Apr 16, 2008 AZ Azerbaijan

The biggest holiday in Azerbaijan is Novruz. This spring event has its roots as a pre-Islam New Year celebration. It officially begins on the spring equinox but the celebration ramps up much earlier with large street bonfires every Tuesday for the month preceding Novruz. Each week represents a different element: earth, water, air, and fire. Much of the community comes out for the bonfires to socialize and listen to music. Tradition calls for fearless youth to jump across the bonfire regardless or how large it is. On one occasion I witnessed a boy run through a fire along a burning pole...

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Apr 16, 2008 KH Cambodia

Inspired by the TZ fellows, I’ve come up with a top 10 for a taste of Cambodia:

1) The first questions people ask you are not “where are you from” or “what do you do” but “how old are you” and “are you married.” 2) Your clients bring you pictures of their sons and try to arrange marriages during your meetings. 3) A “taxi” transports 50+ people… and you don’t get a discount for sitting on the roof. 4) The Lexus SUV on the street has one person inside and the motorcycle beside it is transporting a family of 7… plus some groceries. 5) Drivers make their own lanes, honking is polite,...

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Apr 16, 2008 GT Guatemala

The past six months have been indescribable. I’ve attempted to wrap my thoughts around them and put them to words, but the result does not compare to the experience. I’m home now, trying to find a way to live here, in this world, with the same passion that comes so naturally when given the constant inspiration and education I received from Kiva’s entrepreneurs. Here are some thoughts I scrambled together on the plane ride home, reflecting on what there is left to do and how to possibly take on the challenge:

Poor little rich girl with the luxury of picking around the slightly...

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Apr 12, 2008 SN Senegal

Although we are not too active on the blog, there are a few of us Fellows here in west Africa, one of Kiva’s fastest growing partnership regions!  I’m currently based in Senegal with CAURIE Microfinance.  

For my first Kiva Fellows blog, I’d like to introduce you to a few of CAURIE’s clients: local entrepreneurs Awa Yombe Diagné and Mboudy Démé.  I’ve had the pleasure of following their new loans on the Kiva site and meeting with them personally.  While the economic and financial implications of microfinance and its impact on...

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Apr 11, 2008 WS Samoa

Many Westerners come to Samoa and quickly make one of two judgments: all Samoans are poor OR no Samoans are poor.

That dichotomy can be perplexing, so I decided to engage a Centre Manager (loan officer) in a conversation about it. One who stood firmly with the belief that all Samoans are poor. None of this should be treated as a final judgment. Far too early for that.

To paraphrase:

Everyone in Samoa is poor, he stated.

If I ask the people if they’re poor, what...

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Apr 11, 2008 GH Ghana

I’ve been back in Chicago for about 2 weeks now and have had time to sit and digest my Kiva Fellow experience. Going into this I tried to keep a completely unbiased and open-mind about microfinance. I’m a huge supporter of microfinance, but I have heard critics argue that it does little to actually lift people out of poverty. So I tried to take my opportunity to see first hand how it affects borrowers.

During my 2-month stay in Cape Coast, Ghana I had the privilege to meet over a hundred borrowers successfully running their own businesses. I heard stories of individuals...

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Apr 11, 2008 MZ Mozambique

I’ve been working with Hluvuku in Mozambique for a month now and had the chance to live for at least a week in 3 different branches (including the headquarters). I was lucky enough to live the day-to-day life of a small branch office with only one loan officer and to witness a transition of portfolio, as this loan officer, Paula, was moving back to a bigger branch and a recently promoted 1st year loan officer, Luciano, was taking over her portfolio. By than it was crystal clear the huge importance of a loan officer at the microfinance world: without their...

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Apr 10, 2008 GH Ghana

I’ve visited over 100 clients in the past two months and one of the most common responses to “how are you going to use this loan” is “I’m going to buy in bulk.”   At first, it appeared to me that perhaps this is a common impulse to overstock inventory so a customer never walks away empty-handed.  But, I was quick to learn that this bulk purchasing phenomenon is not driven by concern about product supply but rather inventory cost.   Here, in Ghana, there is an omnipresent concern over creeping inflation.  And with Zimbabwe in the news this...

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Apr 10, 2008 UG Uganda

Almost everywhere we go it feels like we’re the centre of attention. Most often we’re the only white people around amongst a sea of locals. The attention isn’t bad – it can’t be classed as harassment like we receive in India, Morocco and certain other countries – but we’re aware that all eyes are on us. We’re just different – we look different, we move differently, we wear different clothes, we sound different, we’re doing different, possibly interesting things.

For the small kids, as we walk through their small...

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Apr 10, 2008 UG Uganda

 

We entered the wooden hut that served as the meeting room for Rubaga Women’s Group, desperate for some respite from the Kampala sunshine. It was much cooler inside, despite the absence of windows and surprisingly, the thin gaps between the planks of wood let in a cool breeze. So we sat down and were grateful that the women were able to make enough room for us to squash between them. Our sense of personal space has been altered since we came to Uganda and we no longer feel uncomfortable to be pressed up against smiling strangers on buses, in...

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