Most of the clients I visit make just enough money from their businesses to get by day to day. When you ask what their future plans or hopes are, some have none in sight- just repeating the same monotonous labor, day in and day out, to continue to put food on the table… challenging enough with the rising food inflation here (http://www.voanews.com/english/2008-04-21-voa21.cfm). If family members are sick (with an 8+ member household in a developing country- odds are someone will be sick), medical costs can make this prohibitive and put business...Continue Reading >>
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...Continue Reading >>
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...Continue Reading >>
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,...Continue Reading >>
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...Continue Reading >>
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...Continue Reading >>
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...Continue Reading >>
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...Continue Reading >>
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...Continue Reading >>
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,...Continue Reading >>