Sep 18, 2008

We are in Day 4 of our Kiva Fellowship training in San Francisco. We’ve gathered from all over the US to prepare for our 3+ month stints across Africa, Asia, South America and Central Europe. Really the most amazing moment for me here has been meeting and communing with 30 other people who are about to deploy across the world. It’s a great and inspirational feeling to realize you’re sitting in a discussion group with seven eager and excited people- one about to fly off to Cambodia, another to Nicaragua, another to Bali, or to Tanzania, or to Azerbaijan… the list...

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Sep 18, 2008 TZ Tanzania

Dala-dalas are Dar es Salaam’s form of public transportation. They are buses that run all over the city, charging about $0.30 per ride. There is no set schedule, and they typically only leave once they are full.

Although several Tanzanians warned me about taking dala-dalas during rush hour, I figured it was no big deal. So I would be squished and sweaty, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I took one from work to the city center and I even got a seat! At that point I was thinking, “Why did everyone make such a big deal? This is totally fine...

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Sep 17, 2008 TZ Tanzania

(To see what happened during the first 11 days, see Part 1)

Day 12 (Warning: slightly disgusting content. Do not attempt to read while eating): I just finished rubbing my heels with sandpaper for the last hour. It’s a long story how I got to this point, but it involves exclusively flip-flops/sandals and very dirty/dusty/sandy roads for 6 weeks. Basically, I gave up trying to wash or in any way care for my feet a few weeks ago. They were just always dirty. Even when I get home there’s just dirt everywhere so I gave up on my feet. The plan worked out fine until yesterday my...

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Sep 11, 2008 CM Cameroon

One of the most inspiring things I have seen in Cameroon is the progress made by many GHAPE borrowers over the years. GHAPE is the local NGO where I am working during my time as a Kiva Fellow in West Africa. Their aim, like many of the other hundreds of microfinance organisations around the world, is to combat poverty by bringing capital to people who have none. GHAPE sow these funds with a good handful of business advice to ensure their borrowers’ ventures grow tall.

I spent my second week visiting the small town of...

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Sep 9, 2008 KE Kenya

It has been sometime since I’ve updated for the Kiva Fellows blog. As cliché as it is lots has happened and I’ve promised a more in depth description of the impact of the post-election crisis on micro-finance. So in baseball terminology I offer a double header (or double-dip in the vernacular of the dugout). I wanted to separate the entries. This one is about my field partner. Below is an entry more specific to the violence and its impact on three remarkable women. I’ve been in Africa for two months and I thought I’d finally share more about my field partner, Opportunity International...

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Sep 9, 2008 KE Kenya

The last several weeks I’ve been traveling all over West Kenya visiting groups in the branch offices of OI-Wedco to do journal updates. I return back to Kisumu with a deeply somber heart. A few weeks ago in Kakemega I met two Kikuyu single mothers from a Kiva funded group. They told me about how they lost everything after the post-election violence. During the turmoil their shop and clothing stock was burned because of their tribal background. They fled to an IDP (internally displaced persons, essentially refugees in their own country) camp run by the UN and stayed for five months. They...

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Sep 8, 2008 LB Lebanon

I’ve had a pretty frustrating day here in Beirut. To those who plan on traveling, a bit of advice…don’t loose your passport. Especially not in Lebanon. I felt like I was trapped in that scene from Battle of Algiers where Colonel Mathieu is unceremoniously perched atop his desk answering the questions of reporters either with an endless moral treatise or a flippant plume of smoke from his Gauloises and a shake of his head. Afan in the background blowing thick air around around the office, a woman in the corner pecking at a typewriter from the 20′s… Except in my...

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Sep 7, 2008 SN Senegal

Well, I’m back in the U.S., which means back to the old grad-student-grind. (There is, however, the new excitement of teaching French 1 for the first time here in Beautiful Berkeley, where I have hardly seen a cloud since my return.) I’ve had a few things to finish up for my Kiva fellowship in Senegal, though, since my last week in the field was spent… in the field. We ran around trying to pack as many interviews as we could into the last few days; but, as if to mock our efforts at productivity, fate struck me with a quick bout of travel-related...

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Sep 7, 2008 VN Vietnam

In Hanoi the tourist stalls in the old quarter are crammed with all manner of trinkets for tourists to buy. T-shirts are of course popular and there are many that contain that ubiquitous saying ‘same same but different’. Usually I ignore the persistent hawkers ( while fighting back the urge to proudly declare that I am more than a mere tourist ) but events over the past couple of weeks have made me actually stop and think a little more about ‘same same but different’.

I am first generation...

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Sep 6, 2008 TZ Tanzania

On August 24th I left Dar es Salaam for a 3-week trip to central Tanzania to train BRAC branches on Kiva in three other regions. Here’s a glimpse into the first 11 days of my 21 days on the road:

Day 1:

Seven hours on the bus from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma has kicked off with a traveling saleswoman making her pitch for soaps, toothpastes, and aloe vera at full volume to the entire bus for at least 30 minutes. Perhaps I would mind her hard-sell less if I were able to understand more than 1 out of every 12 words (I do learn, however, that “...

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