A Look Under the Hood (Fine Tuning an MFI for 2011)

My new Kiva Fellows Blog Post about Asociacion Arariwa’s Retreat last weekend. From microfinance reflections, to singing Peruvian Folk at 2 am!

A Sneak Preview> “The retreat started out with pictures of Machu Picchu, Maras Moray, Sacsayhuaman, and the mountains and sweeping valleys that put Peru on the map for every tourist coming to South America.  The executive director began, “This is our rich history, memories from a time were we were the most advanced race on the face of the planet”.  The discourse went on to show poverty in Peru: families standing outside of adobe shacks, and homes destroyed by the floods last February and the executive director explained that their “rich” history can´t guarantee a “rich” future for the poor in Peru.  How only microfinance coupled with education (at every village bank Arariwa provides training sessions for their clients) and a focus on improving health and nutrition can do that.”

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Some Time Off

Read this is you are interested in the three entirely separate stories from my Nicaraguan vacation with fellow kiva fellows (Yes, the repetition was necessary). Read this if you read my other post about climbing volcanos and you were wondering… hmm I wonder if Eric will do that again. Or if you like surfing, getting ripped off, fresh water sharks or wandering through the jungle at night

Guatemala City – San Salvador – Honduras – Managua – Laguna de Apoyo – Grenada – Isla Omotepe – San Juan Del Sur — Guatemala

Story 1: We roll off the boat at 6:30pm en Isla Omotepe, Nicaragua.  For the past hour on the boat, a guy has been following us around asking if we want a ride to our destination, Playa Santo Domingo for $4 a piece.  This might strike everyone in the States as a deal, but after you are used to paying half that for a couple of months, you become more price sensitive.

We opted to wait until we got off the boat to search for a ride. Where there is a gringo, there is 10 natives offering them a wide variety of both needed and unneeded items.  It was dark when we got offer, and immediately we got bids from 3 Nicas to take us (our group of 5 plus 3 german girls) to Playa Santo Domingo for around $2 apiece. We accepted the order and jumped in the back of a large pick-up with railings to hold onto, banana leaves, empty watermelon rinds and an army of spiders and mosquitos to keep us company.

Half-a-kilometer later, we hear a telltale clunk, clunk, clunk as entire our tire is rolling off the car or the axle was breaking. We wait and try to catch a ride with the other transports going into town (the ones we had earlier denied to take our cheaper banana truck) without luck. And then, we started to walk the 2 k through the pitch black jungle to the nearest town.  Finally, a small truck pulls up and offers us rides for $5 a piece–outrageous since we were already to Altagracia, just not to the Playa Santo Domingo. Within minutes of picking us up, our banana truck races past making us believe that it was one giant trick.

We argued with the lady who told us she needed to charge $45 for the 15 minute ride in the back of the truck because of taxes. To which I replied we should be getting a receipt if you are paying taxes.  In the end, we forgot the whole thing over dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant with Harold our new Nica friend.

Story 2: Climbing the “Vulc” Concepcion.  It´s something about Central America where I have to climb a volcano every couple of weeks.  This time it was Concepcion: soaring 1610m  into the sky (for all the estadounidenes) we are talking about pushing a 5000ft elevation gain.  Our guide seemed to think it was no problem, so we packed our jar of peanut butter, some bread, 3 liters of water a piece, and some granola bars are were on our way.

Unfortunately (and this should have spelled trouble for the rest of the day), we were unable to catch a ride to the trailhead so waking up at 5:30am to get an early start was almost pointless as we walked 7km to the trailhead.  Then, we followed a path straight up to the top. On most trails that ride 5000ft in elevation, there are some form of switchbacks, but in Nicaragua they decided it would be a lot more fun without them. And because of the conical shape of the volcano every step got a bit steeper.

Drenched in sweat, we finally made it to the top, and amidst the sulfur fumes, our guide proceeds to tell us how lucky we are that the Civil Guard isn´t here to tell us not to get close to the crater because every once in a while the edge of this very active volcano collapses in on itself.  I was beyond tired and thirsy, but with the fumes and superheated rocks (and imminent danger of death) there was no rest at the top.

After a full 12 hours of hiking, we made it back down into town and I drank the most delicious coke I have ever tasted followed by 2 liters of water. We caught two rides back (the first ride, one of the guys gave us shots of corn liquor and then proceeded to try to steal my hat) and collapsed into bed early.

Story 3: Not really a story, but from Omotepe, we headed to the beach at San Juan del Sur. The second day we were there, I finally got to go surfing at Remanso Beach about 30 minutes away. We rolled up from the hostel with 15 gringos with boards (all of which didn´t know how to surf) and took the rip current out to the main 6-8ft break. Me, a nine foot longboard, and an empty break. Heaven on earth.

Now after 24 + hours of traveling I´m back in Guate City, but will always remember one of the greatest vacations I have ever taken…