Yay! I Am Now a Microlender :-)

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I was really inspired by Dawn’s post about Kiva.  I was signed up, but wanted to loan to someone in Vietnam and none were available at that time.  Apparently, the site will email you if you’ve not been on for a while, because I got a “Please come back” email this morning and followed the link back.  I figured I’d check to see if there were any Vietnamese loans available, but I wasn’t holding my breath.  Lo and behold, there were about 8 or 10 this morning in various stages of financing.  I’ve been watching it all day, waiting until I’d put money on my card before selecting someone.  Let me tell you!  These loans go fast!  By the time I’d gotten back from Wal-mart (I load a prepaid card there), there were 5 loans left.  I want to do one more in Maggie’s name, but have to wait for her to come back from walking her friend home.

So here is who I’ve loaned to, and I’m so excited about it!

Dang Thi My's Group

Mỵ Đặng Thị operates a family member’s general store selling school products such as pencils, pen and notebooks in her community. Mỵ is a 52-year-old woman living in the town of Đông Anh – Hà nội. She is married and has three school-age children. Mỵ has been in her business for over 10 years and earns approximately 2.000.000 dong (VND) a month. (That’s $108.53 a MONTH, USD)

In 2006, Mỵ joined SEDA to gain access to financial services to help improve her living conditions and enable her to engage in business activities. Mỵ has successfully repaid a previous loan of 4.142.000 VND from SEDA which was used to invest in expanding the business. She is now requesting a new loan of 5.014.000 VND which will be used to invest in expanding the business. This will be her fifth loan from SEDA. Mỵ plans to use the additional revenue to pay for the tuition fees of her children.

Mỵ is the leader of a 5 member group accessing a loan offered by SEDA. While each member of the group receives an individual loan, they all are responsible for paying back the loans of their fellow group members if someone is delinquent or defaults. The official name of this borrowing group is Tiên Hội (2).

About the Other Borrowers in the Group:
1. Đỗ Thị Tân is a 47-year-old woman who is requesting a 5.014.000 VND loan to support her clothing business.
2. Lê Thị Tý is a 42-year-old woman who is requesting a 5.014.000 VND loan to support her business in the services sector.
3. Trần Thị Vịnh is a 52-year-old woman who is requesting a 5.014.000 VND loan to support her business raising livestock.
4. Lương Thị Hải is a 45-year-old woman who is requesting a 5.014.000 VND loan to support her business running a food stall.

About SEDA:
The mission of SEDA (Center of Small Enterprise Development Assistance) is to provide microfinance services to low income and disadvantaged people in rural areas of Hanoi and the northern provinces of Vietnam.

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Silly me found out I could’ve just used my PayPal account and not had to wait for the credit card… der!  But then I might not have picked this group, so maybe this was the way it was meant to be.

After I checked out and everything, Kiva offered to email the following to my address book for me, hmm.. how nice?  a bit spammy…  I passed on this service.  I’ve already invited everyone in my address book to join Kiva.

I just made a loan to someone in Viet Nam using a revolutionary new website called Kiva (www.kiva.org).

You can go to Kiva’s website and lend to someone across the globe who needs a loan for their business – like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks.  Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent – and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is going.
  
The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back – and Kiva’s loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.

I just made a loan to an entrepreneur named Đặng Thị Mỵ’s Group in Viet Nam.  They still need another $1,175.00 to complete their loan request of $1,375.00 (you can loan as little as $25.00!).  Help me get this entrepreneur off the ground by clicking on the link below to make a loan to Đặng Thị Mỵ’s Group too:

http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=businesses&action=about&id=170125

It’s finally easy to actually do something about poverty – using Kiva I know exactly who my money is loaned to and what they’re using it for.  And most of all, I know that I’m helping them build a
sustainable business that will provide income to feed, clothe, house and educate their family long after my loan is paid back.

Join me in changing the world – one loan at a time.

‘An inexpensive feel-good investment opportunity…All loaned funds go directly to the applicants, and most loans are repaid in full.’
— Entrepreneur Magazine   

Thanks!

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What others are saying about www.Kiva.org:

‘Revolutionising how donors and lenders in the US are connecting with small entrepreneurs in developing countries.’
— BBC

‘If you’ve got 25 bucks, a PC and a PayPal account, you’ve now got the wherewithal to be an international financier.’
— CNN Money

‘Smaller investors can make loans of as little as $25 to specific individual entrepreneurs through a service launched last fall by Kiva.org.’
— The Wall Street Journal

I did, however, paste that to my facebook… LOL.  So everyone THERE got spammed. 😀

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Mags just came back, I showed her Kiva, signed her up for her own account on it, and then showed her the Vietnamese loans available.  The funny little bugger picked the same group as me.  I told her the $25 loan was part of her birthday present, which is on February 11th. 

Question I asked Maggie, “How do you feel knowing that you’ve just loaned money to a family in Vietnam who are going to use that to expand their business and pay for their kids to go to school?”

Answer:  I feel kinda proud 🙂 

Question:  How do you feel that the family lives in Vietnam, as opposed to loaning to someone in South America?

Answer:  I like it because my daddy’s country.

Question:  What are you going to do when they pay the money back?

Answer:  I want to buy toys for their kids, and presents for them, but I don’t know where to send it.

Ooookay, not the answer I was expecting, exactly… lol… but she does understand that she can either re-invest her $25 into a new loan, or cash out.

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She Is Too Fond of Books ~ The Kool-Aid Flavor of the Week

The Kool-Aid Mom's award

She Is Too Fond of Books

This week’s Flavor of the Week award goes to Dawn at She Is Too Fond of Books

A week or so ago, Dawn posted about Kiva.org, a micro-lending organization that hooks up people like you and me, with people overseas to help alleviate poverty and to provide them with self-sufficiancy.

The presentation I attended last fall inspired me to make a small loan via Kiva.  I looked at several entreprenuers’ profiles, searching various parts of the world where Kiva lends, and looking for someone who was working in a field that spoke to me (sectors include agriculture, arts, transportation, health, and about a dozen others).  I felt strongly that I wanted to lend to a woman, and I was able to search on this criteria as well.  It’s very humbling to read of the modest requests made, and the business plans of the individuals.

Evelyn is a 52-year-old mother of six who lives in the Phillipines.  She makes a living sewing and selling curtains, and was looking to improve and expand her business with the purchase of additional fabric and materials.  Evelyn has already begun to repay the loans made by the seven microlenders (that’s me, microlender!).  When the loan is fully paid, we can choose to make another microloan, or to withdraw the funds.Now, with gift certificates in hand, my children have the opportunity to choose which venture they will help to fund.  It’s a great lesson in charitable giving, economics, and risk-taking.  A gift certificate with Kiva is a gift that keeps on giving.

After reading her post, I was inspired to join in microlending, as well.  I would also like to lend to a woman, and I’d like to loan to someone in Vietnam, but there’s none available right now (perhaps Kiva doesn’t have partners there?)

Since you can withdraw the money after it’s been repayed, I think giving a person a gift of a gift certificate with Kiva is the best of both worlds.  Sure, there is the wait for them to get the money you give them, and it might feel a bit like their being forced to be charitable, but I suppose you can give them a gift card to their favorite store along with the Kiva gift. 

From the site: Your recipient chooses the loans, receives repayments, and can choose to lend again and again!

 Currently, the site boasts a loan every nine seconds, and is having the really cool problem of not having enough loans for lenders as it’s getting some good press.  Check out She is Too Fond of Books, the Kool-Aid Flavor of the Week, and be sure to sign up at Kiva.org (signing up is fast and free, and the first step to giving 😉 ).

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Title:  The Namesake

Author:  Jhumpa Lahiri

Paperback:  291 pages

ISBN:  9780618485222

For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy – a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts.  It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding.  Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, pages 49-50

My first experience with the Ganguli family happened two years ago when I brought the DVD copy of the movie home from the library.  I thought then that it was a beautiful and rich story, and was excited to find out it was also a book.  After a few months of picking it up and putting it back, I finally bought a paperback of it from Waldenbooks about a year or so ago, but it sat on the shelf since then… calling to me whenever I looked in the general area of the bookshelf where it sat.  And after reading Confessions of a Shopaholic, I decided it was time for something a little more lasting and meaningful, so I finally began the journey and story of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, and their children Gogol and Sonia.

When thinking about how to describe The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, the word that keeps coming to mind is “quiet”.  Lahiri slowly weaves a beautiful tapestry of the love and living and feelings of being an immigrant family.  The different customs and how the culture of the land in which you live can so overtake you and change you in ways you can’t even realize.  First and foremost, it is a love story:  The love of a man and wife, the love of parents for their children, the love for one’s family, and the love of one’s homeland.  It’s also a story of the journey we all must take of self-acceptance, and, after that, the acceptance of others.  Of course, the “Indian-ness” of it is also beautiful and intriguing.

One of the things I find fascinating from this book is the realization that all people everywhere share the burden of growing up, of culture, and of the hopes and expectations of their parents.  For the majority of us, we caring these burdens among our own people… fellow humans who share similar experiences in this and this helps us not feel so alone.  However, for those who have left their native lands, there can be a constant ache and isolation as they endure the struggles of life without the ability to lean on someone who can understand how they feel.  What’s more, the first generation born in another land are even more isolated, having one foot in the old and new country, they can neither relate to their parents who have no understanding of the way things are in their adopted homeland, nor can they fully relate to their peers who either don’t have any concept of their home life or they find it a curiosity.

Interestingly, after reading this book, it has made me take a second look and given me a deeper respect for Maggie’s dad, who left his own homeland of Vietnam more than ten years ago and has recently become a naturalized US citizen.  Not that I didn’t have respect for him before, but rather gained a bit more empathy for him.  It’s also given me another perspective with Maggie, who made a passing comment recently how she sometimes wishes she was either all Vietnamese or all white, as being both sometimes makes her feel outside of either culture.

For it’s quiet beauty and it’s lasting effect, I give The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 4 and a 1/2 out of 5 stars.

BTT ~ All Things Vietnamese

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)

But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?

As many of you may know, my youngest, Maggie, is half-Vietnamese.  Now, in my honest opinion, it should be her dad teaching her all things Vietnamese.  However, that’s not often the case.  And the distance between him and us also makes it a bit more difficult for him to impart his cultural wisdom to her.  So I read what I can, then pass it along.

Some of the Vietnam-related books I have are cookbooks, with stains on several pages… Pho Bo gets made a lot, as does Mung Bean soup.  I also have a Kinh Tanh (Vietnamese Bible), and an English-Vietnamese dictionatry.  I’ve read The Boat by Nam Le and also interviewed him.  And I’m always on the lookout for Vietnamese kids books and folklore books.

That’s our little niche, what’s yours?

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Edited to add this vid clip. I felt so incomplete leaving this post without any media. For the most part, the recipe in this video is how I make Pho Bo, except I don’t use meatballs, nor have I ever ate anyone else’s soup that did. What we always do is slice a nice cut of beef paper thin, put the raw beef strips on the top of the noodles and everthing else, and when you pour the hot broth over it, the beef cooks. Very nice that way. Interesting point, btw, I char the ginger on my electric stove’s coils… so ghetto, I know, but it’s the only way I can do it.

YUM!

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Title:  Heart-Shaped Box

Author:  Joe Hill

Paperback:  375 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers

Publish Date:  2007

ISBN:  9780061147937

Miscellaneous:  Joe Hill is the son Stephen King.

He searched the ground floor and found only shadow and stillness, which should’ve reassured him but didn’t.  It was the wrong kind of stillness, the shocked stillness that follows the bang of a cherry bomb.  His eardrums throbbed from the pressure of all that quiet, a dreadful silence.

“What… are you doing?” he said.  By then he was so ill at ease the sound of his own voice unnerved him, sent a cool, prickling rush up his forearms.  He had never been one to talk to himself.

He climbed the stairs and started back down the hall to the bedroom.  His gaze drifted to an old man, sitting in an antique Shaker chair against the wall.  As soon as Jude saw him, pulse lunged in alarm, and he looked away, fixed his gaze on his bedroom door, so he could only see the old man from the edge of his vision.  In the moments that followed, Jude felt it was a matter of life and death not to make eye contact with the old man, to give no sign that he saw him.  He did not see him, Jude told himself.  There was no one there.

The old man’s head was bowed.  His hat was off, resting on his knee.  His hair was a close bristle, with the brilliance of new frost.  The buttons down the front of his coat flashed in the gloom, chromed by moonlight.  Jude recognized the suit in a glance.  He had last seen it folded in the black, heart-shaped box that had gone into the rear of his closet.  The old man’s eyes were closed.

Jude’s heart pounded, and it was a struggle to breath, and he continued on toward the bedroom door, which was at the very end of the hallway.  As he went past the Shaker chair, against the wall to his left, his leg brushed the old man’s knee, and the ghost lifted his head.  But by then Jude was beyond him, almost to the door.  He was careful not to run.  It didnt’ matter to him if the old man stared at his back, as long as they didnt’ make eye contact with each other, and besides, there was no old man.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, pages 29-30

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a fast-paced, heart-dropping, nerve-chilling story of the ghost of Craddock, a spiritualist, hypnotist and dowser (for water anddead bodies) who was a former psy-op during the Vietnam War and with an penchant for young girls, and Judas Coyne, an aging heavy-metal star who has spent most of his life escaping his childhood.  The ghost pursues Coyne with a vengeance, trying to manipulate him into killing himself and his girlfriend.

While I didn’t go into this book with the question “How will Joe Hill compare to his father, Stephen King?” you can’t help have that in the back of your mind.  And I must say, honestly, Hill does not compare to King.  Hill has his own style, voice, and process.  Yes, like any other writer who reads, there is King’s influence in the prose.  And Hill has definitely inherited the family talents, both from his father and mother.

I could not put the book down!  It was suspenseful and driving, and many elements in the story are the kind that will haunt me for months to come.  It mixes mysticism and the paranormal with religion and voodoo, and then adds twists of perversion, attachment and a little insanity to make a very potent cocktail.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill ranks at the top of the list for best horror stories and is a guaranteed hair-frosting experience!  I give it 5 out of 5 stars 😀

The Where’s your book set? meme

The Where’s your book set? meme

I found this on Blue Archipelago’s Sunday Salon post, and thought it’d be fun.  Here’s how it works – just answer some or all of the following questions about the book you are currently reading (or just finished if you are between books).

Here’s the questions:

1. Title and author of the book

2. What year is the book set in?

3. What happened on this day in that year? Go to google and type in the date ie 13 July 1952 and see if you can find a news item for that day.

4. Where is your book set?

5. Have you visited that place before? If yes tell us something about your trip. If no, look the location up on google and tell us an interesting fact about the city/country.

My answers:

1.  I’m currently reading The White Maryby Kira Salak (I’m also reading Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Boogers but that wouldn’t play well with this meme)

2.  I’m not sure if it has a year, just current.  For the purposes of the meme I’ll say 2007.

3.  “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” opened in theaters on July 13th, 2007 (That would have made it a Friday the 13th…. perfectly witchy day for a witchy movie.)

4.  The White Maryis mainly set in Papau New Guinea and Boston, though there are a few other places Marika goes.

5.  I have not visited PNG, myself, but my dad did on a layover to Australia.  I haven’t been to Boston, either.  Wikepedia says this of PNG:

It is one of the most diverse countries on Earth, with over 850 indigenous languages and at least as many traditional societies, out of a population of just under 6 million.

And I thought Vietnam’s 57 different ethnicities and languages was a lot… 850!

The Boat by Nam Le

The Boat by Nam Le

Title: The Boat
Author: Nam Le
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (a division of Random House, Inc. New York)
Publish Date: May 16, 2008
ISBN: 9780307268082

The thing is not to write what no one else could have written, but to write what only you could have written.

The Boat is a collection of seven short stories from author Nam Le.  Some are more vignettes than short stories, and all showcase Le’s incredible writing talent.  Nam has an amazing ability to get inside his character, be it a 60-year-old man just learning he has cancer or a 9-year-old girl in Hiroshima days before the atomic bomb.  The extensive detailing Le does gives the worlds he writes a certain reality, right down to speech patterns and slang.

Brief summary of the seven stories:
Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice: This first story is a view into the life a young Vietnamese writer in Iowa City, who is up against a deadline in his writers workshop. He scoffs at the idea of stooping to writing an “ethnic” story, but with his father’s visit, he decides to write the story of his father’s experiences in My Lai, South Vietnam army, and the tortures of a “reeducation” camp. Through the interviewing of his father, the relationship with whom has always been strained and somewhat distant, possibly even abusive, both come to understand one another better.

Cartagena: Nam’s writing style in this short story is reminiscent of Cormac McCarney’s. The lack of quotation marks and the quick changes of settings are disorienting, adding the sense of surrealism in the life of Ron, the 14 year old hit man in Medellin, Colombia.

Meeting Elise is the story of a man with cancer, still heartbroken over the loss of his lover 30 years his junior, who is about to meet his only child, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a baby when the witch, his ex-wife, “blew the county, dangling [their] daughter from her broom…”

InHalflead Bay, Jamie has a turn of luck and goes from a loser to school hero after scoring the winning goal.  Because of it he catches the eye of Alison, and because of that he’s in the cross-hairs of Alison’s psychotic boyfriend.  Jamie must decide whether he will remain the coward he had been or will he fight.

Hiroshima, written in the stream of consciousness of nine-year-old Mayako, is glimpse into the mindset and life of the Japanese pre-atom bomb.

Tehran Calling is the story of a Sarah Middleton, who goes to Iran to visit her best friend, who’s involved in a subversive group, and to escape the heartbreak of a love lost. 

The Boat is a heartbreaking story of the reality of the dangers many refugees face.  It is a story of survival, loss, and new connections.  This story is particularly close to my heart as it is about a 16-year-old Vietnamese girl named Mai, which is my youngest daughter’s Vietnamese name.

Nam Le’s writing is visceral and beautiful at the same time.  His style varies in each story appropriately as each story’s characters and subject matter wants it.  He is sensitive to the emotions and world of his characters and shows an amazingly real view into the lives of the mains.  The intricacies of a 14 year old assassin’s life in Colombia to a 60 year old man in New York City dealing with cancer and loss are so real that you forget it is written by a young Vietnamese man in Australia, as each story’s characters are as real as if you were watching them via spy-cam.  Le’s writing is hypnotic and compulsive; he is a literary pied-piper and I cannot help being carried along through the stories.

From a personal perspective, I love the first and last stories the most, as they deal with Vietnamese characters.  My youngest daughter’s father is from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), and he came to the US in 1996.  His father came to Los Angeles shortly after his release from a “re-education” camp, followed by his wife a few years later.  My ex, with whom I’m still very close, followed a route common to many Vietnamese who immigrated in the mid-90’s and later: first to LA, then Iowa City to work for the meat-packing company IBP (now under Tyson, inc) and finally here in Logansport.  Because of my daughter, I am especially interested in everything Vietnamese, buying her any book I find on the subject or checking it out from the library, buying her CDs, cooking dishes for her (and ignore her two older sisters complaints about it when I do), and looking up sites and videos on the Internet.  She is very proud of her culture, as I think she should be.

This is my Mai

My daughter Maggie (her Vietnamese name is Mai)