The Cows of Cochabamba

•June 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

An update on my trip to train staff at CIDRE in Bolivia.

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Kiva in the News

•June 8, 2009 • 2 Comments

An exciting announcement from the people at Kiva who make it all happen:

“There will be a big Kiva announcement on Good Morning America and ABC World News on Wednesday, June 10th!

Make sure you tune in to watch the Kiva segment in the second hour of Good Morning America, and the follow up on ABC World News .  To find out when Good Morning America and ABC World News air in your area, check your local TV guide.

On radio, we have 2 BBC interviews and 1 (maybe 2) NPR interviews.  They’ll likely be Wednesday too.”

Keep an eye/ear out for this.   I can’t share what the announcement is, but I can definitely say it’s big news for anyone interested in our work and in microfinance in general.

Need I Say More?

•June 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

On the heels of finding the chipa video, this weekend I was in the bus terminal here in Asuncion and I saw this.  Again, I recently tried to use a blog entry to communicate how Paraguayans feel about their terere but this artist says it all with one absurd, hilarious, tragic, and fantastic painting…

In the glow of such brilliance, words serve no purpose

In the glow of such brilliance, words serve no purpose

And just for some context, there’s not even a whiff of irony wafting through the little exhibit this artist has up in the bus terminal.  Senora Lisa here is hanging next to some equally unfortunate renderings of things such as horses, odd geometric designs, the Titanic (pre-iceberg), and Paraguayan haciendas.

Some YouTube Love for Chipa

•May 29, 2009 • 2 Comments

A while back, I wrote a long blog entry about chipa, a popluar snack here in Paraguay.

These guys outdid the blog and went straight for the heart.  I”ve had chipa from the place they’re singing about, though, and…well…it tastes like almost all the other chipa I’ve had here.

Bus Rides in Asuncion

•May 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

For some time now, I’ve wanted to find a way to describe the microcosm of Paraguay that comes to life each time one steps onto a bus here in Asuncion.  Buses are called colectivos and once you figure out where they go (which Rose did far earlier than I when we got here in February) they’re a cheap, sometimes suffocatingly hot, always entertaining way to get around the city and out to the countryside.

The buses spew a ridiculous amount of headache-inducing diesel exhaust and I’m pretty sure there’s a city-wide competition among the drivers to see who can obliterate their vehicle’s transmission the fastest.  Starts and stops are anything but smooth and when you want to get off, the driver rarely comes to a full stop to let you hop out the back, because apparently that extra half second is worth making passengers hit the ground running.  Not that the bus system overall is the least bit efficient or time-saving.  There are bus-stops but no one uses them.  Instead, to catch a bus, one merely has to raise a hand to flag down the driver, meaning that a quarter-mile stretch of road that has two bus stops might include 5 different passenger pick-ups.  Such is Paraguay.

The best part of a bus ride, though, is the collection of folks who hop on to try to convince you to buy an amazingly wide array of stuff.  Need a new toothbrush?  A bottle of vegetable oil perhaps?  Maybe your kid is having a birthday party tonight, and you forgot to buy noisemakers?  Fret not, my friend, if you stay on the bus long enough, the toothbrush guy, oil guy, and noisemaker guy will most certainly come to your aid, all of them crooning their sales pitch with the same nasally, thought-piercing melody.

John Gimlette, author of an excellent travel memoir/history of Paraguay titled At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, describes the colectivo experience quite well:

I always enjoyed bus journeys around Asuncion.  It wasn’t that the views were particularly good or that the buses were even comfortable–they tended to be raw-boned hulks that whined and belched their way across the city; it was the mercantes.

There was an understanding among drivers and vendors that–for a few stops at least–the vendors could ride along for nothing…we were always eager to see who’d climb on next.  There were like little dramas punctuating our journeys.  Some of their efforts to raise money were ingenious and others were just plain desperate.  Some got on and made speeches (“Only Christ can save us from drugs”) and then passed hats around for our coins. [NJC: I recently had a guy get on my bus, say he was only there to show us the way to Christ, pray on our behalf, then still ask for money] Others sold things–stickers, fizzy drinks, chipa, cigarettes one-by-one, hair-clips–anything worth a coin.   There was one man who had a string of balloons, each dangling a tiny polystyrene aeroplane.  When he moved up and down the bus with his flock of bombers fluttering along behind him, the coins jangled into his pockets.

When I leave Paraguay in about four weeks, colectivos will be one aspects of Asuncion life that I miss the most.

KF 7

•May 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Me and another Kiva Fellow, Brett Dobbs, making an attempt to be funny: http://fellowsblog.kiva.org/2009/05/22/i-dont-want-to-stop-being-a-kiva-fellows-7th-class-welcome-kf8/

Mother’s Day In Paraguay

•May 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This post is on the Kiva blog as opposed to the Fellows blog.   It even comes complete with a little picture of me and my mom.

Check it out here.