getting there

Cultural issues surrounding privacy can be one of Kiva’s biggest challenges regarding implementation in the field. Not everyone wants their photo publicized and many hold suspicions when it comes time to sign a waiver. But I think the biggest challenge for Kiva is far more prosaic. The act of getting to a borrower can be an ordeal in and of itself, and things just got more ‘adventurous’ at my MFI.

EDPYME Alternativa has created a new loan product – called Capital Semilla or Seed Capital – destined specifically for clients who will become Kiva borrowers. Loans of $300 or less at a low interest rate are now offered to rural entrepreneurs. Finding them for the interview generally involves a unique combination of collective vans, collective taxis, mototaxis and walking aimlessly through fields – for hours.

And the journeys take us through landscapes that are beautiful whether through unforgivingly desolate desert or knee high cornfields with palm and locust trees spotting the hazy windless horizons.

For your viewing pleasure I have chronicled one day’s worth of transportation that Manuel (the Kiva Assistant) and I embarked on in order to find just 4 borrowers.

10.28.09 – getting there


8 passengers, 3 turkeys and a hen

Sometimes the thin, sensory stitch that distinguishes reality from hallucination begins to come loose. Yesterday I found myself in a situation so unreal that I began to doubt the feasibility of the world around me.

EDPYME Alternativa has created a new loan product destined specifically for clients who will become Kiva borrowers. Loans of $300 or less at a special interest rate are now offered to rural entrepreneurs. Getting to them generally involves a unique combination of collective vans, collective taxis, mototaxis and walking aimlessly through fields.

Yesterday, Manuel and I took many collective taxis — a random car that allows anyone who needs a ride to hop in with their cargo. We drove for twenty minutes on unpaved dirt road through beautiful knee high corn fields, palm and locust trees spotting the hazy windless horizon. By sheer luck we found the borrower we needed to interview, Aurelio Sandoval, walking through a field looking to catch a ride.

The interview only lasted a few minutes and we waited on the side of the ‘road’ for more potential riders to come by. At this point reality begins to fray at the edges.

A copper skinned woman in a teal dress talks to the driver for a moment and leaves her bags on the floor behind the driver’s seat. She walks away and I decide to sit in the car and read the Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It takes a few minutes for me to realize that the chirping sounds I hear are not coming from the tropically bucolic fields surrounding me – but rather from right beside me.

The woman had left a young turkey in a woven plastic bag in the car. And it almost escaped. I went back to reading my book grinning at the situation and out of the corner of my eye I saw not one, but two adolescent turkeys looking up at me with their heads poking out of their unconventional quarters.

Reality frays a little further.

Almost immediately after my realization that there are two turkeys in the car, the driver gives up on waiting for more passengers and tells Aurelio and Manuel that we are going back towards town. Soon after leaving we find another passenger walking. He is holding a live hen, with beautiful orange and gold plumage might I add, by the ankles. He sits in the seat behind the turkey sacks and we set off down the road again.

At some point another gentleman squeezes into the front seat next to Aurelio and we come across the bronze skinned woman again. She squeezes in next to me and for good measure has another sack with a nearly full grown turkey. A decision is made to place all bags of live poultry in the back of this 1997 Toyota station wagon.

The tally so far: 3 passengers in the front, 4 in the back, 3 turkeys and a hen. The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the only thing tying me to reality according to the logic that to escape into a fiction novel one must be escaping from something non-fictional.

And then we picked up another passenger. He sat with the driver in the driver’s seat. The mystery of who was steering, shifting gears and working the pedals has yet to be solved. In disbelief, I closed my book realizing that fiction had been overwhelmed by the implausibility of non-fiction.

Total chaos loomed threateningly in the collective taxi that carried 8 passengers, 3 turkeys and a hen.

The turkeys and hen could revolt against their confinement at any moment. The car would careen into corn fields as dust entered the open windows obscuring all vision. The driver’s already precarious control over the car’s directional instruments would be lost. Feathers would fly and people would shriek. A tire would blow and the hen would escape out the open window.

And then people started to get out. We had returned to the town and needed to catch our next collective van to see another borrower. Manuel slept through the entire ride and the only proof I have that any of this actually happened are these pictures.

10.24.09 – 8 passengers, 3 turkeys and a hen

asymmetry and insomnia

The asymmetrical nature of development constantly creeps through my mind. Material wealth, infrastructure and opportunity tend to pool rather than flow. This holds true across urban and rural landscapes. Certain areas remain tranquil while others rush with the flow of commerce and ambition.

Hostal la Carmen, my current home, can be found on the south bank of just such a pool – Avenida Pedro Ruiz. I bear witness to the strident realities of urban economics every day…and every night.

5:30am, when empty streets make for better acoustics

5:30am, when empty streets make for better acoustics and that passing bus may as well have been inches from my face

My room is on the fourth floor and faces north, higher than any other building on this side of Chiclayo. Somehow a perfect acoustic dome is formed from street level to the corner to the right of my bed. And all night long, the city reminds me that although I may sleep, it remains very much awake. I could not capture pictures of these events, but I thought it might be more fun to write a timeline.

  • 8pm – 10pm: Colectivo promoters chant to fill cars during the evening rush (pimentelpimentelpimentelpimenteLLL…)
  • 8pm – 10pm: Circling vultures screech their beautiful macabre lullabies just before heading to the cathedral’s bell towers to sleep
  • 9pm – 2am: Private security guards intermittently blow rape whistles to scare off potential robbers. After 2am they generally fall asleep in the doorframes of the shops they are protecting
  • 12am – 3am: Gunshot man walks around firing off what sounds like a pistol into the air, but really it could just be some sort of firework made exaggeratedly nightmarish by the hour
  • 12am – 4am: Dog packs hold epic battles for primacy over the empty colectivo lot and the stretch of Pedro Ruiz in front of it
  • 4am – 6am: A mattress squeaking at varied but repeated rhythms from the building next door betrays the lovers’ perceived privacy of the dawn hour
  • 5am – 6:30am: A lone garbage truck with a belligerent diesel engine slowly makes it way down the street with the driver banging a loud bell to alert people that he has arrived to take away their refuse
  • 3:30am – 6:30am: Roosters sound at regular intervals possibly as some form of karmic retribution considering all the chicken I eat here

This nightly symphony has left me with a very comical case of insomnia. Last night I embraced the new reality and went to bed early in order to wake up for a run just after today’s sunrise. Ah sunrise, the perfect lull in noise that occurs when the nocturnal orchestra sets down their instruments before the swell of vendors, traffic and pedestrians can rise up and fill the quiescent void with turmoil.

sunrise heralds an hour of respite

sunrise heralds an hour of respite

**To those of you who automatically receive emails when I post: pictures and slideshows do not survive the transition from html to text. You have to visit the site in order to get the full content.

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