Nov 27, 2008 MX Mexico

but I make tamales

I spend most of my time meeting small business owners who have received funds through ADMIC, the local non-profit microfinance institution, using Kiva funds. I have this opportunity to enter people’s homes and hear them talk about the development of their businesses. Yesterday I met three women who make and sell tamales.

While the tamale recipe isn’t necessarily complex it is labor intensive. The spreading of the masa into the corn husks alone takes muscles that aren’t put into play by those of us who labor over a computer. As the cooks in my...

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Nov 27, 2008 BJ Benin

 “We thought you were a Muslim from Togo,” the Director of Alidé told me on the way out of the Benin airport.

“Pardon?” I asked, wondering if I had heard correctly.

“You see,” he explained, “Lawson is a common Togolese name, even sometimes a Beninese one, and in West Africa Sarah is usually a Muslim name. So I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.”

I explained to him that Lawson was originally English in my case. M. Valère Houssou, the Director of the NGO Alidé in...

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Nov 26, 2008 PE Peru

By Cynthia McMurry, KF5 Peru

When FINCA staff interview clients to write their Kiva profiles, the last question each client is asked is “What are your dreams for the future?” As I looked at the profile of FINCA client after FINCA client, I was struck that almost everyone had some variation of the same three dreams:

1) “For my children to graduate with professional degrees” or “For my children to get a good education.” 2) “To open my own store” (for ambulatory vendors), “To open another store,” “To expand my store,” or “To offer a wider variety of merchandise in my...

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Nov 26, 2008 GH Ghana

Language is said to be the thing that separates man from animal. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow. It is also the way in which we can most easily communicate our deepest thoughts and desires with another. It is a tool that we use to bridge us together.

Yet since I have arrived in Ghana, I have begun to define language in an entirely new way. It is a constant ebb and flow of words and understanding. It is a roller-coaster ride of gerunds and participial phrases that mean all...

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Nov 25, 2008 AZ Azerbaijan

I’ve been in Azerbaijan for just over six weeks now, but I this is my first blog post since my arrival.

I haven’t known what to say, really. It’s not that I’ve been awed into silence by the exoticness of this Caucasus nation. I live in Baku, and we have six McDonald’s (so I hear — I’ve managed to visit two). Anyplace with that many McDonald’s fails some kind of exoticness test somewhere. Well, maybe if it was Japan and there was shrimp-burger on the menu, but the most exotic thing you can order at my McD’s is a MacArabic...

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Nov 25, 2008 ID Indonesia

Across from DINARI Foundation’s office, there is a large concrete lot with two long warehouses lining the perimeter. In the middle of the lot, blue tarps covered three mounds that were perhaps fifteen feet in diameter. In the morning, workers removed the tarps, revealing piles of what looked like sand as high as the men’s waists. Two of the men wheeled out mechanized plows and bulldozed the piles, gradually spreading the material across the concrete in messy spirals. A third worker appeared with a bandanna covering his nose and mouth,...

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Nov 24, 2008 TJ Tajikistan

In the past week I have met with almost 50 clients, which is way more than I met in the previous six weeks combined. I should feel inspired and excited by that accomplishment, but I mostly feel tired and battered. That’s because all of the clients I met with were BORING! I’m not exaggerating – I didn’t have one interesting interview. At least, that’s what I thought in the days surrounding the visits….

When I meet with clients, I ask a bunch of questions about their business, family, and personal...

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Nov 24, 2008 VN Vietnam

My mother grew up during WWII. She can make a little go a long way. But she’s no match for the Vietnamese. A couple of nights ago, at my translator’s house, we had chicken.

It is no fun being a chicken. But at least they weren't battery chickens!

Not chicken breasts or chicken thighs but chicken vertebrae. The amount of meat on a chicken’s vertebra is virtually nil. Common sense would accurately lead you to such a conclusion. But the...

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Nov 24, 2008 KH Cambodia

In my last post, I talked about visiting a client with Phanith, the AMK Kiva coordinator. The client officer (a.k.a. loan officer) was not available to take us, so we relied on a hand written map that got us lost many, many times. We had to ask almost every villager we saw, before we finally got to the client.

Getting lost in a village got my mind thinking about how nice it would be if we had an actual map with the locations of clients and how to get to them. So I spoke to Paul, the CEO of AMK, about how we could give GPS devices to our client officers. This would let us track them...

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