Mar 24, 2008 TZ Tanzania

1. You are constantly told to eat more ugali so you won’t be so skinny.

2. Cell phone towers are more common than traffic lights.

3. You see signs like this:

3.5. And this:

4. The most common phrase you hear is “Hey mzungu! Taxi?”

(“mzungu” is Swahili for “white person”)

5. A short cab ride can cost up to 3,000 TZS, but no worries…that’s only $2.

6. The vernacular...

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Mar 21, 2008 TZ Tanzania

Hopefully, this is just volume 1 of “You know you are in Tanzania when…” blogs. I am banking on contributions from Dana and Johannah, the other TZ fellows for the next volumes…

1. Coworkers frequently walk by and casually mention that they have malaria.

2. The most common question you are asked is: “Are you a Muslim or a Christian?”

3. Gospel music plays full volume during the workday.

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Mar 19, 2008 UG Uganda

Hello from Uganda! I have been in Kampala for a week now and all is going very well, but I have to say I feel woefully underdressed most of the time. People on the street are by and large impeccably turned out. Looking around the Life in Africa office, the men are all wearing nice trousers and buttoned shirts, and the women are in lovely skirts and blouses. And it’s true everywhere. I have seen more beautiful ties since I’ve been in Kampala than I’ve seen in years. And women: no trooping through the streets in sneakers. You’ll be in dressy shoes wherever you are...

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Mar 18, 2008 TZ Tanzania

Loan officers are an integral part of the microfinance process. Without the hard work of loan officers, reaching the poor with financial services would not be possible. However, loan officers typically do not get very much attention. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting for you to meet a friend of mine at YOSEFO to help give you a better understanding of how loan officers fit into the microfinance process.

At YOSEFO, each loan officer is assigned a community center. There are 13 centers serviced by the Dar es Salaam branch...

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Mar 18, 2008 MZ Mozambique

During my initial days here in Mozambique, while Bernardo was explaining me Hluvuku’s background and current position, he mentioned investments in a soccer team. Immediately I remembered all the NGOs that operate in Brazilian slums and their effort to promote sports (99% of the time soccer) and music. I though that soccer worked in Brazil because of the fame it has and because many star players come from those slums. I never actually imaged how far it could reach and how thoughtful this method could be.

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Mar 16, 2008 AZ Azerbaijan

Greetings!  My name is Ai Li Ang and I live in Chicago, Illinois, in the USA.  I was born and grew up in Malaysia and am ethnically Chinese (this detail will be relevant later on).  I arrived in Azerbaijan as a Kiva Fellow to work with one of Kiva’s partners, Norwegian Microcredit (Normicro).  This is the second time that Normicro is hosting a Kiva Fellow.  Since the previous Fellow, Liz Vallette, departed in fall of 2007, Normicro has continued to experience tremendous growth in number of clients served and loan portfolio.  In less than a year, Normicro has added 2 branch...

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Mar 14, 2008 GT Guatemala

Over the past five months I have, several times, made the ignorant mistake of poking fun at the perceived idea of ‘cold’ here. Coming from Minnesota, land of ‘the nation’s ice box’, where just a couple weeks ago it hit a record low of 40 below, before wind-chill, I have a different mentality of cold than someone from a not-so-northern state, who might put on a winter jacket when the weather hits 60, when we don a t-shirt come spring when the thermometer notch reads above freezing. So, when traveling to places in Peru and now Guatemala, that are known to the locals as unbearably cold, I...

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Mar 14, 2008 WS Samoa

Greetings, friends and strangers.

I’ll be spending the next 3 months in Samoa providing you with my observations of the country, people and most importantly, South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), the MFI at which I’ll be working and to whom you may have lent.

I will not offer my impressions of Samoa until several weeks have passed and I can start to make some sense of everything. Otherwise, it would only be a collection of incoherent ramblings about a country of which I do not even speak its native language.

Many have asked where Samoa is located. Or...

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Mar 13, 2008 GH Ghana

Sometimes the end is the best beginning. And, by the end of my first repayment day, a group of four women marched past me, through the hallway and onto the red dirt path outside the house where they had just completed their repayments. As they passed, some were shaking their heads, others were raising their voices in frustration, but they were all unified by their goal – to make a visit on a member of their group who was absent from the repayment meeting and failed to make another repayment again. The rest of the group covered her payment for her. Now it was time to...

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Mar 13, 2008 AZ Azerbaijan

Stepping out onto the streets of Azerbaijan’s capital city is a quick way to gain insight on the local economic situation. The streets of Baku, much like other large cities, are plagued with traffic and drivers who use their horns more than they obey any sort of traffic laws. The mixture of vehicles that fill the roads is telling of the wealth disparity. Public transport is accomplished by aging mini-buses called marshrutkas plying the streets in all directions. Larger city buses are mostly absent so these marshrutkas provide the most comprehensive city transport in Baku. Although bus...

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