This is an opinion editorial by Holly Young, Ph.D., an active builder of the Portuguese Bitcoin community.
The Orange Pill Diaries, Part One
Like many women in Bitcoin, I was first introduced by my partner. He had been a banker and spoke with eloquence and knowledge of money. When he first told me about it in 2016, what surprised me the most was how ignorant he was of money back then. He asked me if I knew what the gold standard was; to my shame, I had only the vaguest ideas.
We both went on a great learning journey together, he led the way. We both took an online course, the first of its kind, on digital currencies and he did a master’s degree at the same university, Nicosia in Cyprus.
My first Bitcoin conference was an experience. Out of a hundred and fifty participants, I was one of three women, and I joked with the other two about how this was the only event we’d ever attended where there wasn’t a line for the women’s bathroom. But there was no denying it: the atmosphere at that conference was electric. We were seething with irrepressible excitement. We were onto something big, and we knew it.
My learning regarding Bitcoin has never stopped and I look back on those early days with nostalgia. The more I learned, the more advanced the changes I made. Soon I had changed my diet, my lifestyle, my approach to religion, family, life.
I guess once you’ve seen how important a Bitcoin discovery is, you could argue that there’s a moral imperative to tell people you care. I’ve been doing my best to make Bitcoin the topic of conversation among my family and friends. Of course (and unfortunately) the success of this attempt is very much related to the price of Bitcoin at the time. But even considering the dollar highs and lows, I’m still amazed at how slow Bitcoin is, how hesitant most people are.
The series of stories I wrote as the “Orange Pill Diaries” are true, and are about my various attempts to introduce people I know and care about to Bitcoin. I hope that in explaining my successes and failures there are some common themes that Bitcoiners can recognize, build upon, or use.
These stories are about people I know, friends or family. This first installment is about my friend Isobel, who owns a small horse riding business on the west coast of Portugal.
“I have something I’d like to show you,” she said. I hesitated. It was streaked with sweat and dust. There was mud in my hair and blood under my fingernails from where I’d been clinging down a steep bank. I smelled a strong smell of horse. What I wanted was a long, cool shower with lots of soap and shampoo in the heat of the Portuguese afternoon.
But when Isobel tells me she has something to show me, it’s almost always something special. It was once a WW2 German Cavalry chair that someone had dug up from someone’s grandfather’s attic and given to him as a gift. He had restored it with oil and the love that true horsemen and women give to good equipment. Another time it was a pair of three-year-old Lusitanian colts standing at sunset, going down a forest and crossing a small stream. They were confident, curious, blinking in the light of my phone. They gently rummaged through our pockets for treats, explored our hair and boots with their muzzles, and submitted to being petted like puppies.
So I followed her into the cool of her hallway, hoping she would lead me further into her house. Instead, he dug under a pile of horse blankets and pulled out a cracked Ikea frame. Inside, a five euro note. “I found this,” he said. “I was taking a walk in the dunes and I saw it on the heather! So I jumped in and grabbed it.” I looked at her with some confusion. “Well, it’s not mine,” I replied.
“No… well, I mean, I know.” To my great surprise, I saw that she had tears in her eyes. I know Isobel as a cheerful and sensible businesswoman, one of the best ladies I know (and I know many, on this continent and beyond). Nothing phases her.
Seeing her on the verge of tears was unthinkable and for the moment I was speechless. “I just wanted to thank you again for coming.” she says.
“With COVID-19, times have been tough. It’s not that the horses don’t stop eating, or that they don’t need vets, or that they don’t need the blacksmith every now and then, just because there are travel restrictions and no tourists. Feed has gone up in price, so have shoes and no customers have come. When I found this five euro note I kept it in case I really get to a point where I have nothing in my bank balance. At least I will be able to buy bread for my children the next day. So thanks for coming. I’m so glad you never stopped riding even with all the restrictions and came riding with me again.”
I didn’t know what to say. Riding with her is a real highlight of every visit to the area, but stupidly it had never occurred to me how tight on money she must have been with so few customers, or how valuable my custom was.
Clarifying, she told me how, to save on blacksmith bills, she has taught herself to clip horses’ feet and is changing her route so that she only needs to take the soft sand paths between the dunes. “Now it’s sixty-five euros per horse and eight weeks,” he added. “I have seven horses. That adds up very quickly. That way, I get the feet trimmed myself and none of them need shoes.” She was cheerful again. I reached out to pet the pretty white mare who had just led me across the sand dunes, a joyous adventure of walking and chatting combined with wild gallops down the narrow and winding paths, suddenly emerging at breakneck speed on the cliff tops -cut, with the turquoise. Atlantic below. We talked about the horses and our respective children and had come back a little dizzy from the gallop and the ozone-rich air.
I had visited a few months before, and remembered when this horse was new. Almost all of Isobel’s horses are rescue horses. When this mare arrived she was afraid of her own shadow. If you raised a hand in his direction, he would move away in fear, waiting for a strike. Now calmly nibbling on her food, she turned to me contentedly and rested her head briefly against my shoulder. I pocketed the money I had put in, to pay for the trip I had just taken. I had placed a bit more, but still, it didn’t feel quite right, paying Isobel in euros. Someone whose work and skills I have respected so much should be paid, well, better money. I gave it to her and she took it with a smile and more thanks.
I weighed my options carefully, trying to gauge his reaction. I knew that if I offered her any financial help, she would not accept it, even offer it, and that it might sour a friendship that even in its early days I recognized as a valuable friendship. I quickly thought about the pros and cons and then took the plunge. “Remember how I told you about Bitcoin, Isobel?” I asked him. She nodded. “Well, maybe you have time later in the week so I can explain more? I think it might be a good way for you to plan for the future.”
My kids love a good pool. I had made sure the villa I had rented for our trip had one and a couple of days later I was lying next to them watching them sink in, come out and sink in again. Half of my attention was on my book, which I wish I could tell you was a big thing in Bitcoin, but in fact it was an attractive novel about a penguin and mob intrigue. I heard a bicycle on the gravel of the driveway and looked up to see Isobel peering inquisitively around the hedge. “Do you have time yet?” she asked. “I brought my laptop.”
We had talked a little bit about Bitcoin before. She knew I was interested and was happy to talk about it. He also knew that I didn’t want to give him financial advice about his personal situation, but that he had made it very clear that if he had any questions, he would be more than happy to help. The real key to a successful orange pill, a good friend once told me, is to arouse curiosity. And let’s face it, most people come for the financial gains. Some people even stay for the gains, even when they have seen the revolution. Knowing Isobel’s financial situation, I started with the earnings. I showed him a chart of Bitcoin prices over the years and explained how, although there are often dips, the dips have never gone to zero. I repeated the well-known mantra: “No one who has invested in Bitcoin for four years and never sold has ever lost money.” Drawing it roughly, I showed him why not.
“But what is Bitcoin?” was his eminently sensible question. I explained, as succinctly as I could, how Bitcoin is a digital currency whose ledger is kept on the blockchain. I watched the penny drop as he began to realize the implications of ownership, which is absolute. I compared it to the field where his two beautiful Lusitanian stallions were no doubt at that moment munching merrily among the dry summer grass, a field whose deed at some point in the mists of time had been recorded by a villager, now long dead. The ownership of the field and grazing rights was the cause of some quarrel for her and of some council government intervention. We talked about inflation, which she was seeing in her life in the rising costs of the blacksmith and the feed she supplemented the dry grass with. I explained, as briefly as I could , how Bitcoin is decentralized and how crucial it is ai x to determine its value. He’d never heard of any altcoins (“I think I heard Elon talk about some kind of currency once that I don’t think was Bitcoin, but anyway man it’s crazy work,” he said) . I repeated that Bitcoin is the not more truly decentralized currency as a precautionary measure.
I then asked her why she had her laptop with her. He told me he was curious. He had very little money to spare, he said, but he had seen how convinced he was in our first conversation. What he had heard during our conversation that day had helped him make up his mind. He wanted to buy himself for a few euros.
I set it up with an encrypted email, a password manager, and a wallet. Then we made our deal. I told her that I would pay for my daughter and I to go for a walk on the beach together with her. I would send you the amount of euros in Bitcoin. We would wait to make this trip for bitcoin to double in value. It is an agreement that still stands between us. It was May 2021, when one Bitcoin was $44,000. We still hang out often together, but we’re still waiting for Bitcoin to hit $88,000. It will be a maximum to remember.
After setting her up and explaining what an orange pill was, I thought I was done talking about Bitcoin. Instead, he settled back in his chair. “Where did Bitcoin come from?” she asked. I put on a fresh pot of coffee.
This is a guest post by Holly Young. The opinions expressed are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.