I arrived in Bolivia on Sunday to the happy sounds and bright colors of Carnaval. The whole country was busy with their week long celebrations before lent. This Christian country incorporates many indigenous beliefs. Nearly all the entradas, or parades, that made getting from the airport to my apartment really difficult, are to honor some deity related to the earth, the sky, hell or food. Many offerings are made throughout the drunken mayhem. Water balloons and super soaker 5000s arm every child on every corner. The streets were filled for days with the sounds of fire crackers, screaming children and traditional music. Every person’s eyes were glazed with the happy film of Paceña, the local beer in La Paz. Though adjusting to the crazy altitude where fires don’t light and pasta doesn’t cook since water boils at such a low temperature, I partook as best I could.
This kind of break is clearly needed. The Bolivian staff at Kiva’s partner MFI, Emprender, work long, hard hours. Bolivians are known for their clear, slow Spanish (lucky for me), and their serious affect. I find this to be very true in this office of solemn faced workers. At first I was intimidated, but not more than 5 minutes had passed when they started to make straight faced jokes, that I’m proud to say I understood. I am so welcomed and comfortable in their office. Though serious and solemn, the Emprender staff feel an intense connection to the social aspect of their work. Christian, the young doctor who manages Kiva in Emprender is happy to pass along his responsibilities to a new Kiva Coordinator and focus full time on his health program. Starting shortly, Emprender clients can opt into a health insurance plan, pay slightly more at every loan repayment, and receive health services. I look forward to attending the opening. Around every corner I find a new plan for improving the lives of Emprender’s clients. They have an integrated approach to microfinace that is refreshing and inspiring.
Our time together has been thoroughly planned, and I look forward to recounting the successes Emprender has here, the struggles I might encounter, and the face of microfinance in Bolivia. I can’t wait to meet the clients. I expect solemn faces barely hiding the color and excitement just below the surface that greeted me on my arrival./>