Day 14 & 15: “Naaah We’ll Walk”

As far as weekends go, we got the best of both worlds; plenty of adventuring, and plenty of napping and recovering. On Saturday we got up at 8 am to go to a community self-defense workshop at the Kalol Anganwadi. The workshop was open to both adolescent boys and girls. The workshop was led by three enthusiastic male trainers from Mumbai. When things got going, the girls and boys in the room split up by gender. The trainers taught people a variety of techniques, including proper pushing form, how to break free from a hold, and some knuckle move that hurts far more than you’d expect. More importantly, according to Urja Shah (the President of the Setco Foundation), the workshop sends a message to the community that assault will not be tolerated. Because the workshop took place in a hub of the community, the workshop was a community event, rather than an event for a collection of individuals. Thus, hopefully, the workshop had an impact beyond self-defense techniques and confidence boosts. In addition, Jon learned a few techniques that he’d rather not have done to him again! We are grateful that we were invited! After arriving back home in Baroda, we promptly passed out to try and recover from the week’s mental strains.


Sunday morning, we got up at the usual time, but, instead of heading to the factory, we climbed aboard a car bound for Pavagar, the mountain that we drive by everyday on the way to Kalol. At the top of the mountain is a Hindu temple called the Maha Kali Munder. This temple can only be accessed by a flight of over 1,300 stairs… Or a tram. We elected to take the stairs. Two hours, ten bottles of water and Gatorade, 104 degrees Fahrenheit, many wandering donkeys, and a dozen refusals for photos later, we made it to the top of the mountain and paid our respects in the temple on the very top. Mitchell ran the whole way, and Erica and Mike ran part of the way, only to be told (after the fact) that it is slightly offensive for foreigners to run up the steps.  This was unfortunate, and we felt embarrassed, but it was a great workout. Because it was a Sunday, the mountain was very busy; we saw a woman crawling up all of the stairs and a group dancing their way to the top (having learned this exact dance at school the other week, we could have joined in, but chose to just keep walking). The entire way was lined with vendors, which was nice because their tents shaded the path (which, thankfully, didn’t keep Erica from making some serious progress on her Chaco tan). It was particularly interesting to see the booths where one could pose for a photo with a plush tiger and a background of palm trees.


In addition, there were several men giving tattoos on the way (Erica resisted the urge to invest several hundred rupees in a tattoo from a stand on the side of the mountain. She figured that this is an impulse best left satisfied by a tattoo parlor in Vadodara or the US). On our way back to Vadodara, we visited a mosque and knocked another roadside hotel off our bucket list; lunch was at Hotel Savarottam.


We arrived back in Vadodara only to pass out yet again (I think Erica may have mastered the four hour nap).


-Erica and Mike


Day 13: Election Day!

There was a lot of activity on the streets morning as the vote counting began. We saw people sitting outside watching the election on the TV and precautionary police gathered in public areas. Elections are a pretty big deal here. The voter turnout was a whopping 66%–an all time high. The winning party was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with candidate Narendra Modi for Prime Minister.

Today I finally got to meet Urja Shah, President of the Setco Foundation. We met with her and Salma Ben and told her about our project and its progress so far:

Now that we’ve spent a good two weeks collecting information on local culture, water, and health practices all around Kalol, we’ve decided to narrow our scope to one village. We found that it is really hard to interview people when we attract such a large crowd. We also feel that we haven’t had enough time to build up the trust to ask more personal questions. So that’s why, in the next two weeks, we want to focus on the village of Dolatpura.

We will start off next week by asking people of Dolatpura some more questions about drinking water and hygiene, just to get acquainted with more families in the village. We also will ask about daily activities to gauge when would be an appropriate time to visit the community. Then we will give a more formal introduction to our project: telling them exactly why we are there and what they should expect in the next few weeks. After that we will continue to visit and ask questions. Once we establish a relationship with some of the villagers we will ask if it would be okay for us to join in some of their daily activities such as washing dishes or preparing food.

I think it will be easier if we divide into small groups. Smaller groups seem to attract less attention and it would promote more one-on-one conversation. I know we will still have to face the language barrier, but we have been getting really good at communicating with body language. It would also be good if we divided our group by gender, so that people feel even more comfortable talking about personal health. I have been surprised by how welcoming and open to answering questions people have been. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to sit down with us.

A big part of our needs assessment is gauging how the community might react to a change in daily routine. This will become important when we implement our technology in the next visit. It will also be good to know how excited the community is about our project, which will drastically effect how easy it will be to build and maintain our implementation. This has really been a great learning experience and I can’t wait to get in touch with our team back home to talk about what we’ve found.

– Brianna

Day 12: Coffee and More Julab

Jai Shri Krishna from Baroda! This is Zoha blogging for the day.

Today was an exciting day for all of us! We all went to the house of a ceramic builder, visited the homes of many people in Kashimabad and Kalol, and had the honor to meet and give updates to Mr. Udit Sheth about our project.

As soon as we reached the SETCO office, we all had our daily coffee or chai. According to Mike, the coffee was delicious because it had less milk. Salma Ben intentionally ordered coffee with less milk because of our diarrhea issues. I have officially joined the Julab (Diarrhea) Club. Brianna is the only person still hanging on and is the only lucky member.

After our delicious coffee, we all decided to meet a pot thrower within Kalol. As per usual, we gathered a crowd near the ceramic builder’s house. At first, we watched the ceramic builder shape the clay into a pot on a wheel. He spun the wheel and with wet hands shaped the clay into a vessel. We were all mesmerized by his skills and handwork. He made the entire process look easy!

Punja Bhai demonstrating how to press clay to create ceramic pots.
Punja Bhai demonstrating how to press clay to create ceramic pots.

Soon, Salma Ben decided to make a craft of her own. Eventually the whole team took turns working with the craftsman. I enjoyed the smooth texture of the clay on my hand. I found it extremely difficult to give the clay a specific shape. Nevertheless, I enjoyed working with the man. He was a patient teacher.

Salma Ben and Zoha attempting to shape and mold the clay.
Salma Ben and Zoha attempting to shape and mold the clay.

Later, we all split up into groups to travel to Kashimabad and Kalol. Mitch, Erica, and I went with Salma to Kashimabad. Brianna, Jon, and Mike went to Kalol with Gayatri Ben and Priyank. We all went from house to house in each village to learn more about water and health conditions within the community.

Priyank, Mike, and Jon interviewing people within Kalol.
Priyank, Mike, and Jon interviewing people within Kalol.

In Kashimabad, we met with people who were refugees from the 2002 riots. They were living in government built homes. Majority of them had water and other related issues: people were sick with jaundice, some had chicken pox, some households were not receiving water since the past week and etc. This was my first visit to Kashimabad, and I saw a huge difference between this village and other villages within greater Kalol. Kashimabad lacked some of the basic resources the other villages had: access to water, a clean drainage system, and etc.

After our visit to Kashimabad, the entire team went to Mayank’s house for lunch. Mayank is a SETCO worker who travelled with us to many of the houses, where we interviewed people. His wife, who was aware of our weak stomach, cooked food accordingly. After our scrumptious lunch (Gujarati thali), we went back to the SETCO office to meet with Mr. Sheth. We all chatted about our experience in India and our project. He assured us that everyone is willing to lend us a hand with our research, including himself. Lastly, he asked us about our travel plans within Gujarat. We were delighted to hear that they wanted to make plans for us. The hospitality that SETCO has shown us is spectacular. We appreciate all that SETCO has done to make our stay in Gujarat as comfortable as possible. We especially appreciate the hospitality of Viral, Salma Ben, Neethu, Udit, and Harish.

– Zoha

Day 11: 85 Degrees F is Nice and Cool

Hey y’all, this is Mitchell checking in.

This morning we went to the main anganwadi in Kalol and we met some of the children that regularly attend. We attempted to sing some songs (in Gujarati…) and teach them nursery rhymes from home. It is common that we are the first foreigners that many children (and even the elderly in some rural areas) have ever seen. Stranger anxiety seems to effect a few children when we first start start working with children but they eventually become comfortable with us. Before our team split up into groups we spent some time coloring, playing games, doing puzzles, and talking with children. On occasion Mike was left alone with a group of younger kids and their true excitement was made evident as they climbed around the windows, wrestled, and ran to the shoe box to sneak on their sandals. It brought back memories of primary school, where normally-docile students would go crazy when the teacher left the room for a minute. Mike thought back to his camp counselor days and tried his best, but it’s hard to control a group of 3 to 6 year-old kids who speak an entirely different language.


After the visit at the anganwadi we broke off into groups to interview locals about their health and how water is acquired and used each day. We learned that some people boil their water and some find that it is not worth the time and effort. Jon, Brianna, and I went to two homes and gathered some information about water usage and health. In the meantime, Erica and Zoha were doing similar interviews while Mike remained inside the anganwadi.


After we finished our interviews we picked up Michael and went back to the factory and then to lunch. We ate at a place called Hotel Great, just down the road from Hotel Delight, and up the road from Hotel Supreme. The waiters love to serve us as much food as they can even after we would say “just one scoop please, oh ok, ya.. mmhm that is plenty.” Don’t get me wrong, we love the food and the hospitality; but only in moderation. We are still trying to learn from Viral how to say “no thank you”.

After lunch we came back to the office and completed writing some reports on the interviews. We then packed up and went back to Vadodara. Jon, Erica, and I went to the store and bought a few things and upon returning the entire team finally joined in and we had a stellar abdominal and upper body work out for about 35 minutes. The work out consisted of abdominal exercises, 100+ pushups, 100+ dips, and a lot of laughing.

I also want to add a few observations I (and the team) have had while in India. We now define 85 degrees fahrenheit as cool (like I need a coat kind of cool) and 110 degrees as hot (dripping sweat). The mirror in the bathroom doesn’t fog up because it is always hot. Interesting note: it is not uncommon to give an officer 100-200 INR (around $2.00) to get out of a traffic violation or minor offense. Indian Masala Chai is awesome, as long as there is an ample amount of ginger. I am noticing that it is common to make a clicking noise with you’re tongue when saying no (some children do this when I try to color on the same page as they are, and it is quite funny).

Happy Trails,


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Day 9: 18 Trillion Learning Experiences

Hi All. This is Erica checking in about Monday’s work.

We spent the morning discussing the incident that Zoha alluded to the other day (We split the group in Katol to collect water samples and play frisbee in the village. While Brianna, Viral, and Erica were collecting samples with the pump operator of the town, a crowd gathered and some men flirted with Zoha, and some drunk men were brought to interact with Jon, Mitch, and Mike. As soon as ZJMM felt uncomfortable, they left the community). Viewing this incident through the American lens, the incident didn’t seem very serious. The group split so that each group had males and the four who stayed to play frisbee stayed in the public areas of town, where there was a crowd.

This is where we start learning as a group. As much as we have read Indian news reports and travel safety tips, nothing could prepare us to instinctually recognize the danger of a crowd. In the United States, we have been taught that there is safety in numbers, but in India, especially when we are so different and novel, the emotions of the crowd may quickly turn to malicious sport.

We are already drawing attention to ourselves an incredible amount; many of the people we are interacting with in the villages have never seen people who sound or look like us. We were surprised to learn that even Priyank, the civil engineering student from Vadodara who has been working with us, has never spoken to pale-skinned foreigners like us.

We are lucky and grateful that nothing worse occurred last week. Our team did the best possible thing under the circumstances, they exited and remained calm. Unfortunately, we underestimated the severity of this incident and have created a large amount of ruckus. However, we are creating clearer lines of communication with the SETCO Foundation (they are the ones who understand Indian culture the best) and are reevaluating and defining safety procedure. While this incident should not have occurred, we are using it to set a safer and smart precedent and better prepare travelers in the future.

Lastly, we would like to shout out to Viral and Salmaben, employees of the SETCO Foundation, who have been extremely patient, kind, and helpful thus far, even through the ruckus that has been created. This is a learning process for all of us and we appreciate your help and hospitality immensely.


In other news, we returned to Dolutpura to collect some more water samples and also visited the engineering in Godhra who is in charge of the water treatment plant. We really enjoy Dolutpura; it is an etrememly small village and people are kind and helpful. There was a wedding going on that day; Zoha and Brianna had to explain that unfortunately they could not stay for two days to participate. Zoha enjoyed speaking to the bride who, although this was an arranged marriage, had met and enjoys her groom.

Brianna and Zoha interviewing the villagers to learn more about water and water-related diseases.
Brianna and Zoha interviewing the villagers to learn more about water and water-related diseases.

Erica, Jon, and Mike talked to the engineer in charge of the water treatment plant. His office was at a facility in Godhra that tests the water in the Panchmahal district. We enjoyed talking to the people who tested the water at the facility and they wanted to hear about the Coliscan Easygel technology that we are using for our own water testing. They were even able to give us some of their chemical and bacterial contaminate water testing results from the villages that we ourselves had tested in. The most important piece of information we learned by far was that some villages are connected to the water treatment plant, but continue using their own groundwater because there is a 14 rupee per capita per month charge for water from the water treatment plant. We are unsure why villages decline to pay this charge. One possibility is that the cost is too high for the villages. Another possibility is that the villagers decline to pay on principle (“government should pay for water”). We are also not sure whether individual villagers buy the water, or if local leaders decide on a town basis. We did also learn that usually groundwater is cleaner than water from the canal, which is where water that goes to the WTP comes from; therefore, the benefit of the WTP is that it gives villages a reliable supply of water. Based on the water testing results that we have examined, the majority of the water contamination occurs when people store their water (on a large scale) in sump tanks or (within their home) in clay, plastic, or metal pots.

Interviewing the chemists and engineer of WTP at the lab in Godhra
Interviewing the chemists and engineer of WTP at the lab in Godhra

Well! That’s all I got! We’re hanging in there!


Days 7 & 8: Exploring Ahmedabad

This weekend, we had both Saturday and Sunday off from work. We visited Ahmedabad on Saturday, which is about an hour and a half from Vadodara. Viral showed us around to a bunch of different historical sites. It was awesome to realize that historical sites in India have been around for several thousand years whereas American historical sites have been around for only a couple hundred years.

Brianna strolling around to capture images
Brianna strolling around to capture images

The first place we visited was a step well built by a queen. We walked down a ton of stairs in a pit and there was water at the bottom. In the past, the water was much closer to ground level. We saw large groups of bats between the small, dark spaces of the step well support beams. There were intricate designs on the walls consisting of flower work, gods, and goddesses. While we were exiting, we witnessed a huge wedding celebration. Many of the people getting married were young, only 13-14 years old. There were young grooms on horses, dressed in traditional attire, and they did not look particularly happy to be getting married. One groom was slouched over and appeared to be frowning. We were unsure whether the groom was unhappy, or simply trying to be stoic and “manly”. Even during a raucous wedding, people were still intrigued by our presence at the step well. It was an interesting site.

Bats at the step well
Bats at the step well
A 14 year old groom riding on a horse
A 14 year old groom getting off the  horse to visit the mandir (temple) before his marriage

Later, we went to the Swami Narayan Mandir and many of us experienced our first Indian style toilet. The Mandir had a museum that narrated the life of Swami Narayan and his spiritual journey. He is a religious figure in Hindusim and has many followers within Gujarat. Viral explained to us that the Mandir has become more of a tourist site due to the large museum. The statue of Swami Narayan consists of about 1.2 tons of gold, which, in today’s money, is worth between $30-40 million.

Our next stop was at Gandhi Nagar, the Capital of Gujarat, and the city where Mahatma Gandhi resided for 12 years. We went to Gandhi’s Ashram, which consisted of a museum and Gandhi’s home. Erica’s favorite part of the museum was the postcards to Gandhi. Many people wrote letters to Gandhi by writing the address of Gandhi as “wherever he is” because many people did not know where Gandhi resided. Because he often marched through multiple cities, his address was constantly changing. Before leaving the site, two teenagers approached us about making a music video for Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”, Ahmedabad style. Jon and Mike agreed to be in the video, and shot about 10 seconds of footage. Somewhere, in the depths of the internet, their brilliant acting skills can be seen.

Viral and Erica
Erica and Viral

After Gandhi Nagar, we were exhausted so we decided to stop by our first Indian McDonalds. McDonalds in India have no beef, but have numerous vegetarian options, including veggie burgers. According to Mike, the McPaneer was “quality fast food.” Jon argues that the Maharaja Chicken Mac was not at all equivalent to the American Big Mac. “Basically, it sucked.” The group was conflicted about whether McDonalds was better here or back home.

Gandhi's room
Gandhi’s room at the Gandhi Ashram

Lastly, we went to Sharkej Roza Masjid, which is stunningly beautiful, but sadly decrepit. Brianna was concerned about the lack of renovation and trash around the area. Sharkej Rosa used to be home to a beautiful lake, but was soon neglected. As a result, the lake dried up, and left behind a vast field contained by the ruins of a stadium. Kids, sporting homemade equipment, now play cricket on the field.

Architecture of Sharkej Roza
Kids playing cricket near the architecture of Sharkej Roza.

As we walked in, we saw a dog bite the jaw of another dead dog, confirming that this is indeed a dog-eat-dog world. Mitch and Erica saw ruins of a metal boat. They found the same boat in one of the old pictures. The masjid (mosque) represented Islamic architecture. We met many Muslim people and learned the correct way to greet them: As-Salam-male-Kum. We heard the call to prayer or shahadah from the speakers located near mosque. The same speakers were all around town. By far, this place everyone’s favorite. As Brianna described it, the Shakej Roza Masjid represented the beauty and poverty of India.

The guys (in their "lungs") with Viral enjoying the breeze.
The guys (in their “lungis”) with Viral enjoying the breeze.

We ended our day with dal and chawal made by Maharaj Ramesh. On Sunday, we made plans for the upcoming week. In addition, we met with Eesha, a student from North Eastern University and a local of Baroda. She may be working with us in the future, and we are excited to work with her.

Day 6: Good Health and Many Returns of the Day

Hello All,

This is 19 year old Jon checking in. Today was my birthday, and what a way to spend it here in India! But we’ll get to that a little later.

Today started bright and early for myself, Mitchell, Erica, and Mike, as we woke up to do our core workout at around 6:45. Zoha also claimed she would wake up at 6:30 to do some yoga with me and Mitchell, but could still be found sleeping comfortably in her bed when 7:15 rolled around. Our morning at the house culminated in a pushup contest between Mitchell and Ramesh, the winner of which remains a matter of heated dispute.

After some intense water mapping at Setco, the team went to the Kalol health center to meet with Deepika, an ayurvedic physician. Deepika shared a lot of incredibly valuable information with us about the area’s health conditions and the occurrence of disease. The most common problem is malaria, with 8-10 people coming to the clinic every day claiming to have it, and 20-40% of these cases testing positive. Also, 5-6 people come every day with diarrhea serious enough to report. Deepika’s services are provided by the government, and she serves a populace of 32,000 at no personal expense. However, she reports, those wealthy enough to afford private care do so rather than coming to her. Our talk with Deepika presents both our first formal interview and the establishment of our first professional contact in Kalol, and we are very excited!

In the afternoon Mike, Brianna, and I went to Kashimabad, a smaller village in greater Kalol, where we talked to more locals and gathered another water sample from the tap. We are eager to see the results of these tests.

Our departure from Setco marked the start of my birthday celebration, for which our hosts once again demonstrated their astonishing hospitality. When we arrived back at the guest house we saw that Ramesh had decorated the wall with some adorable birthday decorations. At 8:30, Selma and Gayatri arrived bearing dinner and gifts for the entire team. After everyone took part in the delightful Indian custom of feeding the birthday boy cake (Zoha smeared it all over my face), we feasted on delicious chicken tandoor and biryani. Soon after, Viral and Priyank arrived, also bearing a gift and a card. I’ve noticed that here, instead of “happy birthday”, they say “may you have many returns of this day”. We soon broke out in an intense game of spoons (that’s a card game, believe it or not) that was a ton of fun, even though Erica definitely lost. We concluded the night with a Rickshaw trip to get snowcone-esque desserts with a very unique flavor. As a group (and especially me tonight), we could not be more grateful for the gracious hospitality that has been shown to us thus far by Selma, Viral, Priyank, and the rest of Setco.

Tomorrow, we take a break from our project and head to Ahmnebad for some sightseeing! Avjo!

Day 5: Not Such A Dry State After All

Namaste from India,

This is Zoha. India is beautiful, and Gujarat has delicious food. Today was a busy day. We went to the SETCO office and planned our schedule for the day with Viral. Later, we decided to travel to Katol and visit the village in order to test the water. As Erica, Brianna, and Viral interacted with the operator of the water pumps in the village, we (Mike, Mitch, Jon, and I) interacted with the community.

Erica and Brianna learning Gujarati and interviewing children and family members.
Erica and Brianna learning Gujarati and interviewing children and family members.


Mike, Zoha, and Mitchell take a group photo with the village.
Mike, Zoha, and Mitchell take a group photo with the village.

While we introduced ourselves to the community, many people from Katol gathered around us. Immediately, the boys (Mitch, Jon, and Mike) asked the young lads in Katol about cricket. This conversation led to a game of cricket. Mike was the star on the playground (sarcasm). As soon as he hit the ball, the ball broke in half. Unfortunately, this led to the game finishing a bit earlier than the boys hoped.

Mitchell plays cricket with the children of Katol
Mitchell plays cricket with the children of Katol

As Erica and Brianna continued testing the water, we decided to continue interacting with the community to learn more about Katol and the water issues. We asked numerous questions and many of the village members asked many questions in return. We learned that many of the village people make corn liquor or whiskey. Later, Mitchell decided that it was a good idea to play Frisbee. This led to a friendly game of Frisbee with the entire village. Many of the people in Katol were catching on to the game. I decided to photograph these moments.

Jon playing Frisbee with the kids in the village.
Jon playing Frisbee with the kids in the village.

As the village was playing Frisbee, I saw an ironman with his family scrapping his knife against a rock to sharpen the point. I was intrigued by his work, so I decided to approach him and his family. While I was introducing myself, many of the men in the village tried to flirt with me. This was a bit uncomfortable. I tried to ignore the situation and continue my conversation with the family to better understand their culture and their family business.

Later, I decided to talk to another family nearby. We conversed about our families and the lifestyle of people within Katol. Suddenly, two villagers, walking towards Mike, Jon, and Mitch, were carrying a drunk man. I was a bit surprised and was not able to comprehend what exactly was going on. I overheard a couple of people talking about how they would like to see how Jon, Mitch, and Mike would react to the drunk men. After seeing this, the team decided to exit the community.

John, Zoha, Mike, and Mitchell interacting with family members in Katol
John, Zoha, Mike, and Mitchell interacting with family members in Katol

At this point, we were a bit uncomfortable, a bit shaken up, and some of us felt a bit insulted. I realized that we did not have an exit plan for such situations. We all were concerned about how to react and avoid such situations. Some of the questions we asked each other were: Is it culturally acceptable to have a drunk man approach guests within the village in this manner? How can we effectively avoid or overcome such situations? Should we have expressed our discomfort with the people? Is it appropriate to discuss such matters with the village?


Erica and Brianna ended our workday by completing four water tests in other areas. Furthermore, we may have found Coliform and E-Coli in our tests for Dolatpura, Gokulpura, and Water Testing Facility. This could mean that the water is a possible problem within the community of Kalol. This is exciting news! More information will be shared soon!

Erica and Brianna took a sample from the water canal which is connected to the Water Treatment Plant.
Erica and Brianna took a sample from the water canal which is connected to the Water Treatment Plant.


P.S. Mike knows how to crack some pretty funny jokes! This kid is AWESOME!

DAY 4: Julab!

Today was super productive since everyone actually had some sleep. This morning we visited the village of Dolatpura. We caught the eyes of many and soon had a large crowd surrounding us. One important thing we found out from them was that not all villages receive water from the municipality. These villagers got their water from underground. All of us climbed to the top of the water tower, even Erica, who is afraid of heights. We got water samples from the ‘sump’, a ground level concrete water storage tank, and from the anganwadi. Hopefully this will help us finda the point of contamination. We got a chance to sit down in the anganwadi, and try out our Gujarati. I can’t count the number of times I said “Maru nam Brianna Che” that day.


After that we left to go to a workshop for girls with Salma Ben. This was my absolute favorite thing we have done so far. When we got there we sat right down with all the girls and joined their session. They kept glancing at me and and giggling. I would point at my camera to ask if I could take a picture of them.


After talking to them, we got to sing and dance in a large circle with the girls. I was really nervous at the start of the workshop, but I ended up having a lot of fun and I hope the girls enjoyed our presence. I can’t wait to go back.


At the water treatment facility in Kalol we met a man named Girish. Girish lives in the facility with his family and runs maintenance. The process was really neat: water gets pumped in from the municipality then it is mixed with “alum” in these larges circular vats. The alum causes (stuff) in the water to precipitate out and settle to the bottom of the vats. That water is then sent to a biosand filter. After that, the water is chlorinated with Cl2 gas. We took samples from before and after the treatment process. If we find contamination after the water is treated, it will be very important to figure out and fix this problem, since the facility serves such a large area.

After the water treatment facility, we met up with Jon and Zoha and went to the Setco Factory Canteen for lunch with Gayatri who works in the Setco office. I got to practice my Hindi with Gayatri and I was pretty embarrassed about how bad it was, but she didn’t seem to mind.


We debriefed after lunch, then Mitch, Mike, Priyank, Viral, and I went to the village of Gokulpura. We were invited into the home of Jagdesh and he let us see his water storage. Their home was beautiful: modestly decorated with a smooth, cool concrete floor that felt good on the feet. An elderly woman offered us water but I had to refuse because it didn’t come from a bottle. We told them where we were from and what we were doing. Jagdesh told us that when Modi came to visit, he just drove down the road and waved, but when we came to visit, we actually came into the village and into their homes. I think they really appreciated that we were there trying to understand.

We collected another sample and the villagers watched me as I plated the samples. We also got invited into another home….but I’ll let Mike tell the story:

We were invited into a home for a quick beverage and a place to sit. About 15 locals followed us in to meet us. The host was very nice, and offered us “bottled” water, however, we noticed that the label on the bottle read “Thums Up” (the Indian equivalent of Pepsi). Realizing that this was obviously not bottled water, Mitchell and I exchanged smirks, and tried to politely convey that we, being Americans, have weak stomachs and would not be able to drink the water. Being cultured, refined college students, this meant rubbing our bellies and yelling “no, no, julab!” (diarrhea in Gujarati). The room had a good laugh, and we were proud that we had actually managed to yell “julab!” in context, as opposed to in an inside joke.

So…we went back to the Setco Factory. At 5:00 we met with the owner of Setco and University of Michigan alum, Harish Sheth, and we talked about the plan for the project. Mr. Sheth said that he learned a lot about India when he went to the states, and I think that I am learning a lot about America by going to India. Values that I held and never really noticed have sprouted from my hands. So many things that I am used to doing on my own are done for me now: Cleaning, driving, and especially speaking. I guess I have to find a happy medium where I can still maintain my sense of independence and continue to remain within the sphere of cultural appropriateness.

– Brianna