Soft loans and hard lives

I work freelance, which means most of my payments are made online. I currently work on GAF and Elance. GAF only releases money on Mondays or Tuesdays. What happens is I issue a withdrawal request latest Sunday night, and the funds are released on the next Monday or Tuesday. Requests issued midweek are pushed to the next Monday/Tuesday.

Since my Freelancer Debit card is still in transit, I can only access my funds through Moneybookers. When the card gets here, I’ll be able to withdraw funds straight from the ATM, though it’ll still be Mondays and Tuesdays, and I’m not sure there’s a Mastercard ATM in my neighbourhood.

Once the money gets into my Moneybookers account on Monday or Tuesday, I withdraw it to my Kenyan bank account by wire transfer. That takes another four to five days.

So this week with bills due and schools opening, I need some money, and all of mine is stuck on GAF, Elance, and wire transfers. I won’t be liquid until next Monday. Solution, soft loans.

I called three or four close friends asking for money repayable next Monday, and the answers I got were pretty interesting. One had money, but was holding it for someone else. Why? Well, it was borrowed money, and was due to be paid back – it just hadn’t been collected yet.

Okay. The collector was close to me as well, so I called him and asked if I  could divert part of the repayment. He explained that he needed it immediately, so that he could repay a soft loan.

So here’s the scenario. I go to person A for a loan. He can’t help, because he has money borrowed form Person B. Person B can’t help either, because he needs the money to repay a loan from Person C. And on and on and on.

I call these people my soft loan circle, so I know those weren’t avoidance tactics. We have a bit of a merry-go-round, except that instead of circulating deposits, we circulate withdrawals. We routinely borrow from one another, and the trust is maintained, because we always pay back.

What amused me in this whole scenario is that everyone seems to be borrowing. From each other. We all have solid incomes, but somehow it never quite stretches. So I may end up borrowing from this person, lending that other person, then using the money repaid from my lending … to repay my borrowing. It’s really quite puzzling.

Before I moved back to Kenya, I was warned that life here is really hard. They were sure life ‘out there’ was better, so they told me to stay away. I responded that the people here were surviving, so I would too. And somehow, I do survive, and I’m happy. But I’m really amused with our culture of cyclic borrowing.

Survival Skill Number One: find at least five people you can call for emergency loans. And whatever else you do, make sure you always pay them back; the plan doesn’t work if the cycle is broken.

♫ Pardon me ♫ Incubus ♫