Day 26: Last full day in the office!

Hey everyone, it’s Colby here writing our final blog post of the trip! (How did this happen so quickly??) We woke up per usual on Thursday with a yummy breakfast and headed to work. Once we arrived at the office we began preparation for the three presentations we were giving that day: two for the Setco Foundation team and one for Urja who we videocalled. We also worked on the May Trip Report, the summative document used to describe our work over the last month, and then at 11:00 headed to a conference room to present to the Foundation team.

 

We first presented about our stoves expansion work and then gave a general overview presentation for the entire trip. Overall, it was a great final meeting with the Foundation team and we were happy to share our progress with them. After that meeting we headed back to our office room and took a video call with Urja in order to share the same information with her. That phone call was lovely and it was nice as always to speak with her!

 

In the afternoon we travelled to Kalol to pick up the >100 photos we had developed for our partners in Dolatpura and Barola. We then headed to Barola to drop off photos with Ramilaben and Kusumben. They both loved the photos and Kusumben’s grandsons even seemed to enjoy them! It made us happy to deliver these photos to them from our time during this trip and to thank them for their work with us for the water technology project.

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Kusumben, Jayvil and Hitendrabhai (Kusumben’s younger son)
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Team photo with Kusumben and her nephew younger Jayvil 

We next went to Dolatpura to deliver photos to Sumitraben and say goodbye to her. Out of all of the photos we gave her, she loved the ones of her grandson Vivek the most (we can’t blame her, he’s the most stoic, cutest little toddler). She even said that those photos were the best we had ever delivered to her in any of our trips! Complete credit to Keny and her camera for that accomplishment. It was so nice to say a happy goodbye to Sumitraben after having done such great work with her during this trip.

 

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Our feelings exactly as we said goodbye to our community partners

 

After our day at the office ended, we went to Salmaben’s beautiful home in Vadodara for a delicious dinner (probably the best we’ve had this whole trip) and to spend some quality time with her. We had a really nice evening with her and her family and it was really the perfect end to our trip. Right after dinner, we headed to a barber shop so that Gautham could get shaved (he was way too scruffy). We then went back to the guest house, packed our bags, and headed to bed before our half day at the office and then our journey to Ahmedabad and, ultimately, the United States (home)!

 

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An action shot of Gautham looking eerily similar to Santa Claus during his shave

 

As our last days here in Guajrat are upon us, I would like to thank the Setco Foundation, UofM, BLIP, BLUElab, our parents, and anyone else who helped and supported our travellers during our month-long journey. We are all so happy to have achieved all of our goals for this trip and are excited to see what our team will be up to during this next semester. This month has been joyful, challenging, exciting, and everything in between! We say a bittersweet goodbye to India soon now and with that, goodbye blog!

 

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Our hearts at this moment as described by Michael Scott

Day 25: Early Departure

Hey everyone, Keny here! We started off the morning with some delicious mango and batata poha. Once we arrived at the office, Colby and I went to Kalol with Sabirbhai to have photos printed for community members. On the way back to the car, I spotted some mangoes at the market and had to stop everyone to buy a few.

Back at the office, Colby and I joined Gautham and Caroline to speak with Parth regarding the stencil for our stoves project and the next steps for our work with he and Vidhi in R&D. Then the team continued to finish up some office work before we headed to lunch. During lunch, Hetalben was kind enough to bring us my personal favorite Gujarati dessert Shrikhand (Indian sweet dish made of strained yogurt).

Back at the office, Rajeshbhai informed us that we could all leave the office at 2:30 PM and that we would be having dinner with him, Salmaben, and a few people from the Setco Foundation team. We were all very excited to have some extra time to relax at the guest house before dinner and were excited to spend time with all of them that night.

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Michael instructing the office it’s time to go home (early) as Rajeshbhai told us

After some relaxation time in the guesthouse, we met everyone at a restaurant called Old School. We had some yummy Indian-style nachos, tandoori (various seasoned vegetables and paneer), and garlic bread for appetizers. The punjabi food was definitely very filling, but Salmaben insisted that we all go out and get some baraf na gola (shaved ice) to end the night. Caroline, Gautham, and I all got a mango flavored syrup while Colby got rose. As good as it was, I got a brain freeze (oops).

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A photo of us all enjoying our delicious dinner at Old School!

 

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Our BLIP travelers eating their sweet shaved ice treat after dinner

Back at the guest house, we all started organizing our suitcases and packing to head back to the States. After organizing our bags, Colby and I watched some late-night “New Girl” and “22 Jump Street” then we all headed to bed before our last full day in the office tomorrow. I still cannot believe how fast time has flown by during this great trip and I’m so grateful to have been here!

Day 24: Dinner Party

Hey everyone it’s Gautham here! We started our day off with some delicious pooda (savory pancake), which has really become the team’s favorite breakfast food! We then all loaded up in the car and headed off to the office. We had a fairly relaxing morning, enjoying some chai and biscuits and working on documentation.

Later in the morning, we headed into Barola for a meeting with three stove builders in the community. Our plan was to discuss our stove stencil with them and gain some valuable feedback. When we got to the community only one stove builder, Leelaben, was present.  She provided us with very valuable input about how the stencil could improve the stove building process and we were very grateful to hear her perspective. We were then about to head back to the office when we ran into Samar Bhai, Premilaben’s son who is a Mechanical Engineer in Vadodara. We had a great conversation with him about our water technology project, and we were able to discuss technology features and local materials with him!

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After spending enough time in the heat, we had a quick lunch in the canteen and spent the rest of the afternoon working on various documents for our May trip report. It was a very productive afternoon in the air conditioning and we even enjoyed some delicious mango juice. While the team was working diligently, we were all excited for some fun evening plans!

Maiytree invited us to her house for some delicious Indian snacks, and in order to be polite dinner guests, we decided to bring some dessert to the party. We planned to go to a cake store in Vadodara, but Keny’s directions led us to some very random locations. It was very similar to when Michael’s poor sense of direction led him directly into a lake! We were eventually able to find a cake shop and the delicious chocolate cake we chose ended up being a hit at the party.

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Michael (Keny) driving into a lake

We had a really great time at Maiytree’s house eating some vada pav (potato fritter in a bun) and pani puri (classic Mumbai street food). Vidhi even wowed us with some of her magic tricks! After everyone ate we headed over to a nearby market and grabbed some more treats including a few sodas and popsicles. We were all reminded of Michael Scott’s dinner party fiasco, but our night definitely went better than his did. It was especially nice to spend time with our office mates outside of the workplace and we will surely miss them when we’re gone!

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Pam and Jim having a very awkward experience at Michael’s dinner party

That’s all from me for this May trip, it’s been real.

Day 23: Koi Pond

Hey guys, Caroline here for my final blog post of this trip.  We started the morning with a delicious breakfast we haven’t had before, aloo paratha. (imagine a quesadilla with potato in between!) We then headed to the office and found ourselves taking the scenic route as our driver, Sabirbhai, took us to feed fish in the Narmada river.  I was very surprised to see at least 100 giant fish splashing out the water for the bread crumbs we threw.  I was also hesitant to lean over the edge of the bridge, remembering Michael Scott’s fall into a koi pond from The Office.

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After that bit of excitement in the morning, we settled in at the office and took care of some work.  We prepared for our visit to Barola to speak with a few different community members, but upon arrival we found we had just missed them.  We chatted a bit with some familiar faces, but soon Vipulbhai was urging us into the car for another adventure and assured us that we could go back to Barola on Tuesday.  We visited a beautiful temple that was very ornate inside and out. The temple also had cows nearby, so the team went to take a peak and saw a calf that had been born that morning!

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Kripalu Samadhi Mandir 
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Gautham (once again) admiring the cows

After our short visit to the temple, we headed back to the office for lunch and got back to work, preparing for our final presentations.  I personally think the break to absorb some culture increased our productivity, but maybe we were just playing catch-up! At the end of the day, we headed back to Vadodara, but instead of going to the guest house, we made a pit stop to check out a tire store for our water technology project. Yet again, our timing was off as the store had already closed, but it’s been great at least getting contact information for numerous shops that could help us with materials in the surrounding area.

The team headed home, hungry and tired, but we indulged in more Kesar mangoes before the usual dinner of rice, roti, daal and subji.  As the days wind down, I am eager to go home, but I will greatly miss this experience. Luckily, we had a very productive trip so we can carry on some great work during this summer and the Fall semester before the team is back again in December!

 

Day 22: Day Off Plus a Conference Call

Hey everyone, it’s Colby! We started off Sunday, first and foremost, thankful for a day of rest after our week of fun travel and hardwork. Since Gautham and I insisted on sleeping in a bit, everyone got a late start with a mid-morning breakfast of maggi.  After that, Sabirbhai, our Setco driver, kindly picked us up at noon and drove us to a bustling market to do some shopping and also look at tires for our dolley design. Although we had little success with tires, Keny and Gautham were both able to grab great gifts for family members.

 

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Above are two photos from our market adventures!

It was boiling hot at the market, so we decided after a while to drive back home. With food on our minds, we then called an Uber and drove to Inorbit, a nearby mall in Vadodara. In a predictable fashion, we headed straight for the food court and then straight for the McDonalds counter. Caroline and I enjoyed some amazing seasoned potato wedges, while Keny and I treated ourselves to Oreo McFlurries (they tasted even better than the ones in America). Soon after, Keny and Gautham ordered a large meal from Chatoree, an Indian fast food restaurant in the food court. Their meal included chat, chhole, and gobi manchurian and they were quickly stuffed!

 

We then drove back to the guest house and watched an extremely interesting documentary about rock climbers that both scared and inspired us. Gautham then promptly fell asleep for a few hours until dinner. After dinner we took a call with Nicole, Nisha, and Kabir from the BLIP team in order to update them on the progress we have been making in regards to our stoves project. It was a great call and we enjoyed speaking with all of them!

 

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We could have had this sign on our door while having our conference call

 

Later that night we all relaxed after a nice day off and Gautham and Keny grabbed everyone a little ice cream (we’re trying to really enjoy our last few days of amazing Indian ice cream). We then dozed off, ready for our final Monday in the office!

Day 21: Pretzel Day vs. Ice Cream Day

Hey everyone, Keny here! We started off the morning with some warm batata poha prepared by Sanjay. Once we were at the office, we headed out to speak with our community partners Kusumben and Divyaben in Barola and also ended up speaking with Kusumben’s son  Virendrabhai while his adorable son sat nearby (reference the photo below).

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Yosraj making bubbles with his grandma Kusumben and dad Virendrabhai

After our trip to Barola, Vipulbhai and Hiren were kind enough to guide us to the Halol and Kalol markets to purchase materials to bring back to the United States for our Water Tech project. We visited a few shops and were feeling extremely hot, so to cool down, Vipulbhai graciously took us out for ice cream. Caroline, Colby, and I ate a yummy chocolate ice cream bar while Gautham tried the mango bar. Our expressions of joy while eating our ice cream were not unlike Stanley’s on Pretzel Day in “The Office”. He loves pretzel day, we love ice cream!

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Our faces when we were told we were getting free ice cream!

On our way back, our driver, Sabirbhai, showed us around Kalol a bit. First we saw Narmada river and a local dam that runs through a lot of Gujarat. We also stopped by to see a few baby monkeys with their mom (cute photos below).

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Narmada River, Gujarat

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After our fun morning adventures, we headed back to the office to get some lunch. Then Gautham and I went back to the Halol market to purchase pots and rolls of weaving material to take back to the States. Luckily, Vipulbhai lead us to the shops with the best deals and saved us a few rupees. Gautham and I then decided to go buy some Chiku (a very sweet fruit that resembles a kiwi) and Kesar mangoes, which are typically one of the most expensive and most delicious mangoes in India.

After a very productive day of material sourcing and a little bit of sightseeing, we headed back to the guesthouse. Since everyone was quite hungry, we decided to cut up some of the fresh Kesar mangoes and devour them. Dinner was like usual, but we decided to relax by heading to the movie theatre to watch “Deadpool 2”. The movie messed with my emotions too much but it was quite funny for the first half hour… then I fell asleep. Nevertheless, going to the movies in India is always an interesting experience – one man was having a full on conversation on the phone during the movie. Even better, they created an intermission right in middle of a scene to allow everyone to get snacks (Gautham and Colby didn’t appreciate this)! Once we were back at the guesthouse, we were relieved to know that we had Sunday off to relax and sleep in after such an adventurous day.

 

Day 20: Stinky Work

What up everyone, it’s Gautham here! We started the day off early with some delicious omelettes that were prepared by Sanjay before heading out to the office. On our way, we stopped by a local lumber store in Baroda to get a measuring stick for our toilets work during the day. We had some fun trying to fit the two meter stick inside the car, but we managed to figure it out.

Once at the office, we headed straight to Dolatpura to meet with Sumitraben and Chatrahsinbhai, our stoves and toilet partners in the community. Our team was very excited because we were able to put finishing touches on the stove that we built last week with Sumitraben. We filled in the cracks of the stove with a mud and straw mixture, and we were able to speak a lot with Sumitraben and Manjulaben, the designated stove builders in the community.

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Putting finishing touches on stove with Sumitraben
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Caroline and Colby with the contractor
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The open toilet bins

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we finished with the stove, Keny and Colby headed over to Chatrahsinbhai’s house to meet with the toilet contractor who was helping us open the toilet’s bins. Keny and Colby felt like Michael Scott when there was a smelly accident in his office! Caroline and I stayed with Sumitraben in her kitchen to speak with her more and help her cook lunch for the day.(I’m no expert, but I made a pretty great rotla!) We headed back to the office very tired, but very happy as we had great interactions with our community partners.

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Rhotla (thick millet pancake)
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Cooking with Sumitraben

 

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Before lunch we had an opportunity to receive a short yoga lesson from a visiting guru from Varanasi who teaches at the local Anganwadis. We practiced various yoga poses and ended with meditation exercises. After a great lunch, Keny and Colby headed out to Barola to hold an interview with Kusumben and Divyaben, while Caroline and I stayed back at the office to work on a final stoves presentation for the foundation.

Back at the guesthouse, we all got some very well needed relaxation from the heat with some TV and reading and then enjoyed an amazing dinner of rice, dhaar (lentils), and tindoora subji (ivory gourd) prepared by Sanjay. It was a very productive day, and we all fell asleep very quickly, ready for our last work day of the week: Saturday!

Day 19: Stress Relief

Hey everyone, Caroline here! Now that our little vacation in Mumbai is over, we have been very eager to spend this next week finishing all of our work before we head back to the United States.  We started the day with an early-ish wake up and after enjoying some jam sandwiches, we hit the road for work. The whole team easily fell asleep for the ride to the office while I blasted through levels of Candy Crush.

Since we did not have WiFi in Mumbai, we spent part of the morning posting the previous days’ blogs.  We then packed up and headed to Dolatpura to chat with Sumitraben. Since her grandson was visiting, we offered to do a baby photoshoot and they immediately changed his clothes and combed his hair for the occasion.

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The team chatting with Sumitraben and her family
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Sumitraben’s grandson, Vivek. (still cannot make him smile)

The team later returned to the office to go over notes and prepare for the next few days of material sourcing for the water technology project.  We headed to the canteen for a delicious lunch and Keny got to have one of her favorite after lunch snacks, dhana daar. She was thrilled and said it reminded her of childhood.

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Keny at lunch

After an afternoon of office work, we headed back to the guest house to be greeted by a nice dinner of pav bhaji courtesy of Sanjay.  We all headed to our rooms to relax on our own for a bit and soak up some AC.  I was doing some work on my laptop when the power suddenly went out and had it not been for the light from my screen, I probably would have panicked.

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This is what I look liked for the first 5 minutes of the power outage.

We all gathered in one room and tried to stay as cool as possible, alternating whose phone would light the room.  After a solid hour of lying down I had the brilliant suggestion (if I do say so myself) of having the boys venture out to retrieve ice cream for all of us.  Of course, as soon as they returned, we were reprieved of our sweaty states, but nonetheless enjoyed the sweet treat for the night!

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Vivek and Nilesh looking cute as can be!

Day 18: Pam’s Art Show vs Mumbai Art Gallery

Hey everyone, Colby here! On Wednesday we were sadly leaving Mumbai in the afternoon, but before that, we had a little more fun. In the morning, we decided to go to a little café called The Nutcracker, where we ate delicious  breakfasts even including a plate of breakfast quesadillas and pancakes! Once we were full from breakfast, we headed to the Taj Hotel: a famous hotel in Mumbai with a beautiful, luxurious exterior and interior, situated directly across from the Gateway of India. I even grabbed a nice pastry from the bakery located inside!

 

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The menu at our yummy breakfast restaurant, The Nutcracker.

 

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A photo of Keny’s delicious breakfast.

 

After our visit to the Taj Hotel, we headed to Jehangir Art Gallery. Inside, we saw many beautiful and interesting pieces of art throughout the gallery’s many rooms. We then took a taxi to the Setco Foundation Mumbai office in another district of the city and met up with Urja, Devna, and Maitreyee. It was great to be welcomed into another Setco office and even nicer to be able to say our final goodbyes to Urja before heading back to Vadodara.

 

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A few photos of amazing street art in Mumbai!

Once we departed from the office, we stopped by a small restaurant called Swati’s Snacks for some of us to grab food on-the-go before our travel back to Vadodara and then we were off on our journey back to the guesthouse in Gujarat! We arrived at dinner time and ate a delicious dinner of maggi noodles and vegetables before everyone fell asleep very early due to our crazy yet exciting few days of travel. We ended the day feeling very grateful to have experienced such an amazing big city, spent time with Urja, interacted with students at ASB, and had such a fun time!

 

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Day 17: Presenting at ASB vs. The Business School

Hi everyone, Keny here! The team started the day on Tuesday with a great breakfast courtesy of our hotel. After breakfast, we were very excited to head to the American School of Bombay (ASB) to present to 9th and 10th graders about our project.

Since we arrived at the school early, we sat down with Urja to chat over some coffee. Then we headed over to the presentation room and were introduced to a few teachers and board members of ASB. After that, we excitedly gave our presentation followed by a question-and-answer panel for the audience of students. Overall, we were very impressed with the level of engagement of the students and how insightful their questions were. It was amazing to hear about some of the CSR work that they have been working on as well and to engage in such an enriching conversation with them.

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Instead of presenting to the business school (like Michael), we presented to ASB students
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Meeting with the Consulate General

After our presentation at ASB, Urja kindly treated us to dessert at Le Pain Quotidien, a cafe in Mumbai’s financial district. I decided to skip dessert and ordered a citrus aloe vera juice with chia seeds (yum!), but the rest of the team indulged in some cakes.  We had a really fun time and got the inside scoop about the best things to do in Mumbai as well as having yet another engaging and thought-provoking conversation with Urja.

We had the whole day to ourselves after that, so we decided to head back to the hotel to relax before exploring more of the city.  Before we ate dinner, we walked down one of Mumbai’s best market streets and did some shopping for more gifts for family and friends. We also made our way to the Gateway of India (similar to the French Arc de Triomphe) and captured some beautiful photos there. For dinner, we chose a restaurant called Irish Pub, which had delicious fondue and sandwiches. To end the night, we took a stroll by the beach on Mumbai’s famous promenade- Marine Drive. Caroline and I also tried watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” back at the hotel but we immediately fell asleep.

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Markets in Mumbai