Kiva Fellowship Survival Guide

Nadia Anggraini, KF10, Indonesia

You’ve read all about what’s required to become a Kiva Fellow. Now here’s a look at what you need to actually survive a 12+ week placement*.

1) Flexibility, patience, and a healthy sense of humor

You’ve just spent three hours sweating it out on a public bus filled with chain-smoking men to get to one of your MFI’s branch offices, and then another hour on a bumpy and rainy motorbike ride up to a remote village by the mountains. “It’s worth it”, you tell yourself, “a lot of borrowers live in this one village, and I can interview them all and finish writing my Kiva journal entries in one fell swoop.”

Of course, when you finally arrive, you find out that all the women are off preparing for a village-wide religious ceremony, and will not be back till night time. Well…at least you got an awesome view of the paddy fields, unripened stalks swaying gently in the wind, lush and green from the downpour. Just another day in the life of a Kiva Fellow.

2) Creativity

Technology is often not your friend. Over your weeks in the field you will receive numerous emails from other Fellows who have had their blog posting schedules messed up (we all sign up and take turns to post our blog entries on this site) due to internet problems.

Sometimes, your office internet will be down for an entire day, you cannot go to an internet café as they are all too far away, you have a lot of work to do but they all require internet connection, and the entire office is having a day-long annual meeting so you can’t follow any of them to the field. Your finger is starting to ache from clicking the “Refresh” button on Internet Explorer too many times, and you are trying hard not to implode from frustration.

This is a good chance to exercise your creative muscles, and think of vaguely useful things to do – write a blog post (this one’s a good case in point), read some microfinance articles, make a video. All these will help you feel more productive.

3) Willingness to learn

If you do not speak much of the local language, do invest the time to learn it. Take lessons, read books, practice with people. Nothing’s more rewarding than a good conversation with your colleagues, or the borrowers you visit.

Learning new skills, e.g. riding a motorbike, might appear scary at first, but it’s not that bad when you have friends teaching you. Nick Lewis (KF9/10) taught me how to ride a bike, and I taught Anna Antoni (KF11) – passing the knowledge down across generations of Fellows!

4) Significantly lowered standards for hygiene and safety

‘Nuff said. Shall spare readers the gory details.

5) A darn good bottle of mosquito spray

Essential for Fellows living in the tropics, to prevent unnecessary deaths from malaria, dengue fever, excessive blood loss from mass attacks by the bloodsuckers, or obsessive scratching of bite wounds.

6) Earplugs

If, like Mary Riedel in Cambodia, you’re living in the city, you’re likely to be plagued by the sound of construction work, car horns, or crying babies on public transportation. If you’re living in a village, you’re likely to be woken up by the melodious cries of hungry pigs grunting for breakfast, or confused roosters that start crowing before sunrise. Either way, a good pair of earplugs would come in useful.

*The above is a snapshot of some of the things the author needed to survive her own fellowship, with helpful contributions from Mary Riedel, Lory Ishii, Leah Gage and Adam Kogeman, and does not represent the views of the Kiva Fellows Program.

For more exciting adventures, apply to be a Kiva Fellow!

Nadia Anggraini is on her 12th and final week as a Fellow with Koperasi Mitra Usaha Kecil in Bali, Indonesia. Learn more about MUK!

About the author

Nadia Anggraini