Before I headed off on one of my big travel adventures I would always drop in to the $2 shop on the corner of George and Park Streets in Sydney and buy a couple of packs of clip-on koalas.
I’m not sure if that’s their official name but that’s what I call them. They’re the small koala souvenirs whose legs can be opened like a clip to be hung from bag straps, shirts and anything else their little claws can wrap around.
I’d discovered early on in my travels that they made the perfect gift when I was invariably asked for a ‘souvenir’, be that on a beat-up demo in Indonesia or at a border crossing in Zaire. They didn’t take up much space in my backpack. They were a refection of where I came from. And they were cheap. A ten-pack back then only cost $2, working out at roughly 20 cents for each koala.
Most of the time they were received with delight. The Mentawi matron in this photo immediately grabbed a bit of nylon string and fashioned a makeshift necklace so she could proudly display it. Fatty, in Bam in Iran, clutched it to her chest like it was the most precious gift she’d ever received.
I’m not sure the border guard down at the river in Kinshasa was as pleased with his. He wanted a ‘souvenir’ before he’d let me on to the ferry crossing to Brazzaville on the other side. He was so thrown by me thrusting a small furry koala into his hands rather than the US cash he’d been expecting that I was able to scamper onto the ferry and out of Zaire before he could react.
It was the best 20 cents I’ve ever spent.