On this day we had Erica with us. She is a pastor’s wife, teaches school, and runs a small business that she started with the help of the Lending Journey. Her clients purchase products from her on credit, but she has been successful where many others haven’t. Our discussions with her shed some light on this.
Firstly, she is hard-working, and dedicated to her community (for instance, she teaches without receiving a salary). Secondly, she has worked with her customers to structure easy, affordable payment plans. Thirdly, she added, she develops a relationship with each customer. They are people who know each other, she and her customers. Not seller and purchaser, or lender and debtor, but face to face individuals who understand and respect each other.
There are many micro-finance organizations in Nicaragua, but the Lending Journey has a better success rate than the others. This, while lending money to those the others wouldn’t. It is perhaps this respect for the women we work with makes the difference.
Today’s ride took us north through Tipitapa and on to Nandime. It was the beginning of the climb into the mountains. Fields of sugar cane ran on for miles. After the first rise of land you come to houses again, and many graveyards filled with simple crosses painted green, and white, and blue, and red. Turn left off the highway and down the hill, and you come to the market. A living kaleidoscope of carts and people and produce, cars and, if you could spot them, our riders.
We made the day’s end point, loaded the bikes, and set out to scout ahead. This first climb had been hard, but tomorrow’s is much worse. The road begins to swing right and left in powerful rising curves. The corners become sharper as the passes rise up out of the deepening valleys. Soon you see fields of hills that run like waves towards even taller masses, and the sunlight becomes dappled, picking out outcrops of stone like castles built by winged beings.
But that’s tomorrow. Today, after chasing across a plain where the shrubs remind us of the Serengeti, we finally stop. Making lunch from the leftovers of yesterday’s supper, we rest, and talk.
A box is coming down the road. A familiar bell sounds.