When we arrive in a country, I usually stop at an airport ATM to withdraw some local currency. Quito was no exception. But today when the machine spit out the bills, I was surprised to see they were US dollars. Was the machine broken? My card spontaneously coded to only withdraw US funds?
Um, oops. A bit of Googling revealed fifteen years ago the country gave up trying to regulate its wildly fluctuating sucre and adopted the US dollar as its national currency instead. Was I embarrassed not to know this? Yes. But not as embarrassed as I was when I had this exchange with the taxi driver who took us to our hotel:
Scene: At our hotel. Taxi driver is giving me fourteen dollars change: two five-dollar bills and four bronzed, silver-edged, grimy coins. The conversation between us is in Spanish.
Taxi driver counts out change. “…thirteen, fourteen.”
Me: “Wait, what are these coins? Ecuadorean dollars?”
Me: “But I thought the US dollar was the official currency?”
Taxi driver (looking a bit confused): “Si.”
Me: “Then where did these coins come from?”
Taxi driver (looking more confused): “Los Estados Unidos; I believe this is your country?”
What sort of scam was he trying to pull? I spread the change across my open hand, ready to take him to task for trying to palm off fake US money on me. Then I took a closer look at one of the coins…
In case you were wondering where all those Sacajawea and Susan B. Anthony dollars ended up, I can now tell you the answer is Ecuador.
Now will someone please tell me I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON WHO HAS COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN ABOUT THEM?