Day 10: “Baroda Belly”

Hi all, Mike checking in with Day 10. Today we visited Barola, a small, quiet village near Kalol. We chose Barola because we were told that the town was one of 37 receiving water from the GWI (Gujarat Water Initiative) water treatment plant. Exploring this town would allow us to find out what process each village must go through to receive GWI water. We would also be able to gauge the effectiveness of the GWI plant by testing the water. However, despite our excitement, five minutes after beginning to talk about water with villagers, we learned that the town was not yet getting water from the plant; the Panchayat (11-person village leadership committee) had merely enrolled. The government had not yet followed up on its promise to build water infrastructure, and thus, left Barola’s villagers to walk fifteen minutes to nearby farms each day to get potable water.

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To me, it sounded like there may have been a miscommunication between different government departments. According to the government, 60+ villages are slated to be covered by GWI, of which 37 (including Barola) are “already receiving water”. A GWI plant engineer directly told us that Barola was getting water, yet apparently had no idea that Barola would still need extensive underground piping, as well as a sump (very large concrete storage vessel) to even be almost ready to receive water. Pictured below is a drinking water pot, corroded due to high mineral content.

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Besides our initial frustration, we learned a lot from Barola. We further confirmed that groundwater is generally cleaner than canal water. We learned the dangers of thorn bushes when Jon got his shirt caught and it was hilarious. We also learned that cows love to interrupt conversations. Further, I noticed the unquestioning generosity of the man that answered all of our questions about water. After an hour and a half of showing us around town while taking questions, we exhausted our list. When I asked him if he had any questions for us, he asked: “Why are you here?” I was taken aback; I realized that this man had taken 90 minutes of his time to answer nosy college students’ questions while only having a vague understanding of why we were asking them- definitely a testament to Indian hospitality. A typical Barola residence is pictured below.

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For me, as the trip goes on, the language barrier stands out more and more.  For example, yesterday, Jon, Erica and I had a group interview (pictured below) with a microbiologist, chemist and GWI Plant engineer. Communicating via translator can be difficult. In some instances, it is necessary to ask the same question a few different ways to get a full picture. Many times, on both ends, the meanings of questions and answers were misinterpreted. It is hard to be patient, and keep from being frustrated at my own lack of Gujarati skills. The language barrier also appears in the many signs and advertisements written in English. During our daily morning commute, we pass by a hotel called “Hotel Decent,” which, in America, would be read as the literal equivalent of “Hotel Meh, We’re Alright”. We suspect a similar story behind “Hotel Relish”. A parallel in America might be “Panera Bread,” which someone who speaks Italian and English would read as “Bread Basket Bread.”  I’ve decided that I will be learning Gujarati this summer… I need to find someone to hold me to this.

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At the end of the day, 5 of us did our brutal daily core workout, up from the previous 4. Hopefully by the end of the trip we’ll be able to call it “Team Core”…. We can can’t let Ramesh’s awesome cooking turn into “Baroda belly”!

– Mike

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