Money laundering


My mood does not match the occasion, another 9/11 with war talk going on. I am lighthearted.

On any occasion or in any place, it is the state of one’s own soul and body that continues to matter most and I am feeling good today so I will not pretend to be wise about matters like chemical weapons and bombing and terrorism and bad, worse, and worst options. Any comments would come from my head and not from my currently light heart so I leave that to others who can draw on anger, grief, and suffering to season their words. Listen to them, please.

The hymn lilting in my head is “My life goes on in endless song, above earth’s lamentations.” I am getting ready for a big trip and all of the most difficult preparations are done. The trip itself will involve plenty of challenges so I am coasting through the next eight days with the last easy tasks. Cleaning the house, emptying the fridge, making a list of instructions for the house/cat sitter, packing.

And ironing money.

All transactions in DR Congo have to be done in cash. US dollars are good anywhere but they have to be perfect. No rips, smudges, or marks. Preferably new. I don’t know why. C’est comme ça.

Amanda, one of my fellow travelers who lives in a small town in Kansas, went to her bank early to ask for new money. She was told that the new bills wouldn’t come in till later this fall, so she would have to take the best of used bills. Amanda now has her banker collecting a stash of newish bills for her. And just to be sure they will pass in Congo, she’s ironing them so they look like new.

I thought that was a brilliant idea. Amanda, like me, is retired and retired people have time to do strange things like iron money.

Last May I had an imperfect fifty rejected when I tried to use it to pay my departure tax at the airport. Since I was all but out of cash by then, I was in a dither. Fortunately I was able to borrow a few passable bills from my fellow travelers.

On Monday Vic and I went to the bank to pick up an ungodly amount of cash. Our banker, too, said the new bills wouldn’t come in till later, “around Christmas,” so we would have to make do with good used bills.

The teller was very patient. Counting out the bills, approving them, replacing marred ones in a stack, took a good 45 minutes. We were so exhausted by the process and the stress of carrying all that cash that we had to treat ourselves to a nice lunch afterward.

And so today I am going to pull it out, check it all again, and iron it. I suppose one benefit of this kind of money laundering is that it will also kill germs.

Thank you to all who contributed to our cash stash for contributions to worthy causes when we are in Congo!


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