Oct 19, 2015 PE Peru

Whenever I travel outside Western Europe, the most common reaction is, "Wow, that must be really hard!" as if the developing world were little more than an array of obstacles, challenges, frustrations, and difficulties--unlike the unfettered convenience and ease of everything in the good old USA.    Yet every time I settle back into the American Dream, I find myself pining for any number of things that were easier or better elsewhere.  But when I describe most foreign countries as "convenient," people look baffled.  So here are some examples:...

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Oct 15, 2015 KE Kenya

There’s apparently a proverb that says you can’t wash the dust of Africa off your feet. Looking at my laptop, I realise just how dusty a place Kenya is in October. My camera, my phone, my clothes, my shoes – everything seems to have developed a layer of grime that’s gradually getting permanently worn in.

Nairobi has certainly played its part...

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Oct 14, 2015 MX Mexico

It's festival season in the farming community of San Lorenzo Toxico, Ixtlahuaca, about an hour north of Mexico City. The windows of the church in the center of town brim with colorful flower arrangements. I wander around the plaza outside the main chapel, snapping photographs of the bountiful altars -- stoic crosses, ripe fruits, framed photographs -- that the residents have put together in honor of their patron saint, San Lorenzo. 
A teenage girl taps me on the elbow shyly. "No puede sacar fotos aquí," she says. You can't take photos here....
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Oct 8, 2015 GO Global Update, US United States

What does it take to put on the biggest Kiva event in history?   Over 1,000 people came out to celebrate Kiva's San Francisco City Launch on October 1, 2015. I began my Fellowship exactly 18 days ago after moving to San Francisco to work as a Kiva Fellow. In just three short weeks I’ve been impressed by the energy and community of the Kiva Zip team.   For months, the Kiva Zip team in the US has been preparing for the San Francisco City Kiva Launch and my first weeks were inundated with meeting trustees, helping borrowers with their profiles and pictures, and... Continue Reading >>

Oct 5, 2015 GT Guatemala

Around the majestic Lake Atitlán sits the small town know for its traditional weavings, San Juan La Laguna. I was graciously invited to learn about the weaving process from two borrowers who are part of the women’s cooperative Asociación Tz’utujil. Tz’utujil is the Mayan culture and language of those inhabitants who live around the lake. One Saturday morning, I took the 30-minute boat ride across the lake to see how this cooperative makes their weavings (scarves, table runners, shawls, bags, hammocks, etc.) from start to finish.
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Sep 30, 2015 PE Peru

Proud papa of profitable plants
Shortly before leaving for my Kiva fellowship, I had an iced coffee so good that I thanked the barista.  Today, I got to thank the man who grew the beans--not the actual beans, probably, but the kind of high-quality beans that must have gone into such a drink.  Experts say that while Peru doesn't produce nearly the quantity of its famous neighbor, the quality of its coffee can be even bettter, in part because production is on such a small scale, mostly on tiny family... Continue Reading >>

Sep 30, 2015 AM Armenia

Life is very sad according to Hranush Kharatyan, or so the title of her book goes. It is an economic and social commentary examining life in Armenia since this small but proud Transcaucasian republic regained its independence from the Soviet Union, an event that was marked by celebrations of its 24th anniversary last week. The book focuses on the living standards of Armenians, one in three of whom live in poverty, and the obstacles facing a young nation that is trying to rebuild its economy. During the 1990s, Armenia witnessed the collapse of state-owned industries and a consequent surge in... Continue Reading >>

Sep 26, 2015 GO Global Update

The Caribbean high noon sun embraced us like a heating blanket as we started our short walk through the countryside to Juana's place. The semi-paved dirt road led us by a small market shop, and as she waved to the people inside, she turned and said with a proud smile, "My father is the owner here". I waved back and the four of us continued with a steady walk to our destination. The big avocado tree marked the beginning of the small property and the little pig tied at the bottom, circled it left and right like a restless guard. Juana opened the big lock and a... Continue Reading >>

Sep 25, 2015 BF Burkina Faso, GO Global Update

During my borrower’s verifications, I met incredible borrowers with their own unique story of faith, survival and hope. But among them, one man’s story lingered with me and I could not shake his face off of my mind. The man was Soumaila; a small and humble man with an infectious smile.
Soumaila (in the middle) proudly showing his parcels
As soon as we arrived, he along with his group members escorted us to his gardens and proudly showed us his parcels filled with onions, hot peppers and papayas. But what struck... Continue Reading >>

Sep 24, 2015 BF Burkina Faso, GO Global Update

My first attendance to a loan disbursement was at Micro Start, one of Kiva’s field partners located in Gounghin, Ouagadougou. What started as a routine day turned out to be the most inspiring experience of my life. I was not quite sure what to expect as this was my first time attending a loan disbursement. When I stepped in the room, I gazed through and saw women sitting in groups of three or four murmuring and waiting to be called to the next available window while others are already cashing their loans.
Women waiting to be...
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