So after three nights in Bangkok and two nights in the Bali surf town of Kuta, I was picked up yesterday by Ferdinand, who I will be working with side by side at DINARI, the microfinance institution (“MFI”) here in Bali that Kiva has partnered with. Ferdinand drove me to Sempidi, which is 20 km’s inland and north of Kuta (and about 20 degrees hotter), where I met many of the 30+ employees at the DINARI headquarters. DINARI also has a second branch in West Bali (Melaya) and is planning to open two more branches in the coming year.
While there is much to talk about with respect to the culture and people in the office, the part I was most excited to get started was the visiting of Kiva’s clients. Over my time here in Bali, I will likely be meeting with around 70 Kiva clients, the first 11 of whom I met this week. In order to meet with a client, I head out with a loan officer and often a translator. Typically, I’ll hop on the back of a moped designed for about 150 pounds and hug the guy in front of me as he wheels through the crazy Bali traffic and then through small streets and rice paddies that lead us to our destination.
I have a fun time on the back of the moped as the driver tries to figure out why his bike is making strange noises, having problems accelerating and getting horrible mileage. I have an inkling that it might have something to do with the extra 200 pounds weighing on the back tire, but I have no idea how to say that in Bahasa (Indonesian), so I shrug my shoulders and give my village idiot smile.
The clients so far typically live and operate their businesses out of their tiny one room dwellings that also house their families. The conditions vary, but in almost all cases, it’s clearly evident that many of these clients are living in fairly extreme forms of poverty. However, from the smiles on the faces of the clients and their families, it seems as if these people have never seen a day of sadness. From the big smiles that greet me to the laughs that accompany my sad attempts at speaking Indonesian, I have had a wonderful time getting to know more about how your loans have affected their lives.
With each client, I basically show up, ask them a bunch of questions (through a translator), smile a lot, hear their story, play with their kids (if applicable – I try not to play with imaginary kids as it tends to creep people out) and then take their photos. When I ask them what their dreams are (my favorite question), most say that their primary dream is to have good health and happiness for their families, before going into more elaborate wishes about grwoing their businesses. It’s always refreshing to hear such wonderful priorities. And the loans do seem to make a difference. I will see more evidence throughout my two months here, but so far it seems like the loans are allowing for a better life in one aspect or another.
Okay… Off to visit another client. If you have a minute, please say a prayer for my rear. I can barely sit down after spending three hours today on the back of a moped.
Note – this piece was written a few days earlier than it was posted, as will likely be the case with most of my postings.