By David McNeill (Sierra Leone) and Adam Cohn (Rwanda), with lots of help from the 14th class of Kiva Fellows
It turns out that one thing Kiva Fellows seem to have in common is a love for data. With that, Kiva Fellows David and Adam polled the current fellows in the field on the costs of various necessities and niceties in their current placements. The numbers, which we humbly title the Kiva Fellows Index, give some good insight into the conditions in the far-flung places we now live and work.
Far from home
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Kiva Fellows are in it for the long haul. On average, we’re 5,745 miles away from home, as the crow flies. The fellows who have trucked the farthest, at least by line of sight, are: Adam Cohn, who crossed 8,892 miles from Seattle, WA to Kigali, Rwanda; Caitlin Ross, who also went to Kigali from her home in Burlingame, CA, for a total of 9,417 miles; and the longest haul goes to Lisa Skowron, who flew 9,519 miles from her home in Chicago, IL to Kupang, Indonesia!
The first prize for the slowest Internet speed goes to Carlos Cruz in Liberia, with a close second and third for Claudine Emeott in Nepal and David McNeill in Sierra Leone. They experience speeds 10-100 times slower than in the US, making them thankful to the Kiva engineers who make Kiva.org one of the quicker websites to load. At these speeds video chatting is impossible, voice is dodgy if possible at all, and emails aren’t even guaranteed to work. Forget about watching videos on YouTube or listening to Internet radio. Having Internet access is quickly becoming almost as important as having electricity or indoor plumbing.
Many of us are serving in hot parts of the world without the blessing of air conditioning. The unlucky winners in this category are neighbors in West Africa – Carlos Cruz in Liberia and David McNeill in Sierra Leone. They survive high temperatures in the low 90’s (F) and lows that only get down to the upper 70’s or low 80’s (F). Carlos, we hope you’ve got a fan and electricity to run it like David does (most of the time).
On the other side of the spectrum, Amber Barger is struggling to keep warm in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where it dips down to -9 (F) at night. David would be happy to trade one of his hot sunny beaches for some of Amber’s ice!
Carlos Cruz got the sweetest deal on rent, with free housing courtesy of his host microfinance institution in Liberia. The runner up is Gustavo Visalli in Totonicapan, Guatemala. He pays only $100/month, and that includes electricity, a flush toilet, and all the black beans and eggs he can eat!
There are some definite advantages to working in developing countries. Most of us spend less than $1 getting to work each day riding buses, motorcycles, or other modes of public transportation. For David in Sierra Leone, a ride in the back of a car taxi to a town 2.5 hours away only costs $3.50 (there are four people squished in a seat made for three, though). Stephanie Sibal has the sweetest deal on transportation – her host organization in Phnom Penh, Cambodia provides her a car and driver to bring her in to work in the morning.
With the cost of oil on the rise, we did a quick poll of gas prices where we are serving. The highest price is in South Africa at $5/gallon. If you want the cheapest price, you’ll have to drive to Indonesia ($2.15/gallon) or Kyrgyzstan ($2.73/gallon).
For refreshment, Stephanie Sibal is a definite winner – she only has to pay 15 cents for a Coke served in a plastic baggie! The following people have a four-way tie for the cheapest beer at only $1 a bottle: Stephanie Sibal again (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), John Gwillim (Barranquilla, Colombia), Geeta Uhl (Ayacucho, Peru), and John Farmer (Mexico City, Mexico). For coffee, some people like John Farmer have the luxury of a nearby Starbucks in Mexico City, Adam Cohn can drink 100% local coffee at multiple Bourbon locations in Rwanda, while poor Noreen Giga is still searching for a good cup in Lima, Peru.
As you can see, some of life’s necessities are more accessible, while others are prohibitive, for those who relocate to the other side of the globe. If you’d like to look at our full spreadsheet of stats, you can see it here.
Have you found places where a Coke is incredibly expensive, or internet is mind-blowingly slow? Let us know in the comments!