Day 8: Kuvo (Well)

A-suhhh everyone, Div here, reporting on what happened December 30, 2017!

So I think I’ve gotten used to showering with approximately 3 minutes of hot water, and then 8 minutes of lukewarm-cold water – just as this trip winds down. I am thriving. Breakfast was amazing – as usual, and the car ride was long – as usual.

After finishing up some office work, we headed out to Medapur and Jetpur, two communities that we have expanded our stove design into. DSC_0177.JPG

There, I got the opportunity to talk with some of the stove builders in the community, and ask them questions about our stove design. It was amazing seeing these women feel so passionate about the work they are doing, and they had a lot of input and ideas for the expansion of our project.

Having spent a couple hours in the field, we went back to the office for lunch. Man, I could get used to eating Indian food, there’s nothing quite like it. After an enormous lunch, we sat down with the entire R&D team and their new head to explain what exactly BLUElab India Project is. It was an extremely productive conversation, as we received a lot of input on how to improve our current stove design to increase its lifespan.

Then, we headed out to Barola for another interview to identify a new technology partner family. Keny had a fantastic conversation with the women of the house, and obtained a lot of important information. We were also able to walk to a few different wells that the community members obtain water from.


An exhausting day indeed. We got back home and ate some delicious pav bhajji courtesy of Harishbhai. Then we had a call with the team back in the good ole’ U S of A. It was exciting to update them on all the progress we were able to make during the trip. I wanted to sleep, but Keny and Kabir decided to watch some food documentary about meat. Not applicable to me because I’m vegetarian anyways.

Happy almost New Year’s Eve – be sure to make resolutions that you break two weeks into the new year! Catch you in a while, alligator.



Day 7: Paani (Water)

Hello everyone, Keny here again! We started out the morning with Harishbhai’s lovely breakfast. After breakfast, we were on our way to the office for an exciting day: Urja was going to be in town!

Upon arrival at the office, we prepared a Mid Trip Update presentation to share with Urja. At around 11:30 AM, we met with her and a few Setco team members to discuss the team’s progress thus far. We were fortunate to receive positive feedback from Urja and the team. With that said,overall we had a very productive meeting.


After the meeting, we had lunch planned with Urja, Rajeshbhai, and Gayatriben at the Setco canteen. Rajeshbhai was very kind enough to share his own mango rus, a cold dish made from mango pulp. Even though I served myself a second time, Rajeshbhai continued to insist that I take more even though my stomach could not handle it.

After a very fulfilling lunch, the team was very excited to go to Nishal Faliya in Barola to document the path that the women take to obtain their drinking water. By taking the actual path that the women take, we were able to document the terrain, any obstacles, and the water source.


To cool down, we headed back to the office and transcribed our notes from the meeting with Urja. Before wrapping up the day at the office, Urja warmly invited us to have dinner  at her place. To say the least, we had an amazing dinner and an insightful conversation about cryptocurrencies with Urja’s husband. After dinner, we headed back to the guest house and immediately passed out after.



Day 6: Vaat (Talk)

Hi-lo world it’s Kabir back at it reporting what happened the 28th of December. The day started off with the coveted cup of chai and some stellar Maggi noodles that we completely demolished. As soon as we arrived at the office, we sat down with Vidhi and Parth (individuals from Setco R&D that we work with) and updated them on the conversations we had in Mota Faliya. We briefly went over how to expand to 1000 stoves and incorporate design changes the user requires to divert smoke outside of their kitchen.

We quickly grabbed lunch after the conversation and headed off to Barola for three scheduled interviews in Nishal faliya. While Keny and Devna (a new face on the Setco team who studied communication) interviewed the women on shaded porches, Rajeshbhai, Div, and I interviewed the men inquiring about daily water consumption outside. To Rajeshbhai, the weather was “cold,” thus he was wearing a vest and long sleeve shirt in 87 degree weather. Meanwhile Div and I were sweating profusely clinging onto our water bottles as if our lives depended on it.


After 3 hours in the blistering heat we conducted all of the interviews and headed back to the office for some much needed AC. While there, we planned on treating ourselves out for dinner to Barbeque Nation, a destination Keny only dreamed of going to.  Our team has been fortunate enough to be taken out to dinner by the foundation team to the restaurant in the past and it is quite the experience. For one flat fee you get unlimited skewered appetizers that would make any kebab shop envious. After eating far too much food, we head back to the guesthouse to continue work and go over our schedule for the next day. Till next time.


Day 4 and 5: Gaam (Village) and Parivaar (Family)

Hey everyone Keny here!  We apologize that we were unable to upload a blog for the 26th; we had a super jam packed day consisting of building a chula (stove) with Sumitraben and conducting interviews.

I’m sure you were waiting for the Gujarati word of the day, which we decided should be gaam (village) because that was the day that I visited a village for the first time.

Upon arrival, at the office we planned our entire day before we were on our way visit to the community of Barola for the first time.


Visiting Barola was particularly exciting as it was Div and I’s first time interacting with Barola’s community members. We both had the opportunity to brush up on our Gujarati as we set up times to interview with women of potential partner families.

Once we left the community, we headed back to the office for a delicious traditional Gujarati lunch with the Setco team. After lunch, we met with a few Setco members to discuss the plan for the 1000 stoves expansion by 2018, which was very thought-provoking and productive.

After leaving the office, Devna and Gayatriben kindly invited us to dinner and to watch a new Hindi Bollywood film: “Tiger Zinda Hai,” AKA Kabir’s favorite Hindi movie now. Now I will hand it over to Div, who will share what we did on Dec. 27th!


Thanks Keny – hello everyone, Div here again. We had an absolutely jam-packed schedule today (12/27/2017).

The morning was normal – coffee, tea, the whole shebang. After we got to the office, we finished up some logistical work with the interview questions for the community members.  Then, Salamaben offered to take us to the Panch Mahotsav Festival. It was essentially a huge field filled with stalls that sold handmade crafts, art, and a ton of food. Experiencing this aspect of Indian culture was amazing, because none of us had an idea of the intricate designs that could be created by hand.

After that, we headed back to the office to grab a quick lunch and then headed to Dolatapura to build a stove with Sumitraben and Manjulaben. Let me tell you, these are two of the smartest women I have ever worked with. It was an amazing opportunity being able to help make the stove – kneading the maati, forming the bricks, and creating a chulha from scratch.


Being the stoves project co-lead, it was everything I could have imagined while interacting with our community partners. The experience, intuition, and skill that they have in creating the stove, left me in absolute awe.


Afterwards, we headed to Mota Failya in Barola to conduct interviews with potential partner families.

Kabir, Salmaben, and I talked to a few male community members, while Keny and Devna (SETCO representative) conducted the female interview questions. Overall, it was a fantastic discussion and there was a ton of information gathered.

Salmaben took us out for dinner with some people from the office, and needless to say I put on another 3 pounds.


She has taken care of us so well these past few days, she made India feel like home and SETCO feel like a true family.

We ended the day playing some cards, which was a great time and I don’t think I’ve laughed that much since I watched “IT” on the plane. It just wasn’t scary at all.

Anyways, we’ll be back soon with more updates for you all. Peace out girl scout and hi mom!

Day 3: Swagat (Welcome)

Hey everyone it’s Kabir! I know what you’re thinking, “Ugh this kid again for the third trip in a row”, and you’re exactly right. This trip I am fortunate enough to travel with our business co-lead Keny, and our stoves co-lead Divyansh (Div).     Thankfully they both speak Hindi and Gujarati fluently, so I can skrt by the seat of my pants with my horrifically broken Hindi (check out our previous blog from May: F is for Friends who do stuff together for more context).

Today was extremely exciting, as we were introduced to the Setco foundation. I was used to seeing Salmaben, Rajeshbhai, and Gayatriben but this time there were several new faces that joined the team since May. More so, this was Keny and Div’s first time meeting and associating faces to the renowned Setco representatives that we have worked with over the past several years. After introductions, chai, and coffee, we headed to Dolatpura. We were greeted with warm welcomes from our partner stove builder, Sumitraben, and our toilet partner, Chatrasinhbhai.


Sumitraben asked if I have learned how to perform American or Gujarati dance. I reiterated to her that when I do “break down,” I look like a fish out of water. She showed us the new stove she built, asked how everyone was back home, and sat down with Keny and Div for some questions. Meanwhile, Rajeshbhai and I met with our toilet partner to investigate the toilet and follow up on the May trip repairs. As an experienced traveler, it’s amazing to see members who have never traveled interact with someone as great as Sumitraben. As a result of that experience, they were able to the importance she holds, and passion she has for the stoves project.

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Afterwards, we went back to the office and sat down with the foundation team to go over our plan and objectives for the week. We also briefly went over the mind map to expand the stoves technology to different communities. At the end of the day, we were graciously invited to dinner with Salmaben and Rajeshbhai. After reminiscing about the fun times we had in May and eating some awesome food, we headed back to the guesthouse with the mantra to do work until we pass out. We made it a solid hour. Tomorrow, we plan on going back to Barola to introduce Keny and Div to the community, and scheduling interviews for the remainder of the week. Happy holidays to everyone, Kabir signing off *star trek beam up noise*.

Day 2: Aaraam (Rest)

Hi everyone, Divyansh here, the Stoves Project Co-Lead! After a long and arduous journey, we finally made it to Baroda last night. Extremely jet-lagged, we woke up super early today and were treated with hot chai, coffee, and a plethora of snacks to make up for the weight lost during travel. We also got to meet Keny’s aunt and uncle, Mr. Dilip Shah and Mrs. Krupa Shah, as well as her cousins. They stopped by all the way from Ahemdabad (a 2 hour drive) just to see their beloved niece for a few minutes, talk about dedication!

We decided to trek outside this afternoon


in search for an SD card, some playing cards, and a good book to pass some time. Note for future travelers: do not buy playing cards from Crossword, they’re absurdly overpriced and you will pay an arm, leg, and perhaps a kidney. After a successful trip, we were treated to a delicious lunch, courtesy of Harishbhai (the man, the myth, the legend) who fed us wholeheartedly.

I think I’ve already put on 6 pounds, everything is fine. Then, we played a few rousing hands of Do-Teen-Paanch, a traditional Indian card game, which of course I won. Then Kabir and I took a nap, which certainly didn’t help our jet-lag, while Keny chilled on the balcony soaking up some humid Baroda weather.

In the evening, I was able to get in touch with my family friends who used to live in Massachusetts, and recently moved to Baroda. Shilpa Aunty and Uday Uncle, I just wanted to take this moment to thank you for an absolutely amazing dinner at Secret Kitchen. It was truly a delight being able to see you this far away from home, and having the opportunity to catch up.

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The restaurant was quite the experience, extremely artsy with fantastic food. There were samosas in cages, papad in boxes, and palette cleansers in syringes. It was one of the finest dining experiences I’ve had in my life, 13/10 would recommend. Also, Kabir fell in love with Santa (Disclaimer: Santa may be a woman).


After that, we came home and knocked out within a half hour. Big day at the office tomorrow, can’t wait to meet everyone!

See ya later, crocodile and Merry Christmas eve.


Day 1: Dhiraj (Patience)

Hey everyone, it’s Keny! I’m the business co-lead for BLIP. After many delays and almost missing our flight, we decided to call the Gujarati word of the day Dhiraj, which means patience.

We got up at the crack of dawn (4:00 AM) to get ready to leave for the airport at 5 AM (shoutout to Sai for driving us to the airport and getting us there on time). Once we got to JFK, that is when our true patience was tested.


We looked at the departure screen and realized that the flight was delayed for 2 hours. So naturally we panicked because we would literally have less than 30 minutes until the flight from Ahmedabad to Abu Dhabi takes off. Luckily, we realized that there was nothing that was in our control, so we decided to sit patiently and basically eat all the free snacks that the Etihad employees were giving out.

Boarding the plane took a good hour, and we ended up taking off at 5:30 compared to 4:10. Nevertheless, this was great bonding time for us and I was actually surprised by the fact at how patient and calm we were.

After we landed in Abu Dhabi, we basically had 10 minutes before our flight to Ahmedabad departed, so we ran through customs to get to our gate. Once we got to the gate, we were fortunate to see that the flight was delayed for another half hour. Somehow, we made it and were on our way to the final destination: Ahmedabad!

After landing in Ahmedabad, we waited a good hour and half for immigration and our bags (somebody almost stole Div’s bag) but it’s okay we got it back! We finally left the airport to meet our driver, Nattubhai, who showed true dhiraj. He waited at the airport for 3+ hours for us and then drove us to Baroda, which is another two hours.

We finally reached the guesthouse and ended the night with a delicious meal that Harishbhai had cooked for us. Naturally, after a satiating dinner, we all passed out after.


Day 29: AC is for Air Conditioning

Hi all, Nisha writing for the last time this May! We had decided to take the day off…so naturally we had planned several hours of meetings in the evening. We were able to sleep in an, started the day off right with eggs and toast. To continue our leisurely morning, we decided to go to the InOrbit mall to do some shopping. As were about to leave the guesthouse, I got a call from Rajeshbhai who invited us to lunch. We met with him and were treated to a decadent traditional Gujarati meal!


After lunch, we went to Fab India to complete our shopping trip and headed back to the guesthouse. We spent the next hour relaxing, drinking chai, and getting ready for the evening’s meetings.

Upon arriving to the office, we were able to take a much-anticipated tour of Lavacast and learn about the structure of their production line! We headed to Barola next for our community meeting. The panchayat member, Tinabhai, had assembled some community members to learn more about BLUElab and the Setco Foundation. We were grateful for the cloud cover, which allowed us to survive the heat without the need of AC. Rajeshbhai and Salmaben gave an introduction, detailing what work the Setco Foundation did and explaining their relationship to our team. Kabir conducted the presentation, with Salmaben translating the information in Gujarati. We were excited to see so many community members that we hadn’t yet met and some familiar faces. To celebrate the completion of our work, Rajeshbhai treated us to dinner with the Shreya group, as it was also their last day in town.



When we arrived at the guesthouse, we decided to save the rest of our work for tomorrow morning, trying to take advantage of the few remaining hours in our day off.

I truly cannot believe that the month is already over. I have had the privilege to meet so many incredible people that have opened their homes to welcome us. I truly hope to visit again to continue our work!

Day 27: AB is for Ahmedabad Buffet

Hi all, Natalia here. Today we woke up bright and early to a steaming hot bowl of Maggi noodles. We piled into the car around 8am. During the ride, with no time to waste, we set about preparing for our end-of-trip presentation that morning for the Setco Foundation and R&D team.

At the office, we put the finishing touches on the PowerPoint and were super hyped for the meeting. As soon as everyone was ready, we filed into the conference room with Rajeshbhai, Salmaben, Elsa, Vidhi, and Parth, and presented our progress on the stoves and toilets projects, the process we’ve been using for needs filtering, and our plan for communicating with Setco and with our partner community after the trip. Our presentation was generally well-received, and it was nice to have the chance to talk about the work we’ve completed this month as well as where the team is headed from here.

We then took a break for lunch, which included a yoghurt-y desert called shrikund. I’ve definitely mentioned this desert before in another post, but I feel obliged to mention it again because it’s really good, and was low-key one of the highlights of my day.

In the afternoon we had a video call with Urja to fill her in on our progress. We had very interesting and productive conversations regarding stoves expansion, identifying needs in the community, and selecting a need for our new technology project.

After wrapping up a few more tasks at the office, we returned to Vadodara, joined by Elsa and Pritham (another coworker at Setco). We took a brief stop at the guest house to change and freshen up, before setting out again for an evening in Ahmedabad. The four of us and Elsa had been invited to dinner and a tour at TransStadia, a brand new stadium and sports club which is owned by the same family that runs Setco.



At TransStadia, we were led through a magnificent building complete with terraces, swimming pools, squash courts, banquet halls, a gym, a café, a card room, a children’s play area, and – our tour guide repeatedly informed us – a green space on every floor. Most of this was completed in the past year, and was little more than a concrete shell when our team was here last May. At the end of the tour, we sat down for dinner at the restaurant which occupies part of the sixth floor. The five of us enjoyed a buffet of delicious foods, accompanied by a gorgeous view of the city at night. On our way out, we couldn’t resist taking a few selfies in front of one of the infamous green spaces.


We said our farewells to Elsa in Ahmedabad, as she was going from there to visit her family and wouldn’t return to the office until after we’d left the country. Returning to the guest house around 11pm, we discovered several bags of clothes in Kabir’s room. Each contained a very traditional kurta and a small card with one of our names on it. Salmaben had individually picked these out for us to wear to the much-anticipated community presentation in Barola tomorrow.

Day 26: AA is for Adventure in Alindra

Hey all, Nisha here! We started the day off right, rested and with omelets chock full of onions and peppers, buttered toast, and my daily cup of cold milk. On our way to the office, Kabir squeezed into the back of the car so we could all talk and work during the car ride. Upon arriving, we divided up an extensive list of things to do amongst ourselves as we prepared for our morning meetings.

We sat down with Salmaben and Rajeshbhai to discuss the results of our preliminary needs filtering process (in which we narrowed down the list of potential needs our team could address in our next project). We answered questions and provided more explanations behind the few needs that we had filtered down to from our original list of nearly 30 needs. Next, we moved into discussing or communication plan for this upcoming semester. We proposed a detailed outline of how we would stay in close contact with Setco and Barola during our Fall semester and were excited by their positive response to the plan.

With two meetings successfully completed, we headed to lunch where Rajeshbhai surprised us with a bowl of freshly cut mangos, explaining that they were of a unique variety.

Next on our agenda was to visit Barola. Kabir, Sarah, and Parth went down both faliyas, taking photos of each house’s location and documenting who the residents were while Natalia and I continued conducting interviews. Our first interview was in Nishal faliya with Kokilaben, who we had met several times before during focus groups. She introduced us to her family and they helped walk us through, step-by-step, their processes for everything from acquiring drinking water to harvesting millet. Kokilaben even showed us how she balances several large pots on her head each day when she goes to collect drinking water.

After the interview, we were greeted by Gita and the Kokilaben we had interviewed yesterday. We moved to Motu faliya next where we interviewed Anjuben again. We were also welcomed by Rekhaben, who joined us partway through the interview. They similarly walked us through several of their daily processes.


After sufficiently sweating through our clothes, we decided that it was time to end our last day of interviews in Barola. On our way back to the office, we stopped by a beautiful temple at the entrance of Alindra, as we had been told by several women in Barola that this is where they came to collect drinking water. Parth and I went to track own the water source, we which found on the side of the temple.

We worked late to finish up some remaining tasks in the office and headed back to Baroda with Elsa. Kabir once again squeezed into the back of the car, planning on working more during the ride back. As expected, our productivity was incredible: we slept through most of the car ride.

After another KFC run, we finally arrived back at the guesthouse. We spent the night completing our needs filtering process, preparing for our meeting with the entire Setco and R&D team, and creating a detailed map of Barola from the information and pictures we had taken today.

Our productivity was interrupted, however, when I spotted a lizard on the wall in Kabir’s room. Naturally, for the safety of the group, I instructed Kabir to displace it. After several futile attempts to capture it, I decided to give up, spending the next hour periodically checking the wall to assure that it hadn’t moved any closer to me.


With only three days left, I’m looking forward to some busy but exciting last few days!