as I took the taxi to the bank I watched the meter (first metered taxi I've been in since being in Africa). The reason for watching it? At some point it was going to exceed the total amount of money I had and I had to tell him to stop and would have to walk the rest of the way to the bank. I had 2425 CFA (~$4.50) left to my name - with a US Treasury check in my bag worth more than twice I had spent on the trip to date. Just needed to get to the bank and cash it.

I watched the meter creep up. At 2400 I would had to tell him to stop. It reached 2000, 2100, 2200, 2300,... and then at 2340 he stopped at the bank. I had made there with 85 CFA or 15 cents to spare. Walked in practically broke - couldn't even buy a piece of bread.

An hour later I was having a half-chicken and chips lunch in the Rec. Room at the American Embassy while watching last night's football game with some of the staff members.

Close call.

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