Day 18: Less of a Novelty

Hi all, Mike here for Day 18. Today was our third day in Dolatpura. In the morning, we split up into two groups to talk to two different families. Jon, Mitch, and Brianna spoke with Prikash bhai and his family, and Zoha, Erica, Priyank, and I talked to Bhupad bhai and his family. Bhupad bhai was happy to speak with us, and made us feel welcome in his home. He has six brothers, and all 45 members of his family live adjacent to each other. After introductions, Erica and Zoha broke off to speak with the women of the household, and Priyank and I stayed behind to talk to the men. We did this to create a better environment for open conversation. Bhupad and his family are hardworking farmers who grow corn, wheat, mangoes, and tamarind. They eat the food they grow, and sell the rest at a market in Kalol. Instead of getting water from the water tower, the family uses a personal well that they (the previous generation) built in 1972. There is a branch that lies across the opening of the well, which is used for pulling the water up with rope and bucket. Over the years, as the rope slides across the branch, deep crevices form in the wood. The well is 55 feet deep, and was built entirely by hand; I cannot fathom the skill and precision that was required for that project! After talking, a friend of Bhupad wanted to see an American dollar, as he had never seen one before. I broke out a $1 bill, and we exchanged equal currency.

Tomorrow and Friday we will be learning as much as possible about the water system in Dolatpura. We will be speaking to the pump operator, who comes to the town at 7 AM each morning to turn on the water for an hour. At 8 AM, the water is shut off (despite the short window for running water, there is no apparent shortage in the village). We are particularly interested in the chlorine that is added to the water tower; we do not know how much is added, or with what frequency. In addition, we will redo our water testing at several different points, on the same day, to help ensure consistent results.

In between the more structured tasks, we’ve been trying to start organic conversations and interactions as much as possible. For example, Mitch, Jon, and Brianna played Frisbee with several villagers for over an hour today.

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From this, Mitch was able to ask a local farmer if he could try his hand at farming sometime (the farmer said yes, and that he would follow up soon). I managed to play a quick game of cricket with members of Bhupad bhai’s family before leaving. Erica captured the attention of dozens of young girls by drawing animals and exchanging their English name for the Gujarati translation.

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All of these interactions help us build rapport with the village. The more comfortable people are with us, the better we’ll get to know the community and their needs. Plus, we hope to strengthen our connections to the point where we can ask people to sit down for “formal” interviews: conversations where two team members can ask questions away from the crowds and public eye. On Thursday, Erica, Zoha, and Brianna will interview Sangeeta, a woman who works and lives in the Dolatpura anganwadi.

We have noticed that each day we go back to Dolatpura, there are significantly fewer people that crowd around us. We think that as people are getting used to us, we are becoming less of a novelty. This is a good thing!

After work, Baroda life has been great. Many of us do a core workout each day to unwind. What started out as “10-minute abs” has turned into a 45-minute daily ritual. Mitch has convinced Erica to hop on the “wheat grass train” and down a cup of the healthy green concoction every night. We are enjoying the many fruits (ones with harder skins of course) and deserts in Gujarat; the mangoes are amazing!

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– Mike

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