Those words are evocative, aren’t they? They could be poetry or song lyrics. They could be ad copy.

Yet they are nothing more than Marie Sambou’s wishlist. She asked for a small loan through Kiva to buy these things so she could resell them.


Today is the second annual Blog Action Day. It’s a grassroots event to get bloggers all over the world talking about the same topic. Last year, the theme was “environment.” This year it’s “poverty.”

I don’t know anyone who really knows what poverty means. I don’t.


I had a safe and sound middle-class childhood. Snug as a bug in a rug. Nothing worse than monsters under my bed to deal with.

That sheltered little girl only caught glimpses of poverty. I have very vivid childhood memories of being swarmed by grubby little children in ragged clothes trying to sell us Chiclets gum for pennies on the rare occasions when my mother took me and my brother with her to shop in Tijuana, the border town just south of San Diego. They were all so much smaller than I was. Not necessarily younger, just smaller. I couldn’t know then that it was about nutrition.

I remember that it was scary and it felt wrong not to buy their gum. And I wanted to buy some from all of them, like some kind of reverse trick or treat.

The Great(er) Depression

Vincent and I were talking about the financial crisis the other day. We’re both against rescuing the people who have been gambling with the livelihoods and lives of the world’s inhabitants. We think they need a reality check and a significant correction of their own. My only fear is that innocent people could suffer if we let them go down in flames. But Vincent rightly pointed out that “The worst that could happen is spoiled Westerners might have to…” and he paused. So I finished his sentence: “…live like Africans.”

A world of hurt might actually do a world of good. Level the playing field. Bring an end to the cycle of mindless, selfish, wasteful, destructive consumption in developed countries.

Obscene Wealth (Is there any other kind?)

A few months ago, Vincent and Claire and I were talking about whether it was ethical to travel as tourists to places where there is abject poverty. Vincent says it’s obscene. I agreed, but said it was probably good for Westerners to at least see it (he said “Bullshit”) and that tourist dollars feed economies. Claire thinks the world should be experienced, period. I agree with her too.

I’ve wanted to go to Africa and India for a very long time. I don’t know if I ever will. I’m too conflicted.

Assuaging Guilt?

Even though I don’t have much to give, one thing I do have is a fancy degree in French translation (which I’ll be paying for till I die). I’ve translated some interesting stuff in the past and some things I’ve been pretty proud of, but nothing comes close to making me feel good about my work like the translations I’m doing for Kiva as a volunteer. There is something so humbling and life-affirming in reading the requests of micro-entrepreneurs in francophone Africa who want to buy 10 cases of soap, or 5 baskets of fish, or dye to batik their white cloth and make bedsheets out of it. Or palm oil, honey and lemon juice. Their industry and drive and hope are awe inspiring.

There you go. I haven’t got much more to say about this subject than a beauty queen would: I just wish for an end to poverty.

Please enjoy this beautiful video: Umalali: Songs of the Garifuna Women and learn more about the Garifuna Women’s Project.

You can also read the post I wrote for Blog Action Day on Web Worker Daily.