Hello, cool world!

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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