Hello all! My name is Mark Disston and I am the newest Kiva Fellow to head to the field. I am writing this on my flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia where I will be joining Maxima Mikroheranhvatho. Maxima is one of the smallest MFIs in Cambodia but has ambitious plans to expand their services. I have the fortune of teaming up with Amy Killian, the current Fellow at Maxima, whose work most of you have likely already read about (if not, see Straws and Sandpaper – my favorite post).

The past week has been a whirlwind. In quick succession I bought my ticket to Phnom Penh, quit my job, packed and subletted my apartment, and sprinted to my plane. Whew. However the upside was that in not sleeping for the 50 hours before my flight I managed to be devoid of all jet-lag when I landed. I just slept the whole flight.

Since I haven’t done anything as of yet, there isn’t much to post. But this is what I’m excited for (no particular order):

1. Meeting the borrowers and hearing their stories – not only those about how Kiva loans helped them, but really any story they feel is important enough to share. I think these small interactions will help me learn the most about the people of Cambodia.

2. Understanding the mechanics of how Kiva loans are implemented on an operational, financial, and technical level.

3. Seeing first-hand the impact, positive and negative microfinance has in people’s lives.

4. Living in a developing country with a scary past – definitely a learning experience.

5. Meeting others who share my passion.

6. Having time to consider my own path in the future and whether living and working in the developing world is something I want to continue.

7. Discovering when I’ve returned to the U.S. how much this experience has changed me in ways I didn’t notice day-by-day until I was re-immersed back into New York culture.

Well here I go! 10 minutes out and descending into Phnom Penh. I’m really not sure what to expect in the months ahead. I wish I had done more research! My thoughts are stuck on the half-completed to-do list sitting in my pocket and the myriad of things I forgot to pack. Oh well. The safety of home is behind me. I’ve made the leap – nothing to do now but enjoy the ride. I just hope I remembered to pack my parachute!

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