Apr 30, 2008 TZ Tanzania

 

 

Days go by and I often forget how life in Africa can be so different than life in the States. Events from this past weekend remind me that I am going to really miss Tanzania when I leave in June.

 

On Saturday, I was driving to a friend’s house when I was stopped by a policeman who flagged me down from the side of the road. In Swahili, he asked for my license and then asked for me to show him that the brakes, lights...

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Apr 29, 2008 WS Samoa

It seems to be a requisite duty of a Fellow to provide the “You know you’re in…when” so here’s my take:

10. Rugby is life. American Football is called ‘American Rugby’. Though a Samoan-American is 40 times more likely to make the NFL than a non-Samoan American (thanks, ESPN), the more than 30 ethnic Samoan football players in the NFL, like Troy Polamalu or Junior Seau, do not have celebrity status. That fame is reserved for the Rugby players of Manu Samoa (National Team) and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson born of a Samoan...

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Apr 26, 2008 CM Cameroon

Cameroon. For us, it is the end of a long road. Since we left the U.S. in December, Dave and Megan have set foot in 13 countries, 11 in Africa. Our overland trek started in Casablanca and took us through Morocco/Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and finally here, Bamenda, the capital city of the Northwest Province, altitude above 1000 meters, surrounded by mountains, green, lush, and yes, the beginning of the “light” rainy season.

Our arrival in Cameroon three weeks ago occurred in several stages.

• First,...

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Apr 25, 2008 GH Ghana

As my fellowship nears its end, I’ve purposely taken time to step back and revisit my original reasons for deciding to quit my job, stuff my apartment into a dusty storage unit, leave family and friends and fly to Ghana.  One of my goals was to see the impact of commercialization on an MFI’s social mission. 

Recently, Sinapi has confronted this issue head-on when it started the process of converting from an NGO to a formal financial institution.   Like many MFIs before it, Sinapi wanted to change...

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Apr 21, 2008 KH Cambodia

Last month I had the chance to shadow a couple HKL credit officers at the Kampong Cham branch, an hour and a half northeast of Phnom Penh. Since my responsibilities here in Cambodia are mainly training and implementing the Kiva process rather than write journals, I was excited to get out and meet the people who make microfinance happen. I have nothing but the highest respect for Mr. Virak and Mr. Vo, who ride around the hot, dusty countryside four days a week helping prospective clients process loan applications. And they manage to look sharp while they’re at it, which is a challenge...

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Apr 21, 2008 UG Uganda

Last week I had a heated discussion with a minibus taxi conductor. The locals that witnessed this event rarely see anyone losing their temper, let alone raising their voice in public. Genevieve and I have been using the same bus route for a number of weeks now and, while at first we paid slightly more than the locals, it’s now obvious that we know the price and all the conductors charge us appropriately.

I was having a bad day, I shouldn’t have let myself get frustrated in this way, and I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t...

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Apr 19, 2008 WS Samoa

In the right place at the right time, I had the great fortune to meet the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa as a representative for Kiva. An SPBD entrepreneur was selected through Kiva by Advanta, an American small business banking company, to travel to the United States and speak at a few engagements about her Elei printing business. A big deal here in Samoa evidenced by a send off from the DPM. It even made the national newspaper: http://www.samoaobserver.ws/local/LNPages/0408/1608ln007.htm

One would think the content of a conversation with the...

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Apr 16, 2008 AZ Azerbaijan

The biggest holiday in Azerbaijan is Novruz. This spring event has its roots as a pre-Islam New Year celebration. It officially begins on the spring equinox but the celebration ramps up much earlier with large street bonfires every Tuesday for the month preceding Novruz. Each week represents a different element: earth, water, air, and fire. Much of the community comes out for the bonfires to socialize and listen to music. Tradition calls for fearless youth to jump across the bonfire regardless or how large it is. On one occasion I witnessed a boy run through a fire along a burning pole...

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Apr 16, 2008 KH Cambodia

Inspired by the TZ fellows, I’ve come up with a top 10 for a taste of Cambodia:

1) The first questions people ask you are not “where are you from” or “what do you do” but “how old are you” and “are you married.” 2) Your clients bring you pictures of their sons and try to arrange marriages during your meetings. 3) A “taxi” transports 50+ people… and you don’t get a discount for sitting on the roof. 4) The Lexus SUV on the street has one person inside and the motorcycle beside it is transporting a family of 7… plus some groceries. 5) Drivers make their own lanes, honking is polite,...

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Apr 16, 2008 GT Guatemala

The past six months have been indescribable. I’ve attempted to wrap my thoughts around them and put them to words, but the result does not compare to the experience. I’m home now, trying to find a way to live here, in this world, with the same passion that comes so naturally when given the constant inspiration and education I received from Kiva’s entrepreneurs. Here are some thoughts I scrambled together on the plane ride home, reflecting on what there is left to do and how to possibly take on the challenge:

Poor little rich girl with the luxury of picking around the slightly...

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