This is El Salvador
Día 9, 8/10/2010
Today turned into an awesome day. With my main contact and Kiva representative home on holiday, the Jefe de Negocios (COO) asked me if I wanted to come with him and two new guys on a training day between several branch offices. We all piled in to the pickup, and my Spanish held up throughout a heated conversation about international soccer and the value of staying single well into adulthood.
We first headed south, to a city called Juacapa, and then west to Transito, running through training scenarios with loan officers in each office. I learned more today than I have in the whole week I’ve been here, and had a couple “This is really, really cool” moments as we talked about complicated financing strategies while riding in a pickup truck down dry river beds in the jungle, surrounded by hills and ravines. The terrain changes so much from the mountainous and misty region of Morazon where I live to the flatter lowlands and volcanoes farther south, filled with coffee plantations and colonial pueblitos at the base of giant volcanoes.
I’m continually impressed by everyone that I meet; surrounded by dusty markets, poverty, and lots and lots of livestock, there exists this group of people who really know what they’re doing and who figure out how to make it work every day. A story today involved walking a woman into town and spending an hour explaining the internet to her so she would feel comfortable being a part of Kiva; another involved uncovering a fake business by secretly inviting all the owner’s neighbors out to eat.
The jefe I spent time with today has some awesome stories. An agricultural engineer who used to design coffee plantations, he was a guerillero during the war (think Ché), spent time in America and almost married a surgeon, and is a very knowledgeable one-man credit committee. After talking to him about the war, the States, and his family, I spent most of the ride home in a thunderstorm watching the lightning, listening to a prized Sting album, and thinking about the different things that make people happy.
Tomorrow we’re going into the mountains by Honduras – I’m excited to keep the momentum going with my spanish and continue learning about how the whole operation works.