Dec 22, 2008 TJ Tajikistan

It’s 5am and the electricity has just come back on here in my Khujand apartment. I know because the sheet metal of the ‘70’s era space heater plugged into the wall has started to creak and crack as it warms. I’m not typically up at this hour but it’s D-day – my departure – and I’m anxious to get started on the 3 day, 5 country journey back home. Today Tajikistan to Uzbekistan, tomorrow Uzbekistan to Moscow to Amsterdam, and finally Amsterdam to… America.

I’ve grown accustomed now to calling my homeland, ‘America.’ Early on here I didn’t know what...

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Dec 21, 2008 PE Peru

After finishing my Kiva fellowship with EDAPROSPO last week, I moved out of Lima and into the province of Junín in the sierras of Peru.  My time with Microfinanzas PRISMA is quite short and so I’ve engaged in a whirlwind tour of meeting entrepreneurs, collecting their stories, and posting journal updates.  As the PRISMA office in Tarma services the entire northern half of Junín province, the clients are very spread out and thus long hours are a given.  The following video is a snapshot of my day on Wednesday, December 17th, 2008.  I had to split it into two parts because the upload...

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Dec 20, 2008 HN Honduras

Christmas in Honduras sunny and delicious. Christmas parties are everywhere, and come with very royally dressed women and scantily dressed girls. Office beauty pageants. The days are a warm 80 degrees, toasty not humid. I’m eating Tres Leches cake like my heart is made of iron, not soft, susceptible tissue.

I can’t get enough of the Christmas trees. Like everything here, color is supreme.

Christmas Tree in Prisma's Office

Don’t forget that they don’t grow...

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Dec 18, 2008 TJ Tajikistan

I had been planning for today’s lasagna lunch since the second week of my fellowship when one my colleagues asked if I could make his favorite dish from the U.S. How could I say no? This man had picked me up at the border, arranged my housing, and even helped me secure a SIM card and cell phone, among countless of other tasks. Lasagna was the least I could do, right? Right? In the end the lasagna required more than 10 trips to various stores and the efforts of approximately 12 people, in three countries.

When I...

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Dec 18, 2008

Today is my last day in Bosnia, the first of my Kiva placements.

I have committed a year to volunteering with Kiva, and I initially hoped to write a book about the experience.  Last August, I imagined myself sitting on a street corner in Kenya, smoking cheap cigarettes.  Poor children would laugh in the distance and I would sigh, reflectively, finally understanding the meaning of it all.  I would walk down the street with a child on my back, high-fiving locals and getting a thumbs-up sign from the local nurse.  My eyes would turn that perspicacious blue, seen only in the eyes of...

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Dec 17, 2008 UA Ukraine

Storm clouds are gathering in Eastern Europe.  Ukraine, Hungary, and Iceland share the news headlines as the wold’s foremost victims of the global financial crisis.   Political infighting and tensions with Russia, along with a severely declining steel industry have deepened the effects across Ukraine.   There is a silver lining, but more on that later.    

In the western world, “political tensions” essentially mean that 24-hour cable networks switch to all politics, all the time.  In Ukraine, due to “political tensions” between local officials, last...

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Dec 17, 2008 KH Cambodia

In Cambodia there is a popular song called Tov Dondung Kon Key by Khemarak Sereymon. The song is VERY catchy and we hear it EVERYWHERE. The best part of the song is the story. It’s about a guy who has this crush on a girl who he meets at the market. When he goes with his mother to meet the girl’s parents so that he can ask them to marry her, the girl’s family asks for $5000 as a dowry. Unfortunately, even if he sold his rice field and cows he would not have enough money, so he sings about his agony.

...

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Dec 16, 2008 VN Vietnam

Yesterday I met Mr. and Mrs. Phung, their two children and their granddaughter. The Phungs run a bicycle repair shop. It is a small shop on a partially paved, pot-holed street on the outskirts of Thanh Hoa City, Vietnam (150 kilometers south of the capital, Hanoi). Had it been a few houses further down the street, Mr. and Mrs. Phung would have enjoyed views over the rice paddies.

Bicycles are repaired on what would be the pavement, if one existed. As with many homes, the front room not only...

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Dec 16, 2008 KH Cambodia

It was very first time in my life I confused so much what is common sense.

I went to Immigration Office in Phnom Penh to get my passport with newly extended visa a few weeks ago. But an Immigration Officer said there wasn’t my passport. I couldn’t believe what she said. She said an officer whom I submitted my passport to the day before that day, wasn’t the officer in charge of visa extension, and she had no idea with my passport. What?! The guy was not officer in charge of visa extension?...

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Dec 16, 2008 AZ Azerbaijan

(with apologies to Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King)

1. Cats are great city animals.

Cat on car.

At one time, Baku was rat country, so I’ve been told. Someone decided to fix the problem by either introducing cats to the streets or firing all the cat-catchers. You don’t see many rats around nowadays.

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