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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Dec 15, 2008 HN Honduras

On December 4th, I had the wonderful opportunity to accompany Prisma employees to the Premio Impulso Microempresarial 2008.

This was an event put on by a Honduran Magazine called Micro Empresas & Finanzas that seeks to unify and inform the microfinance sector here in Honduras. Prisma was a recipient of the Premio Impuslo Microempresarial, which recognizes their contributions to the microfinance sector.

Orbelina Valeriano, Prisma Director, Holds Award

There...

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Dec 15, 2008 TG Togo

By now, the living room with blue velvet couches really does feel like home. My Togolese family members who welcome me when I walk in the house are happy to see me. They call me ta-ta, then we slap hands with a finger-snap at the end (the Togolese really love that snap – I wonder who did it first, us or them?). The adorable 1-year old, Leona, runs up with her nose crinkled in a big smile, no longer wide-eyed in fear as she was when she first saw this bizarre-looking stranger. Then I drop off my bag in my room and they either come and visit me or I go hang out with them...

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Dec 13, 2008 SL Sierra Leone

By Adam Grenier, KF6 Sierra Leone

In May 2008, Salone Microfinance Trust (SMT) launched an agricultural loan product to clients in the remote farming villages surrounding the city of Kabala, Sierra Leone. The agricultural loan product is designed to stimulate the agribusiness sector. The loan provides subsistence farmers with a capital infusion into their farms for the purpose of increasing their production. Most commonly, the capital is used to purchase seeds, fertilizer and labor. These are the inputs, so to speak. With more inputs,...

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Dec 12, 2008 BJ Benin

Maurice, Alidé’s loan officer, and I ventured into neighborhoods even dirtier and more fly stricken to visit Alide’s clients. On Monday we visited the most intense location ever – the lake country. It reminded me a little of New Orleans. The houses were built on mud and some directly over the lake, the log slats spaced almost wide enough for a foot to fall through. The area was muddy with lots of flies and very poor. We interviewed one of the few male borrowers, Moise Dossa. He was a happy, attractive man wearing robes of flowing colors. In his bare feet, he led us into...

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Dec 12, 2008 GH Ghana

In the United States, my home country, our motto as of late has been change. I have been working at the Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN) in Ghana for almost two months now, and I am just in time to witness some monumental policy changes of its own that will redefine the way CRAN does business and may even give President-elect Obama a run for his money.

Currently, CRAN has seven different branches in three regions of Ghana. Four of its branches are located near the main office around Cape Coast and Elmina, Ghana, two fishing towns that aren’t...

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