Jamie Greenthal | KF 17 | Philippines

The bustling streets of Tagbilaran City.

I wonder if you’re thinking the same thing I was not that long ago.  I often thought about what it would be like to live and work on the other side of the world in a culture that is different from what I’ve grown accustomed to. After picturing myself in a faraway land, most of the time I would spin back around in my chair, refocus on the task at hand, and shrug off the daydream.  But after doing this for over 10 years, the call became too loud and I had to act.

That faraway land is the Philippines.  The work is with a microfinance institution Community Economic Ventures (CEV), in Tagbilaran City (TC) on the island of Bohol on behalf of Kiva as part of its Fellows Program.  I used to live and work in New York City.  This blog is about my experiences working in microfinance and living in the Philippines.  There’s an open seat on my tricycle (see below). I hope you come along for the ride!

This is my first week of work at CEV, so this post will capture my initial impressions of being in New York City one day and Tagbilaran City the next (well, technically it was two days later with the time change and 26 hours of travel).

There are several key factors that define a city-living experience.  Let’s take a look at how I’m faring in TC with regard to three of these:  apartment, food, and transportation.

My studio apartment in TC is comfortable, centrally located, and in a four-story building, which also houses the CEV office.  Each morning, chickens, dogs, and tricycles awaken me.  This is not unlike NYC, where Second Avenue subway construction, my neighbor’s dog barking, and buses awaken me each day.

Nice balcony, eh?

The view from my balcony.

Twenty-four hours after arriving in TC, I finally saw my first taxi car.  It’s difficult to go 24 seconds in NYC without seeing one.  Nevertheless, there is an extraordinary amount of non-personal transportation here, but the mode is a bit different from taxis, buses, and subways.  One is never far from a tricycle here.

The ubiquitous tricycle.

Breakfast was savory and richer than my near-daily bowl of Fiber One twigs (often cut w/Cheerios) with skim milk and raisins.  Despite my craving something akin to this due to routine, I followed a CEV colleague into the building across the street (pictured above) and enjoyed stewed veggies, seaweed and rice at 8 a.m.  This traditional breakfast hit the spot on my first morning in TC.

A hearty breakfast.

I’ve always said that you can take me out of NYC, but you can’t take the New Yorker out of me. However, I think there are going to be a number of exceptions to this, starting with breakfast.  It only took me 17 hours on the ground in TC to find a more satisfying pre-work meal.  Is it the deliciousness of the homemade veggies and rice, or the lack of such in my bowl of Fiber One?  Perhaps a combination of the two?  Hmmm…  Something to contemplate on my next tricycle ride.

Jamie Greenthal is a Kiva Fellow working with Community Economic Ventures in Tagbilaran City, Philippines.  

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