Update from Europe, Plus Observations about the Euro

Shock and Awe?

What’s happening to my country? I’ve been in Europe for a month now (in a village with limited Internet access), and I stopped by an Internet cafe to check the news only to discover that Indymac Bank failed, oil is (or was) well over $140 a barrel, and the Dow is in the lower 11k range.

I have no insights to give about Indymac’s failure. Honestly, I’m not terribly surprised given the unbelievable hassle I had with them simply trying to open a CD account. Since my account is well under FDIC limits, I’m not worried about it. Heck, I doubt I’ll even look into it further until my return to the USA in August. I know that Indymac has been in trouble since last summer (at least), but news of their collapse is still unsettling.

I haven’t logged into my Vanguard account in well over a month, nor will I have the opportunity to do so for another three weeks. The Dow was around 11,800 when I left in June. I was hoping that my mutual funds might actually increase a bit while I’m away, but it looks like that may not be the case. Oh well, all my mutual funds are “long-term” anyway, so I certainly won’t lose any sleep over it.

Where Am I Again?

I only mentioned it in passing a couple times before, but I’m on an extended visit to Europe – specifically Greece. I don’t wish to reveal too much about the nature of my visit, but it is part of an artistic and cultural collaboration in which myself and a small group of other people live and participate in the daily life of a Greek village. I try to keep this site independent from my main career, but I will mention that I’m one the content creators for a theatrical production in an ancient theatre here. We produce and rehearse the entire production in Greece, and our show involves a number of local Greek students. It’s a fantastic cultural exchange, and living in the village really integrates us into the community.

I enjoy it immensely, but our place of residence has no Internet access. I also have no television, cell phone, or even a radio. Despite the challenges of being “cut off”, I actually find it quite refreshing. As lovely as those tools of connectivity are, they’re also a source of distraction, and life without them helps me focus on my craft. Plus, it affords much more quality time to think, exercise, and even socialize. I’ll return to the “rat race” in a few short weeks, but in the meantime I am enjoying myself.

A Few Thoughts on the Euro

Two years ago, when I last traveled to Europe, one US Dollar equaled roughly 0.84 cents to the Euro. As of this writing, one US Dollar equals somewhere in the vicinity of 0.62 Euro cents. Ouch! Many of the Greeks I’ve talked to non-chalantly say that our Dollar will start increasing again after President Bush leaves office, no matter who else is elected! I certainly won’t bog down this site with political rants, but I suppose we will all see whether or not they are correct.

I DO appreciate how tax is already included when looking at prices in stores here. If the price for an item says “8 Euros”, that’s all it costs. That’s it – no more additional estimating for tax. After living in Europe for several weeks, I think our current system of “$7.99 plus tax” is idiotic. It seems we care more about marketing than simplicity.

One last thing: in case you didn’t know, the smallest bill in Euro form is a “5”. The “1” and “2” Euro denominations are in coin form. While I have a strange attraction to the “2 Euro” coin, I also find them disturbingly easy to spend! It’s easy to think of coins as “loose change” and blow them on small items, but given the poor exchange rate, one can easily carry the equivalent of $10 or more in “loose” change! Yikes!

My friends, I will continue to be “out of the loop” for a few more weeks. May they fare better for our great country than the last few have been!

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