Day 1 at SEDA

binh-minh1Yesterday I had my first long day at SEDA, whose parent company is Binh Minh. My tasks for the day were quite simple and included planning my next couple of weeks of work and choosing borrowers to interview. I’ve decided to interview people who will have their loan cycle end while I am here in Vietnam and who have never had a journal update.

There are two main reasons I chose such a specific subset of borrowers: first kiva, beginning in Q3 ’09, is implementing a new rule that all MFIs must have a journal rate of 50% of ending loans. If the MFIs fail to get at least 50% their accounts with Kiva will be paused meaning they cannot post new loans on Kiva until they get their numbers up. I know, you may think this is quite harsh, but it is actually beneficial for everyone which is a great segue into my second reason. With several years of surveys of lenders, Kiva has discovered that lenders who receive journals are 2.8 times more likely to lend again and more than before as well. This is good for the MFIs because it can help ensure that their request for loans will be fullfilled, and most likely by a person who has lent to a borrower from that MFI in the first place. This creates a lender-borrower-MFI marriage that is more sustainable.

While at SEDA I’ve been feeling like it is difficult to really connect with my fellow co-workers. The primary reason is that many don’t speak very good English so there’s a huge language barrier. Thankfully I haven’t been feeling too lonely in the office because after lunch during our ‘siesta’ time a woman named Ha Do and my translator Linh chatted with me for about an hour and a half. They really want to improve their English and conversation is a great way for them to do that. I’ve made an agreement with them that I’ll help teach them English and chat with them daily if they teach me Vietnamese! Fair trade, right? Furthermore, they’ve invited me over to their houses for future dinners with their families! Now that’s what I like; I really like trying to truly immerse myself into a local culture and this will be a good way to do it.

After 10 hours of work and commuting (which by the way I did on the back of a xe om, or motorbike taxi) I came home and decided to find some dinner which turned into a bowl of noodle soup with friend tofu, and some type of unidentifiable unnaturally-colored-whitish-sausage-like ordeal. I’m not entirely sure what animal is comes from or what part of that animal it is, but it’s nonetheless tasty. Maybe it’s pig? Maybe it’s…?

All in all it was a good day of work and I think things will go well. I’ll definitely be keeping very busy once I actually go out into the field and do real interviews. I have done one already, but it was very impromptu and I was not prepared at all. I missed getting some important data that I need, so I’ll try to go back and get it next time I’m at that branch office. The problem with interviews, however, is I will have a lot of things lost in translation and the translating will make the flow of the interview be awkward. But it”ll all work out. It has to, right?


2 Responses to “Day 1 at SEDA”

  1. Pierre Cutler Says:

    Nate, it’s great to see you up and running in country with your blogs. What an opportunity for you! I look forward to your future updates.


  2. Paul Robinson Says:

    Nate. I’m jealous (not even secretly) of your adventure. I would encourage you to blog/document your time there as much as you can, no matter how banal or trite you feel the event may sound. Document the good, the bad and the ugly. Take lots of pictures too. When you get back we’ll publish it all in a book and you’ll have a permanent reminder of your time there.


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