I’m the only fellow headed to Azerbaijan from Kiva Fellows 6, so I’m pretty excited to bring word of this fascinating region to those of you who make Kiva such a success. I’ll be visiting each of Kiva’s partner microfinance institutions in the region to assist them in any way I can, support Kiva, journal and train the MFIs on new software systems being put into place.

I’ve never been to the Caucasus. It’s largely a blank slate to me. What the Lonely Planet, my Azeri taxi driver last night and previous Kiva Fellows in the area, such as Jonathan Buser, say is that it’s a real crossroads: a blend of post-Soviet bureacracy, Shi’ite Islam, impoverished “internally displaced persons,” fabulously wealthy petrocapitalists living off the transport of oil and natural gas from east to west and the ex-pats who help that happen. I’ll be living in Baku (birthplace of chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov), the capital, for 6-10 weeks, and then moving on to my next destination for Kiva (Mongolia?) for the remainder of my 6-month fellowship.

I really hope to shed some light for people on this poorly understood region and its challenges for all of you. I’ll do my best.

–Mark Bulliet, KF6

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