Yesterday, while walking home from work, my husband and I fell into a rhythm that kept pace with a young man who was walking in the same direction. In the big city I come from, people tend to avoid making eye contact when they chance upon strangers in the street. In a country town, people tend to acknowledge each other with a friendly nod or brief smile. Ugandans will smile openly, say hello and ask how you are. They will even wait for your reply and expect you to enquire the same of them. And then, if your Luganda is good enough, or if they speak English, a light and...Continue Reading >>
Arriving in Uganda was as welcoming as my wife (Genevieve) and I had expected. We had heard and read such glowing reports of the country and its people. After only a few days in the country my first impressions of both the locals and the city of Kampala are extremely positive ones. As we left the arrivals area at Entebbe airport and stepped outside in Uganda for the first time we were greeted by a large advertising board for Barclays Bank. It says in hugely proud letters “Enjoy Africa’s friendliest...Continue Reading >>
I thought I knew what to expect when we arrived in Uganda. We’d been to Africa before – to Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia – for six weeks as part of a round the world backpacking trip. I fell in love with the continent then, and vowed to return. Next time, I promised myself, I’d do something worthwhile there, rather than just appreciate Africa’s beauty with the eyes of a traveler. It took a year, but my husband, Adam, and I have returned. And that worthwhile thing we’ve found is to become Kiva Fellows at Pearl Microfinance in Kampala, Uganda.
So...Continue Reading >>
During the last month, I’ve visited quite a few courtyards, backyards, sideyards, and frontyards. In each one, I can usually count on two things. One is that someone in the group rises to find chairs for the loan officers and myself and places these chairs in a cool, shady spot. The other is the Sinapi cheer. A loan officer walks into the meeting area and shouts, “Sinapi” and claps twice. In response, the group members yell, “Abapa” (Good Seed). This cheer goes through several more iterations with different responses and the group sits down.
...Continue Reading >>
I’ve decided to provide a pictorial representation of the loan steps for SPBD. I’ll use thumbnails because I’d like to avoid crashing the Ugandan or Mozambican or any other countries’ internet cafes. This will alow you to see some of the guys (and gals) behind the guys (and gals). I’m confident that other MFIs have similar processes. It was incredible to witness it first-hand. Hopefully this will provide a glimpse.
After a village expresses interest in starting a center (microfinance group), a representative of SPBD...Continue Reading >>
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Hattha Kaksekar’s annual General Assembly, held at Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s resort town. When general manager Mr. Tong invited me I initially thought it was going to just a board meeting with a day at the beach thrown in for fun. Turns out I was very wrong. HKL is a large MFI. Everyone in the organization was invited, from the top managers and directors to security guards and janitors. Over 280 people attended, descending on Sihanoukville from nine HKL branches all over Cambodia. I hitched a ride on the bus chartered...Continue Reading >>
This morning, I went downtown...
1. You are constantly told to eat more ugali so you won’t be so skinny.
2. Cell phone towers are more common than traffic lights.
3. You see signs like this:
3.5. And this:
4. The most common phrase you hear is “Hey mzungu! Taxi?”
(“mzungu” is Swahili for “white person”)
5. A short cab ride can cost up to 3,000 TZS, but no worries…that’s only $2.
6. The vernacular...Continue Reading >>
Hopefully, this is just volume 1 of “You know you are in Tanzania when…” blogs. I am banking on contributions from Dana and Johannah, the other TZ fellows for the next volumes…
1. Coworkers frequently walk by and casually mention that they have malaria.
2. The most common question you are asked is: “Are you a Muslim or a Christian?”
3. Gospel music plays full volume during the workday.... Continue Reading >>
Hello from Uganda! I have been in Kampala for a week now and all is going very well, but I have to say I feel woefully underdressed most of the time. People on the street are by and large impeccably turned out. Looking around the Life in Africa office, the men are all wearing nice trousers and buttoned shirts, and the women are in lovely skirts and blouses. And it’s true everywhere. I have seen more beautiful ties since I’ve been in Kampala than I’ve seen in years. And women: no trooping through the streets in sneakers. You’ll be in dressy shoes wherever you are...Continue Reading >>