Dec 3, 2008 BJ Benin

After a few days, I felt mostly adjusted. I liked what was I doing and I had gotten used to fans only at night. I was sitting at Alide at 3pm at Friday when the electricity went out. The A/C stopped its whir, the computers had to be turned off to save battery. The water had already been off for 2 days.

We wandered outside. For the rest of the day, the young people of Alide talked in Fon, French, and faltering English. I showed them my photos, they made fun of me, they switched back to Fon to gossip to each other. When the electricity had not come...

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Dec 3, 2008 TG Togo

Most people reading this blog already agree that microfinance is a promising way to help people work their way out of poverty in a dignified manner. I agree, obviously, or I wouldn’t be here in Togo. It is heartwarming, and we should be inspired by it. But we should also be critical of it, to keep ourselves honest and to make sure it’s really having the effect we hope it is. In this post I will outline one of the biggest challenges facing the world of microfinance – becoming sustainable despite high administrative costs – and how Kiva and the Kiva Fellows contribute...

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Dec 2, 2008 KH Cambodia

In my first week at Kiva’s rising-star field partner, AMK Cambodia, I was lucky enough to go on a two-day trip to the Kampong Cham province with the aim of meeting some Kiva clients and taking some photos for the AMK marketing department.

Over the 36 hours I took around 1500 photos – partly because Cambodians are super photogenic, and partly because 95% of my photos look as though Sambo the Phnom Penh elephant took them (he lacks opposable thumbs). With his eyes shut.

I made this short video of a loan being disbursed to the Sreymom Suong Group. They were pleased...

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Dec 1, 2008 UG Uganda

Not long ago, I was trapped in a mind numbing corporate cubicle, devoid of spirit, trading my time for money. I fantasized about days like this. Well, not exactly.

Grace didn’t tell me we were going into the field today. I was wearing my best clothes – navy blue slacks, a pressed white shirt and shiny black loafers, prepared instead for a day in the office. Naturally I was excited to join her and seized the opportunity without hesitation. “Nkokonjeru,” Grace replied when I asked her where we were going, “it’s not far.”...

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Dec 1, 2008 TJ Tajikistan

It was a typical Sunday in Khujand. I slept late until 9am and wandered out for some breakfast and tea. I haven’t quite mastered the art of making instant coffee (ground coffee is non-existent) so I just don’t bother. I’ve had it in restaurants and with the right mix of crystals, sugar and water it’s not bad. A few minutes later the power clicked off. The daughter of the family I’m staying with said what I was pretty much thinking – “just another typical weekend in Tajikistan.”

There’s really not a lot to do here and even less with no...

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Nov 29, 2008 HN Honduras

I am sitting quietly in the cool, green room of a family operated hostel called Dos Molinos in San Pedro Sula. Shortly I will leave for a long bus ride to Tegucigalpa where I meet up with Prisma staff who will show me to my new home.

As I prepare for Monday, when I want to hit the ground running, I find it hard to focus as my mind begins to wander all over the place (though maybe it’s just the vestiges of chloroquine induced dreams…)

My boyfriend prefers professional football to college. He likes brute force of it, and feels closer to the professional teams, which represent...

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Nov 28, 2008 CM Cameroon

Wednesday morning was a blast. I had to get up at 5 and get ready to go into the field alone. It was my first time to go alone, but I had set up a meeting with some of the clients from one of the centers in town so I could do a few extra interviews. I had never been to the center, so when I reached the junction the center was at I had to start asking for directions. The first woman I asked was carrying a bucket of popoffs (fried dough balls) and was on her way to the market. She grabbed my hand (holding hands is very common here), and led me to the bottom of a hill. She spoke to a...

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Nov 28, 2008 BA Bosnia and Herzegovina

In honor of the brilliant Tanzanian posts:

You know you’re in Bosnia when…

1. Any healthy foods must always be accompanied by sausage.

2. Your coworkers refer to annoying things as “liver” because “they cause the liver to feel pain.”

3. People mix their wine with coca cola.

4. The most popular musicians are over the age of 40, and are usually accompanied by accordions.

5. Pizzas are baked without tomato sauce, but you...

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Nov 27, 2008 MX Mexico

but I make tamales

I spend most of my time meeting small business owners who have received funds through ADMIC, the local non-profit microfinance institution, using Kiva funds. I have this opportunity to enter people’s homes and hear them talk about the development of their businesses. Yesterday I met three women who make and sell tamales.

While the tamale recipe isn’t necessarily complex it is labor intensive. The spreading of the masa into the corn husks alone takes muscles that aren’t put into play by those of us who labor over a computer. As the cooks in my...

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Nov 27, 2008 BJ Benin

 “We thought you were a Muslim from Togo,” the Director of Alidé told me on the way out of the Benin airport.

“Pardon?” I asked, wondering if I had heard correctly.

“You see,” he explained, “Lawson is a common Togolese name, even sometimes a Beninese one, and in West Africa Sarah is usually a Muslim name. So I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.”

I explained to him that Lawson was originally English in my case. M. Valère Houssou, the Director of the NGO Alidé in...

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