Tuesday, March 8, 2011

money, money, money, money...Money

A buck is still a buck and a togrog (pronounced toogrick) is still a togrog; though the value of that buck has declined since my arrival here in June. Back then the exchange rate was around 1,500 T per dollar. Now it's hovering at around 1,150.

The actual money here is quite lovely, and bills only, so no small change clattering around in your pockets. The photos show just how attractive the bills are.....A togrog seems to go a long way sometimes though on a Peace Corps salary not always far enough! Ah, just like back at home, surviving paycheck to paycheck!

Some of my most frequently purchased items (and great bargains) are the big jug of Mongolian yogurt priced at around 3,000 T. A block of wet Mongolian tofu 1,000 T, a pack of delicious green tea is 600 T, coke zero is 650 T, a beer around 1,350 (the one pictured is my favorite, a dark beer pronounced Har Horen and it's a little more than most).

The bag of apples is only 1,500 T though I believe apples and oranges were way more expensive in the summer time. Eggs are sold individually and usually you grab some out of the cooler and the cashier puts them in a small plastic bag for you. I however, like to take the egg crates, thinking I'll use them for some plants later this spring! Oh yes, the price of eggs is 250 T each. My favorite brown bread is made locally and costs 550 T a loaf. The local tub of costs 1,900 T and real butter here is good though always unsalted and comes in big chunks wrapped in plastic and is a little more expensive. Sugar comes in cubes (also available in granulated form and you buy it by the kilo), like those shown for around 1,600 T and this particular one is in the shapes of suits of cards. I recall during our Pre Service training having these at breakfast and thinking oh my all the sugar cubes here are so cute!

Paper products are reasonably priced, with napkins shown going for 700 T and my choice toilet paper is 300 - 400 T. There is much plusher t.p. available but I happen to like this one, though the texture is very similar to crepe paper in the US. I like the fact that here paper products are not used too much. You will get a small napkin in a restaurant, but generally you need to carry your own t.p. (I buy the Mongolian products:) Kleenex can be found in small pocket packs or large boxes, from either Germany or China. Funny how weird that sounds to me, but how I have become accustomed to these changes! Generally t.p. is not flushed here either, and there is a waste can next to the toilet for the paper.

I also buy some imported foods, such as that huge box of Corn Flakes (from Germany) which cost 3,500 T, but worth it; cereal is hard to find here! The peanuts shown are from Germany and sports the offending can with the pull off tab which was the cause of my first stitches in Mongolia (during Pre service training in the summer......) The crackers are from China and a bargain at 1,000 T tasting like Ritz! The big yellow bag is powdered milk, imported from Korea and sells for 6,000 T. Occasionally I buy Mongolian milk which comes in a box on the shelf and the equivalent of half gallon sells for 1, 700 T. The powdered milk is handy for drinking in my morning instant coffee, a jar of which runs 5,000 T.

Fresh produce has been fairly easy to find in my small city, with more types of veggies showing up lately, such as broccoli, leaf lettuce, red cabbage, zuchinni and bok choy! I anticipate having more veggies growing in my own garden this summer, but it is great to find them in the market here.

Since most of my money is spent on food, that's what I've focused on here. However for a quick comparison sake, one way bus ticket from Arvikheer to Ulaanbaatar costs 14,000 T, as does a small set of computer speakers. You can purchase a warm hat or mittens for 1 - 2,000 T in the market, kids scissors for 300 T, and a glue stick for 500 T, though a ream of paper goes for 9,000 T.

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