I am now a Kiva fellow for almost 7 month in West Francophone Africa and I have lived some great adventures and learnt some fun lessons.
In this blog post, I have decided to share with you some similarity I have encountered in the countries I have been living (Benin, Senegal and Togo).
Hope you will learn some stuff, smile a little and maybe you’ll recognize yourself as a long-time fellow because:

-       At the beginning of your experiences, you’ve thought that “Yovo” or “Touba” was your new first name

-       You know the best moment about this photo is your shiny eyes when you’ve showed it to the children:

-       You’ve been in a field during a Borrower Verification and you’ve seen shirtless man working, you’ve told yourself you should go to sport more often
-       You’ve write a blog for the first time of your life
-       You’ve learn a different scale of time; “10 minutes” is a really extensible notion
-       You know that everything you want can be found on the side of the road…except when you are looking for something in particular
-       You’ve surprised yourself to explain the “Internet” in manner you’ve never imagined
-       You’ve tasted to something strange in a dark bowl in a middle of nowhere…and you’ve enjoyed your time
-       You know there is no such thing as a “firm” price
-       You’ve seen religion leave in a peaceful harmony
-       You’ve been told at least once “you’ve must be very rich to be a volunteer”…
-       You’ve discovered the best way to prevent people going on Facebook, sports website, personal mails: low internet speed
-       You’re surprised that western doctors are specialized in only one particular field because here one "doctor", several specialities:

Specialities: cancer, hypertension, hernia, sexual weaknesses, painful period, malaria, kidney diseases, rheumatism...

-       You’ve have lots of “problems” in police barriers whereas everything seems to be fine
-       You’ve never seen so many employees coming to work on their holidays
-       Animals crossing streets is not only a sign along the road
-       You’ve learnt at least 15 words of every local language because you don’t want to be seen as a tourist…
-       …oh yeah, you hate tourist
-       Tissues and “Imodium”, first things to pack
-       You’ve discovered there is a work life without Internet
-       You know the biggest threat you can encounter look like that:

-       There is no such thing as a “typical day”
-       You did not know what “Fufu”, “Tiep” or “Yassa” stand for but now you love it
-       A bed net is ugly, maybe oppressive but definitively a life keeper
-       You can confess now, for the first two weeks you say "Hi" to people in the street you did not recognize
-       You have to give your opinion at least once about: slavery, religion or gay marriage…
-       …about the last one, sometimes you’ve shamefully preferred to shut your mouth but you’ve really want to cross this frontier without any trouble
-       You’ve “made” children cry just because you entered in a room
-       You know in remote area it is easier to find Coke than cold water
-       You start to regret your old 56K internet connexion
-       You’ve discovered new expression in French (even if it is your mother tongue)
-       You try to reproduce this sounds women made from their throat without opening their mouth, you never succeed, at best you just spit a little bit
-       You know there is sometimes "tiny" difference between images:

-       ...and reality:

-       You’ve never been invited so many times to eat by strangers in the streets
-       You regret the times you can buy wonderfull fresh pineapples for 0,4$
-       You’ve learnt to never come at work with your computer’s battery empty (at least not twice)
-       You still have doubt about the continent but faith and hope have overcame those feelings
In the next weeks, others extenders will share with you their experiences in their own parts of the world.

About the author

Fred-éric Bergheimer

Born in Paris to a Tunisian mother and a German father, Fred was raised by a nanny from Benin and the only boy among five girls. Thanks to his parents, at the age of 16 he has already traveled across 5 different continents, opening his mind to different cultures. After a Masters degree in Management, he discovered the concepts of Sustainable Development and microfinance. Having finished his MBA in Sustainable Development, he worked for 6 months at a legal office besides taking courses at the legal school to finally obtain a Master in private law. Afterwards, he worked for 2 years at an insurance company as a Project Manager working on the group strategy towards Sustainable Development. Unfortunately, he still felt a void in his work life, lacking fulfillment and sense of purpose. Then, he discovered the Kiva Fellows program of Kiva: travelling abroad, encountering people, trusting people, giving meaning to his work. Now, he is both thrilled and frightened to live this whole new experience as a Fellow for CAURIE in Senegal.