Genevieve's Tales of Pillage, Piracy, and Other Fun Stuff

Born as a travel journal, the Tales spun here have since morphed into a general account about life, work, and all the mischief in-between.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Haven't I Been Blogging?

Many people have asked....

Well, I feel like things are happening too fast out here and there's just not enough time (or the most stable internet connection) to keep up the running, rambling commentary. There's so much to digress on-- I should document things better. Hah. Or maybe the novelty of being the historian of my own life in the trenches has worn off.

Anyway, I think this blog has reached some kind pictorial critical mass as a travel picturebook (which I'm not too thrilled about), so I hope to spark things up a bit once I get certain life decisions in order and on to a newer, snarkier one. Wait for it!

Monday, June 23, 2008

MIA

Yeah, I know. I've gone dark for about 2 months now. My usual updates to the blog have dwindled in the last couple of months anyway, until I've only been posting pictures with limp, terse captions-- and none of the ramblings that this blog was supposed to house. I'll be trying in the next couple of weeks to stretch my chatter muscles again. In the meantime, my apologies for the quiet static.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Healthy

As a pledge to be healthy this summer, we started cooking more at home instead of buying takeout at the outdoor eateries or restaurants. I also recently started frequenting the Thirsty stand in the local Gaisano for their carrot juice. They throw in about 10 or so carrots into a juicer and out comes my juice, a brilliant orange, yummy but loaded with the good stuff. It's not terribly cheap at around 90 pesos for a large so I go just 2 or 3 times a week. I'm now adding Yoga classes to the mix. 2 hour sessions at the Ananda Marga Wellness Center in Cebu for 2 months for 1000 pesos. I've signed up for the beginning course and also reserved spots for Kith and Grace (branch bookkeeper). I already try to do some pilates and yoga in the morning before work but it would be nice to have more structured sessions.

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Boating around Guimaras

Early Sunday morning, I asked one of the local fishermen for the use of his fishing outrigger. A small boat, which rocked in the waves, it took us around the perimeter of Nueva Valencia, which was beautifully adorned with caves and rock formations that reminded me of the remnants of ancient sea creatures. The island seems to rest on ancient coral gardens. Later in the morning, we reached a fisheries research center and I got to see bangus and giant lapu-lapu breeding areas and other aquaculture projects.

For more info, check out the province's web page-- offers list of options on where to stay/what to see from island resorts (Isla Naburot, where I had planned to stay is highlighted, but it's relatively pricey at 5000 php per person per night).

Early morning breakfast -- mango and ibos (sticky rice concoction). Mangoes were only 50 pesos per kilo and they really do live up to their reputation!



We headed out at around 7 am.

















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Guimaras: Beaches and Mango

Despite stormy clouds and a big downpour on Friday in Iloilo, I decided I had to push through with my weekend trip to Guimaras. Undaunted, I kept my eye on the prize: beaches and the sweetest mangoes on earth. The 15 minute pump boat ride from the Iloilo port made it easy.

I ended up staying at Clearwater Beach Resort, a tiny, family-owned place situated in Nueva Valencia in Barangay Dolores near the Guisi Lighthouse, about 1 hour south from the Jordan wharf. The resort only has 5 nipa-cottage type rooms and the bathroom is shared. You can take a multicab (Fare was steep, around 600php, but Guimaras has very little public transportation heading to Dolores, so you have little options. If you have your own motorcycle, you can transport it from the city on the pumpboat). Knowing how remote the resort was, I made sure to stop by the public market and pick up some fresh seafood. I asked the caretakers to cook the fish and crabs -- all I paid was the a small cooking fee and voila! Freshest seafood that doesn't break the bank.












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Microfinance Refresher Course for Field Officers

The expansion phase of the group vs. individual liability lending project has encountered problems along the way. After Bohol, Carcar and Leyte, we decided to extend the project westward, finding ourselves in Bacolod and Roxas branches around the time I took over the reins last year.

But in general we've been having difficulties getting to all the barangays, or villages, in the center assignment list. And now center generation has slowed from a trickle to a complete stop. Recently management decided to freeze all new loan releases at branch level and to give it 1-2 months to build up their loan reserves. Current clients can avail of re-loans but no new clients. Bacolod and Roxas aside, we are just about to enter Toledo on the other side of Cebu, but right now operations will be pushed back. The bank is also worried about the proportion of secured loans to unsecured. It's quite lopsided and puts the bank at enormous risk. The ripples from the economic downturn are making everyone edgy, even at the rural banks.

There's also the PAR (portfolio at risk) issue. Double-digit PAR has been plaguing the branches in Western Visayas, which makes everyone edgy about the project, particularly the individual liability product we're trying to evaluate. It just happens that our centers that have individual liability also happen to have Development Officers who bucked training and policies. In one area, one DO was conducting credit and background checks over the phone, without ever visiting client businesses, center meetings were being disregarded. It's our bad luck that this DO was mis-managing individual liability centers, which makes the microfinance supervisors and branch managers resentful of the new product.

At the training, I presented to BMs, DOs in our project areas, and supervisors the details about the project and the concept of random control trials so they could see why sticking to policies is critical. At times it felt like I was facing a firing squad or witch hunting court in Salem. Even with the head of MFU at my side, many attacked, decrying the product as the reason why centers failed. I countered that much of the project implementation in problem areas was non-existent so in fact it made no sense to attribute the failures of centers to the product. In the end, I'm not sure their anxieties were mollified much. Many can stomach that repayment rates may be no different between the two products but in reality they think that mispayment hits individual liability centers harder because it puts the onus on the DO to make collections (before they could rely on the joint liability structure and ask center members to cover a mispayment). We'll need to look at the data again, maybe run some activity based costing record keeping before we can safely draw conclusions.

Fun and tense 2 days:






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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Planning the next getaway: Guimaras

After our refresher training for micro credit officers next weekend in Iloilo city, I'm planning on visiting Guimaras, an island 20 minutes from the city and home of the best-tasting mangoes in the world (the carabao mango)! I've been checking out a few places on the web, and an interesting blog caught my eye. I'm not sure I'm ready for a REAL rustic experience, especially in the middle of the summer (that means, NO AC!), but I'm tempted. Here's an excerpt from the blog:
I had heard about Isla Naburot many times in the past. It’s different, they’d say. No electricity, not even a pesky sounding generator. Just kerosene lamps at night. The cottages recycled from old wooden floors. Really not much to do there. But the food, ah the food, is great, they’d all say.
Read more...

A visitor's picture of the place

Check out more pictures on this blog here.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Cooking More...

Kith and I finally buckled down and made more time to cook dinners at home. To get us motivated, we invited people over and these get-togethers did the trick. We wanted to impress people with our culinary feats. In this dinner, we roasted scallops and doused them with butter and cheese. I made a vegetable couscous dish with Greek feta. A side of avocado salad completed it.





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New Haircut

For the longest time, it seemed I was sporting doll hair. Long, wavy tresses that felt, when sticking to my neck and scalp in the heat, like a weighty head scarf around my head. As a pony tail, it looked depressed-- or looked unnervingly bouncy as if i were some ridiculous high school cheerleader. I didn't mean to let it grow as long as it I did, but I was lazy and stayed away from hair salons for what seemed months. So now it's all gone. I had it cut off. The stylist was strangely stoic as I described my plight in the black high chair. He just nodded gravely, said, yes, it would be flattering. Fine. Snip snip later, I'm sporting a (chic) shiny bob that, in salon parlance, 'reflects light'. I like it. It feels severe and focused. Like I can kick some ass.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Choice Rationalization or Just Plain Odds?

An interesting NYTimes article talks about the methodological flaw uncovered by Yale's Keith Chen, an economist who wrote a paper on rationalization and choice and challenges the basis for many psychological experiments. Here's an excerpt:
The Monty Hall Problem has struck again, and this time it’s not merely embarrassing mathematicians. If the calculations of a Yale economist are correct, there’s a sneaky logical fallacy in some of the most famous experiments in psychology.

He says researchers have fallen for a version of what mathematicians call the Monty Hall Problem, in honor of the host of the old television show, “Let’s Make a Deal.” Here’s how Monty’s deal works, in the math problem, anyway. (On the real show it was a bit messier.) He shows you three closed doors, with a car behind one and a goat behind each of the others. If you open the one with the car, you win it. You start by picking a door, but before it’s opened Monty will always open another door to reveal a goat. Then he’ll let you open either remaining door.

Suppose you start by picking Door 1, and Monty opens Door 3 to reveal a goat. Now what should you do? Stick with Door 1 or switch to Door 2?

Interestingly enough: Writing extensively on behavioral economics, Chen has done studies using monkeys and monitoring their behavior when it comes to risk-taking and aversion. A few of these articles have appeared in the Economist. I vaguely remembered reading them years ago and was fascinated that there this whole world of behavioral economics. Catch the articles here if you want some cool reads...

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Funny stuff

A "webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language". Brilliant: http://xkcd.com/ Here's a few:






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