Apr 21, 2009 PE Peru

After almost two months living in Puno, Peru and after a few embarrassing moments when tourists I encountered asked me for advice about visiting Lake Titicaca and I had to sheepishly admit that I hadn’t yet embarked, I decided it was time to make the trip. In my defense, I had been waiting for the rainy season to pass and for someone to go with. Luckily, last weekend both my prerequisites were met.

Through a Kiva connection, I met a fellow microfinance worker, Zoe, who was conducting surveys on microfinance interest rates in Puno. In the good and admittedly much needed company of...

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Apr 21, 2009 KE Kenya

I am living in Kisumu, Kenya. Here is a picture of the street where I volunteer, in the Nyalenda slum.

Walking around the slum, one quickly comes across evidence of the post election violence.  Burned buildings are common.  As are random herds of goats.

White people in Kisumu are usually in self-contained SUVs.  Not too many ever enter the Nyalenda slum.  As a result, as I walk, I am usually chased by children.

If I stay in one place for too long, they gather to stare.

In the slum, you find many teenage girls.  Their stories show...

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Apr 21, 2009 LB Lebanon

The other day, I walked around Saida‘s old town in southern Lebanon and just soaked in the mood of the place. The old town is far removed from the modern part of the city where cars dominate. Here, people go about their business in the narrow streets and interact in a far more intimate space. Tourists are just beginning to discover the place, though they rarely go much deeper than the soap museum on its outskirts.

A number of NGOs have been involved in this part of town for years, where the level of poverty tends to be quite a bit higher than the national level. Also, the...

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Apr 20, 2009

I have always wanted to write something about our transport system and the huddles involved for one to get to work early and let it be printed in the papers but again part of my mind said why not for us here! Eeh before I forget, taxi are the matatus we use here in Uganda, while ‘Maaso awo’ means find the next stage for me to get off.

As a Kiva Coordinator, Pearl Microfinance, the work I do involves a lot of movements with so many hardships, but if all this is to be added on to the messy taxis, traffic jams and the rude taxi operators especially the conductors, then my day will be...

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Apr 17, 2009 NI Nicaragua

Perhaps it depends on the context.

Now having served as a Kiva Fellow at three of Kiva’s partner microfinance institutions (MFI) in three distinct locations, I have seen a wide variety in the types of businesses Kiva lenders are funding.  I have also seen many, many situations where one client has several businesses.  In a recent blog post, Stephanie Koczela, a Kiva Fellow in Uganda, very articulately explained how and why microfinance clients often have a variety of businesses.  As she describes, not only is this the reality, it actually makes a lot of sense and helps these clients...

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Apr 17, 2009 BO Bolivia

Emprender has two offices in Cochabamba and three in Santa Cruz. Both these cities have a distinct character, and reputation that precedes them. The Cochabambinos, or “ “Bambinos” (best nick name ever right?) are known for their gigantic plates of food. Everyone tells me that I would eat a lot in Cochabamba, and that I would find the climate perfect. In Santa Cruz, I would find people of a totally different culture. The kind that whistle at the women in the street, take off dancing at a moment’s notice, men with mojo and women with hot blood. All...

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Apr 16, 2009 GT Guatemala

Someone asked me how it was that I seemed to have (almost) constant access to the internet AND no indoor running water or heat. From an American perspective, it seems irrational and contradictory. But, Guatemala is filled with (seeming) contradictions and contrasts. I suspect that many of my “fellow” fellows have experienced the same in the countries where they are working.

The family I live with has satellite TV, a wide screen television (and a television in every bedroom) but they have no indoor running water or heating. They...

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Apr 14, 2009 UG Uganda

Sometimes, when interviewing the entrepreneurs from Pearl Microfinance, Uganda, I am startled to discover how many businesses they have. They are teachers with a few milk cows on the side, or used clothing salespeople who also keep pigs, or farmers who also raise cassava, matoke, and chickens! These ‘super entrepreneurs’ amaze me, but I am always left wondering why do they choose to have so many businesses. Wouldn’t it be better for them to focus just one? Each cycle they could inject all their loan money into one business and it would take off!

As is typical when I am making...

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Apr 13, 2009 GT Guatemala

So, warning, this has NOTHING to do with microfinance.

But, here are two videos that give a definite flavor of life here in Nimasac, Guatemala where I have spent the last two months as a Kiva Fellow with ASDIR, Kiva’s field partner in Totonicapan, Guatemala.

K’iche is the predominant language spoken here. Many people have asked me to describe what it sounds like, but I’ve found that to be an impossible task, so here is a short video of animated dinner conversation in K’iche.

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Apr 13, 2009 CM Cameroon

Living in Bamenda, Cameroon is relatively inexpensive. Taking a taxi from one end of the city to the other can cost you a maximum of 250 CFAs (50 cents). Granted, with everything else, you have to sacrifice some luxuries. Using the taxi as an example, the driver, at times, will fit 7 passengers with him in his mid-sized sedan. That is not unusual, especially for longer trips. Other purchases can be extremely cheap when compared to US prices. An avocado, or “pear” here, costs about 75 CFA (or 15 cents). They can cost even less at times. The trick to getting the low price is,...

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