Sunday, June 1, 2008

The new Fellow

The time for my fellowship is drawing to an end, can you believe it? I'll be coming home on June 10 and this week is my last at the MCDT office.

A new Kiva Fellow arrived in town on Friday who will be working with MCDT starting next Thursday, ensuring a very smooth transition for everyone, I think. Her name is Taryn and she's getting an MBA from Cornell so you know she knows a heck of a lot more than I do about finance, micro or otherwise.

We met yesterday for lunch so I could fill her in a little on the background. We ended up spending the rest of the day together, taking a couple of matatus, first up to my apartment in Bukoto and then back to the Garden City Mall to see "Sex and the City" (as I talk about in the next post; very strange experience, seeing that movie here).

At one point, our matatu, full to bursting with people, was chugging painfully up the hill to Ntinda when it stalled and died. The driver got it started, promptly turned around and zipped back down the hill. Taryn asked me, "What's going on?" I said, "We're going to the Shell station." She said, "How did you know that?" And the strange answer is, I just knew.

I knew exactly what had happened. The matatus don't get a full tank of gas, usually buying 5,000 or 10,000 shillings-worth at a time. The matatu had about run out of gas, so they needed to head back to the gas station that's strategically placed halfway up the hill. That's just what happens here.

Taryn asked how I knew what the fares would be for the matatus, and that too has become something I've gotten a feel for. It's strange to me that it's in this very little thing, the matatus, that I am so aware of nuance and etiquette while other larger issues are still rather monolithic. Probably because I have spent a lot of times using the matatus, more than I have, say, visited people's homes, I have a slightly better sense of the complexities of the social interactions there.

As we headed back downtown, I pointed out various neighborhood: the stop where you get off to go to MCDT; Wandegeya where Taryn will catch matatus from the place where she's currently staying. Taryn said, "How do you know all this?" And the thing is, of course, I didn't at first. I told Taryn, wait 10 weeks and you'll know all this, too. I mean, I knew absolutely nothing when I arrived--certainly less than Taryn does, who spent a month in Tanzania last year. But I certainly now have proof that I have learned something in my time here. And it is satisfying to know that for a newcomer, at least, that knowledge appears to be impressive.

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