Sep 4, 2008 KH Cambodia

After 7 movies, 4 made-for-TV dramas, 1 documentary, 2 Sudoku games, 1 confiscated Swiss army knife, 1 – $70 extra baggage weight charge, 5 airplane meals of chicken, chicken, and more sai mouan (chicken in Khmer), and 3 different planes, I am finally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I believe I am the last of the Kiva Fellow 5 Class reporting for duty, but don’t quote me on that, and I just can’t believe I am here after all those months of jealousy and admiration from reading the other fellow’s blogs and notes from the field.

I arrived yesterday morning around 9am...

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Sep 2, 2008 GT Guatemala

As some of you might know there is the story about the Guatemalans being a bit scared of people taking their kids for illegal adoption; apparently there was once a Japanese tourist beaten to death when he (or she I don’t know) picked up a kid.

Myself I have had kids dropped in my lab to have them sitting there for a couple of hours during a bus ride where mama already careys two others. One in tied around her back in a cloth an easily mistaken for a small package. One holding her skirt and one carried into the...

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Sep 2, 2008 TZ Tanzania

Fresh off the plane, I arrived in Dar es Salaam eager to begin work with Tujijenge Tanzania as a Kiva Fellow. First task: find accommodation for the year. Without Craigslist Tanzania, the whole process promised to be daunting.

It was. Here are some of the reasons:

Go to a real estate agent, he charges you $20 for a tour of available properties. But after showing you a gaggle of multiple bedroom apartments after you ask for a single room you get the sense he’s just showing you anything and everything to get his...

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Sep 1, 2008 NG Nigeria

Since arriving in Nigeria, I’ve mostly been hot. When I’m not hot, I’m comfortable. Cold is a word that I reserve for specifying how I would like my bottled water. When I became chilled and goose bumps started popping on Wednesday night, I knew something was wrong.

Within one hour, my forehead was burning up. I returned home from my friend’s house and went straight for my sweatshirt and thermometer. One hundred and two point four degrees. I popped some drugs, collected an arsenal of bottled water and went to bed, telling my Bengali housemate, Rafiq, that tonight I would not be...

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Aug 30, 2008 MX Mexico

I promised a long time ago to write about housing in Nuevo Laredo.

So I will exercise self-control and delay the gratification of writing about my recent outing to a lucha libre pro wrestling extravaganza. I will write instead about how housing gets built here in Nuevo Laredo – more of a sweaty struggle than the lucha libre on any day – and why housing microfinance is important in this process.

Visiting Kiva borrowers and writing journals represents a big part of my work for Kiva at my partner organization, FVP (Fundación para la Vivienda Progresiva, or...

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Aug 28, 2008 CM Cameroon

Squeezing people into taxis is par for the course in Cameroon. As cabs approach, you shout your destination to the driver and if you get the nod you hop in. If there are already three in the back, no matter, there’s room for one more. If there are two in the front, again, no problem: a third person can fit in – roughly positioned astraddle the gear stick (US English: stick shift).

Leaving Bamenda to make the journey to the small town of Belo, I felt a certain smugness at having bagged the front seat of the taxi. A...

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Aug 28, 2008 TZ Tanzania

Dar es Salaam. The city is an assault on the senses. Flying into Nyerere International airport, my first glimpse of Tanzania, and indeed of Africa, is incredibly beautiful – mile upon mile of azure ocean clings alluringly to a sandy coastline, clusters of coconut trees spring up from between houses with maroon and blue roofs, and an incredible profusion of blood red hibiscus infuse the entire landscape with color and vibrancy. Quite simply, it is breathtaking. Little wonder then that the city’s name translates into ‘abode of peace’ in Arabic, named so by Arab...

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Aug 26, 2008 KH Cambodia

In Cambodia, AMK has the lowest average loan balance per borrower. According to MIXMarket, AMK’s average balance at the end of 2007 was $86 per borrower. To put that in perspective the second lowest was AMRET at $164, which is nearly 90% higher. HKL, Credit MFI, and Maxima (the other three Cambodian MFIs working with Kiva) have an average loan balance of $603, $564, and $514 respectively. Currently, 93.4% of AMK’s loans are below $300 and their average loan balance is now $114. AMK chooses to keep their average loan balance low. They limit individual loans to $500 and they...

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Aug 22, 2008 CM Cameroon

Well, maybe I’m not the first to discover that microfinance existed in Cameroon before the Grameen bank was founded in India or before Mohammed Yunnus got the Nobel Prize, but I felt like I had when I stumbled upon Njangi while talking to some friends over the weekend. The young people who I’ve met in Cameroon are all very intelligent and informed. The standard of education is excellent and radio commercials advertising excellent classroom facilities for young children frequent the radio. Conversation amongst the teens most often centers on grades from the last semester and I’ve yet to...

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Aug 21, 2008 CM Cameroon

I am sitting in the modest headquarters of GHAPE in Bamenda, north west Cameroon.

I am surrounded by the membership books of some of the organisation’s small borrowers, detailing their loan totals and bi-monthly repayments. There is no column for defaults. When the women (it is mostly women) meet to make their regular contributions they stay in the room until the right amount of money has been collected. If someone cannot make their payment then the others have to make up the difference. But they all know each other and it’s never good to...

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