Olympic postcard

Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2000

How ya doin', mate?

When you're in a foreign country trying to figure out the money is always a problem. But at least in Australia they use dollars and cents.

The difficulty is in figuring out the exchange rate. Right now the Australian dollar is worth about 55 U.S. cents. So when I checked my checkbook balance at the ATM here, I thought I had hit the jackpot on one of the local slot machines. The statement showed twice what I thought I had in the bank, but then I realized it was in Australian dollars.

The smallest bill is $5, and coins are issued in 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, $1 and $2. The $2 coin is the smallest and the 50-cent piece is about the size of a manhole cover. It's not exactly round; it has 12 straight sides. It has a young-looking Queen Elizabeth on one side and what looks like a kangaroo and an emu next to a shield. I did notice that in the newer coins the Queen has gained a few pounds and some wrinkles.

The bills look strange, but to me anything that's not an American greenback is strange. For one thing they're not all the same size. The $5 bill is smaller. In the lower right corner of the front of each bill is a piece of clear plastic with something printed on it. On the $50 bill, for instance, the Southern Cross constellation appears.

The bills feature engravings of people who don't look familiar and intricate drawings. They're printed on smooth paper with unusual colors.

But as long as the American dollar remains strong and I can put my ATM card in a magic machine and coax these strange bills out of it, who cares what the local money looks like.

See ya,


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