Once again, it has been a while since my last post, but this time my excuse is that it has been no-shave November, and so I would prefer if most pictures of me from last month never see the light of day. If you really want to see what vagabond me looks like, then ask and I’ll show you in person, where there will be no evidence….
New things since last blog post:
- I went in on a mountain bike with a friend. Pictures below. I go about the same speed as an old man with a breathing problem. It’s quite embarrassing.
- Moved into a new room that is twice the size of my old one. Moving up in the world!
- Had Thanksgiving on site.
- We started having poker games again.
- We’re expanding the auction project.
- Began moving into our new community development center.
Apparently in South Africa Mountain biking is very popular. So, giving in to peer pressure and all, I decided to get one so I could go with all of my South African friends, and I’ve actually used it! Hopefully I’ll stop being dead last out of the group, and can start enjoying the beautiful scenery, but until then it’s still nice to go ride around with some friends. One of said friends actually got into an accident in the community, and because I was there and knew some Lingala, we were able to sort it out without any problems. It was really cool, and nice to show the other guys on site what I do every day.
I moved into a new place which is great, and now I’m not so cramped. I have some great neighbors, and we grill out quite a bit. Life is a lot more fun now out here, and that makes things easier when away from home for as long as I’ve been. Having more friends out here makes it nice, and not just because we started playing poker again. I’ve won 3, got 2nd twice, and lost once. I love Texas hold’em. Last year I spent Thanksgiving by myself, and it was easily the most depressing day I had in Africa all year. However, this year the kitchen staff went out of their way and we had a Thanksgiving feast for about 20 people who came to hang out with me on our American holiday. It was a lot of fun, and I am thankful for my new friends abroad, and my friends back home.
As far as work goes, if you aren’t familiar with the tied-financing project I instituted, then continue on reading earlier posts. It’s a new form of micro-financing where we provide the item directly to the person, instead of cash, and they pay us back using the item. So far, we’ve lend to 220+ families, helping over 1,500 people. The repayments are slow, especially now that our relocation is finished, and all of those jobs that were lost as a consequence. The bright spot though, is that out of the $10,000 from the department, we’ve lent out $18,000+, and only around $500 has been lost for sure. This is important to note because even with the huge learning curve we have, we have relatively small losses, and a lot of those losses I can easily prevent from happening again. If you read my earlier posts about the project, you’ll see just how difficult it has been to teach people the value of money and lending, and so for our losses to be so small, is very significant.
Thankfully, it seems like my superiors agree, and so I believe we’re going to start expanding to other parts of the community. Currently we only lend to people who were moved in order to build the mine. Starting next month though, I believe we will expand and so we’re going to try something new with those people. We’re going to have a co-sign system whereby in order to win an item at the auction, 2 other people have to sign with you, and if you don’t pay us back, those two people aren’t eligible either. The borrower finds the two people, and we won’t go after the co-signers if we don’t get paid back, but at least this way we can spread the responsibility, and weed out the bad borrowers more easily.
In six months I think we can help another 500 households (3,000-4,000 people), and provide hundreds of new items, and jobs, to the community. In addition to this, we just cleaned up our new Community Development Center. This is 22 acres of land that our construction department used to own, but now I run and manage. Here we will have ducks, chickens, guinea fowl, pigs, planting equipment, fish farms, a large tree nursery, vocational classes, and offices for my staff and our cooperatives. If I am able to do everything I want to here, I should be able to provide a 100+ jobs here alone, and it could fund our other development projects.
A few of the guys I rode the Southern Bypass road with. It’s just shy of 20 miles up and down hills and on dirt roads. It was hell at the end, but beautiful throughout.
I look like a real cyclist don’t I?
This is a monkey that I’ve never seen before, and haven’t found anyone who can tell me what it is. If you know, post in the comment section and tell me what it is.
My buddies Darren and Justin from South Africa, who are also some of our consultants, came up to do some surveys and to get to where we need to go we had to take a boat. It’s pretty cool to see that people still travel like this.
Long post, few pictures, but thanks for reading.