Home Is Where the Fellow Is

Compiled by Micaela Browning | KF17 | Mozambique

Fellows love to talk about the work they do in the field. From A.W.O.L. clients to inspiring coworkers to business trips that take us to the furthest reaches of the globe, discussing our 9-5s rarely gets old. Since our workdays, in actuality, rarely fit nicely into that allotted timeframe, we often find ourselves living a decidedly nomadic lifestyle characterized by minimal sleep and maximum vagrancy. However, when we stumble on home after a stressful day’s work, we are eternally grateful to have a place to lay our weary micro-heads during our four-month stints overseas.

This blog post is devoted to a celebration of our humble abodes abroad. Sorry, House Hunters International, we’ve got the real inside scoop on the foreign housing market.  Do you require a hot pink mosquito net dangling overhead whilst in sweet slumber? Yeah, we’ve got that. Is the home of your dreams in fact a crumbling Soviet relic with a cryptic message scrawled across the stairwell? Look no further. Has your lifelong dream of acquiring courtside seats at Wimbledon been stifled by your repeated failure to spark up a romance with Venus or Rafael? Have we got a solution for you!

Join us as we take you on a magical mystery tour of the places we have come to call home during our time abroad.

Kiva Fellow Emmanuel Von Arx (Mexico, DF) has an apartment whose modernity rivals that of even the swankiest of Hollywood Hills bachelor pads.  This place is so innovative, so cutting-edge, that is has an alarm clock built directly into it. Yes folks, no need to BYOAC (Bring Your Own Alarm Clock) when bunking up with Emmanuel, as you will be abruptly roused in the morning when the Monica Seleses of Mexico City hit the courts for their daily doubles matches. Worried you might drift off too early and miss out on the DF’s pulsating nightlife? Don’t worry! The court’s massive floodlights, with the wattage of 10,000 suns [citation needed], will assure that you do not fall asleep until 6am when they finally switch off.

Courtside seats are yours for the low price of permanent insomnia.

Meanwhile in Cambodia, Jennifer Truong has discovered a mosquito repellent to rival DEET 30 and an antimalarial that will run Malarone out of the market: the fuchsia bug net that covers her bed.  Since  rigorous randomized control trials have proven that mosquitos have very warm skin tones, they eschew the unflattering fluorescent pink glow emanating from Jen’s bed in favor of earthier-toned netting.  Studies on whether or not exposure to fluorescent pink bug nets causes the user to believe they are drowning in a sea of Pepto-Bismol upon awakening  are inconclusive.

Golden  fuschia slumbers.

If you’ve ever felt like your house is lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, I am willing to bet my firstborn child that the missing piece is a behemoth 44-pound wooden Togolose head carving.  I know, right? How did I know?! Behold: this magnificent  oeuvre perches omnisciently on the wall of Michael Slattery’s  pad in Lomé, Togo, and keeps watch over Michael while he eats, probably wishing he would stop Bogarting all the fufu and share once in a while.

Instructions for creating gargantuan Togolese wooden head sculpture. 1: Cut Tree. 2. Carve. 3. Microwave on high for 30-45 seconds.

A common theme among Fellows is the inevitable debacle of trying to explain to a cab driver (often, in a second language) where exactly your apartment or house is. If I tell someone I live at 1921 24th of July Avenue, I am met with blank stares.  However,  if I tell someone I live “Near that Chinese restaurant with the red awning and above that one bank where the guards are always out in front playing dominoes against that guy with the pet chicken,” people know exactly where I need to go. Sharing in my navigational charades is Fellow Carrie Nguyen, in Cusco, Peru. Carrie’s apartment is a bit off the proverbial beaten track. Says Carrie, “It’s a miracle that the postman manages to find my mailbox. Tucked inside a bustling city block I reside, my apartment and I, and occasionally Bobby, the stray dog who lives in our patio. The price we pay for a pocket of tranquility is the long narrow path, winding and uneven, that meanders its way toward our doorstep. Sometimes at night I am guided down the alleyway only by moonlight and a firm determination that I will not trip.”


For the post-apocalyptic aficionado, Jon Heibert’s apartment in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, offers an unparalleled crash course in how to navigate through dust and debris generated by kicked up by those pesky four horsemen. On the off-chance one of the horsemen also trampled through your bathroom and sheared the lid off your toilet tank, Jon can also help you jerry-rig your way back into sewerage satisfaction with his novel “an empty soda bottles and string” kit (pictured). Disclaimer: functionality of kit not guaranteed, Jon Heibert and equally resourceful roommate not liable for any flood damaged incurred.

I am told Ulaanbaatar is the 2nd-most polluted city on Earth, probably from all the excess energy it takes to continuously print a name with 5 A’s in it.

Jon The Plumber > Joe the Plumber

Continuing along the post-apocalyptic vein is David Gorgani, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. During heavy rains, the street outside David’s house magically transforms itself into a Venetian canal, and cars into commuter gondolas. Bonus: the parking lot pictured in the foreground  even moonlights as a marina in times of deluge.

“Caution: Road Temporarily River”

In case you didn’t get your fill of pastels  with Jen’s pink mosquito net, Kiyomi Beach in Huatusco, Mexico, offers you a compelling sequel: Disney Princess-Purple.  Especially well-tailored to the aspiring 6-year-old-girl in you, Kiyomi’s room features not one, not two, but THREE essential pre-requisites for the Disney princess-in-training: lace, hearts AND stars! No word yet on when the rainbow-patterned unicorn wallpaper arrives  , but we are presuming it is on back order.

All it’s missing is Jen’s pink mosquito net. Gross oversight on the part of the interior decorator.

In case you are in the market for something substantially more stoic and bland, Chris Paci’s charming 10-story apartment block in Baku, Azerbaijan seamlessly blends underwhelming Soviet-style architecture with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-style mystery and intrigue. Indeed, Chris has spent many an hour toiling over the Greatest Mystery of His Apartment; the cryptic Turkish writing scrawled across the entrance to the stairwell. Too creeped out by the musings of the Confucius of the Caucasus to take the stairs? Too bad, because 70% of the time, Chris’s elevator works none of the time.

Chris’s apartment boasts a commanding view of all the other apartments. That look Exactly. Like. His.

Your guess is as good as ours. We think it’s a grocery list from the lean years, scrawled across the wall by an obliging husband as his wife dictates from the kitchen: “Potatoes, potatoes, cabbage, potatoes…wait, did you get ‘potatoes’ “?

All joking aside, these are the homes we have come to love and cherish during our time in the field. So here’s to you,  broken elevators, flooded streets, off-the-grid apartments,  and Crayola-hued rooms. Without you, our Fellowships would not have been possible. Yes, even you, giant wooden Togolese head.

A huge thanks to all the Fellows that submitted content for this post, and especially to Kiyomi Beach for coming up with the idea.

Micaela Browning is a Kiva Fellow working with Hluvuku-ADSEMA just outside of Maputo, Mozambique. 

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