Tagalog, Ten Borrowers/Day, and Trepidation
Mary Riedel, KF9, Philippines
It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Cabanataun City, Philippines trying to drown out the music, “How do I live without you…” with Fiona Apple via itunes, and getting ready for a big week. I’m coaxing my internet connection like a dying plant. Do I get up and use the new phrase I just learned, “Hindi WiFi Pwede” (the Wifi is not working). For those of you who know Spanish, you’ll notice that pwede in Tagalog is similar to the meaning of puede (and it’s pronounced almost the same). Tagalog also known as Filipino is the official language here. It is fascinating language supplemented with tons of Spanish, Chinese, and English words, acronyms (CR- Comfort Room- is the restroom) and other slang words scattered throughout– then throw in phonetic text messaging and it’s like a crossword puzzle with an infinite number of Across and Down clues, again totally fascinating. For example, my co-workers tell me that “lamesa” is the word for table – so to say “the table” you would say “ang lamesa” of course I’m told by my Filipino teacher that you can also just say “ang mesa” and take out the “la” left in from the Shh’panish word for “the.” Every word seems to have a story to learn, just like all of the borrowers on Kiva.
So back to planning for my week ahead…
I’m scheduled to visit 50 borrowers this week so that means 10/day – an aggressive schedule which I hope we can meet. We are a little behind due to typhoon Pepang/Parma. Today, I’m getting up to speed on the loans and stories, of the people we’ ll be visiting – oh Internet please come back I’m only on the 7th borrower! As I read and think about the questions I want to ask, which camera to use, what the five hour drive will be like, and what being in a hotel with 3 other women for 5 days will be like – I am starting to get nervous (this is the trepidation part) about how the borrowers will be feeling when I arrive? How bad were people affected by the recent flooding and landslides, at this point I know that 2 of the clients from our MFI died during the storms. How will their spirits be? Do they need to apply for new loans in addition to current loans to get them out of the mire….speaking of mire… how much of the mud I’ve been hearing about will still be in their homes. To be honest the storms are kind of messing with my vision of helping to bring rays of sunshine to MFI clients, spreading love all around, and greeting of warm smiles. So perhaps the realty of the storms is actually helping me form a more realistic vision of borrower visits (regardless of storms).
Speaking of reality – last week I helped prepare relief goods at my MFI, with another Kiva Fellow Adam Preston. Some of the items included were:
– sugar– coffee– sardines– crackers– noodles (pansit)
Then we helped deliver the goods locally to affected MFI clients (non-kiva borrowers). It was definitely a different experience than I had anticipated when asked to join. Delivering relief goods, seeing farms of flooded palay (rice), felt more like aid versus providing hope for the future with loans. The trip felt somber, and not quite right. We were there acting as representatives of the MFI to help but I don’t think they really needed us there. There was enough manpower and well now let’s just be honest no one needed me to translate the word for table. The recipients were also solemnly thanking us for the relief goods which felt odd, but again we were there representing a stakeholder in the larger Kiva world.
Towards the end of the day things felt less awkward – I hung back, stopped carrying the relief goods (the male clients seemed really uncomfortable with me carrying the bags) and observed the loan officers doing their job. It was cool to see the relationships the loan officers seemed to have with their clients - at times smiling and joking with them and at other times asking them about their concerns and needs – restructuring, extending to December etc. There were also a few intimate moments I got to take away with me – pretending to throw a bag of relief goods to one of the women was pretty funny to both of us.
Well the Internet has just been restored…so i need to continue researching the Kiva borrowers’ so I can be prepared. I’ll definitely need to “feel out” (what works, what doesn’t) at each borrower visit this week but at least learning about their businesses gives me a place of mutual understanding to start from.
Now if I only didn’t have to go to the restroom!!!!!