A Post about Nothing

What’s up with blog posts? Why do they always have to be about something?  A post should be just like life. You know, nothing happens — you get up, you eat, you go shopping.

I asked myself, “John, what did you do today in Mexico City?”

My reply: “I got up and went to work.”

There’s a post!

You’re still with me? Impressive! Then on to the details, or rather, the non-details, of a day in the life of a regular everyday normal Kiva Fellow.

One thing I really like about Mexico is the food. Grasshoppers go very well with mescal!

I met up with CrediComún’s Kiva Coordinator (my KC) at the Observatorio metro station and we hopped the bus to Toluca. This smog-capped industrial city of about a million people is historically famous for producing chorizo, or Mexican sausage. It’s also surrounded by mountains — it’s beautifugly! The bus was plodding along a crowded frontage road next to a busy highway. We got off, walked under a bridge, passed a few rows of shops and found our CrediComún subsidiary.

After chatting for an hour, four of us (including two branch office managers) got into a car and drove off to visit some Kiva Entrepreneurs. First, a young woman with three small children. All have striking ojos chinos, or Asian eyes, a very photogenic family. The two year-old was sitting on a bucket on a chair eating pasta soup. I started my interview with her, asking about the soup. She was incredibly bright and cute and not shy at all. We moved on to talking about shoes — hers came from the shoes her mother sells out of their home. The line of credit her mother receives (yes, I had moved on from interviewing the little girl to the mother around this point) allow her to earn a decent living while being with her children. Before, she borrowed from another microlender. For a six-month loan, she paid 100% interest. Not 100% annualized, but over the six months she pays back twice as much as she borrowed. That’s around a 300% APR! With CrediComún she pays about 15% interest on a four-month loan, or around 70% APR. We did not want her to be late for her appointment to have her children vaccinated, so we didn’t stay too long.

Next we visited a woman in her fifties who sews out of her home and her mother’s home across the alley. The cameras were obviously making her nervous as she told us about how the loans had helped her situation. Then her eyes teared up as she spoke about her daughter who had left her baby with her a few years ago. The four-year old was crawling all over his grandmother throughout the interview. The cameras went off and we prepared to leave, and she showed us the jeans and industrial towels she makes. She waxed enthusiastic as she talked about the order for 30,000 towels she received from a nearby factory, and how she contracts another woman to help out and may be hiring others soon. If only we’d filmed that part!

The final visit was to a poor-looking house on a dead-end lane with what used to be a truck sitting out front. Chickens were clucking and a hateful dog on a short tether was barking and struggling violently to get at us. A preteen girl gave him a kick as we were invited into the house.

This client sells plates and cups and so forth out of her home. She didn’t want us to videotape the interview out of fear for her children. I explained that we would not upload photos of anyone but her, and never give her full name or her location, and that there already is a photo of her on Kiva’s site and that she had agreed to have it posted. She didn’t budge, and we proceeded with the interview. Her twelve-year old daughter had just begun sixth grade. The girl talked about how she wanted to be a doctor and planned to finish high school. I let her know she’d probably have to study a bit longer than that.

The dog barked the whole time, so it was just as well we didn’t record the interview. We had two great videos already and dozens of photos.

Next the four of us went to eat pozole (a hominy-based soup, as in “No pozole for you!”) at a successful-looking restaurant. One of the branch office managers told me that the owner is another CrediComún borrower, but because she has become so successful, the amounts she can borrow are too high to qualify as a Kiva borrower. At lunch we reviewed our amazing collection of videos and photos.

My KC and I walked back to the highway, were soon on the bus and I threw my backpack in the rack above our heads. Because she’s one of those people who have a lot to say, the time went by quickly. I told her about my late night of shooting pool and drinking mescal and eating chapulines (crunchy grasshoppers served with sliced oranges).

We looked out at the beautiful mountains and pine forests, and before I knew it we were on the subway heading back to the office. I realized something was wrong with my backpack – my flipcam was not there. Nor was my camera. We returned to the bus station to see if perhaps they had fallen out, and an hour later, the infinitesimal hope I held had gone to zero. After years of never having been a victim in Latin America (true, I’ve been overcharged!), I had finally been robbed. And the worst part by far, was the loss of all that precious data.

I felt like a jerk (in fact, the jerk store called and they are not running out of me!) because of the sheer carelessness on my part. Not only were those images perfect and meant so much to me and would have made this post so much better, but could the data in the wrong hands put those families at risk? Fortunately none gave their full names or neighborhoods and we didn’t take any outdoor shots, but the truth is, yes, it could.

So there it is. There’s a post. Just a bunch of people doing their day-to-day routines.

You can help by making a loan to a CrediComún client, joining Friends of CrediComún, or spreading the word about Kiva.

John Farmer is a Kiva Fellow working in Mexico City. He has watched way too many Seinfeld reruns in the past.

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