Day 3: Setco and the Anganwadis

Hello from Baroda,

We finally made it to Baroda today and settled into the apartment that we will be staying in for the next few weeks. It is very nice and we appreciate everything Setco has setup for us. After settling in we had about an hours drive to the factory where we had a quick meeting before our tour. We finally met Priyank! His english is good and he is knowledgeable in the area, he was a big help with answering our questions and we hope to play cricket with him and his friends soon.

The factory was typical of a manufacturing plant in the United States but because it was Tuesday the plant was not receiving any power from the municipality. This is because the municipality designates a specific day where the power is turned off for certain areas. We are still uncertain of the exact reason. However the plant was not without power and people were still working on smaller machines that were run by the factories generators.

After our tour we finally got to visit the main anganwadi! It was a large building made of redbrick and concrete floors. We met some of the ladies who worked there and we toured the building. In the main anganwadi there are about 6 classrooms and a few smaller rooms designated for sewing or storage. Because of the holiday there were no children there but when we visit tomorrow things should return to normal. There are about 6 other smaller one room anganwandis we will be working at as well.

After the anganwadi visit we had lunch at the Setco factory and toured the garden that provides some of the food for the lunch that is made for the workers every day. We then had a meeting with some employees of Setco to discuss our project and then we had our own pow wow to review and plan for tomorrow. 

We then drove back to Baroda and got ready for dinner. We decided we would wear our more traditional Indian clothes that we bought yesterday so we got all dressed up and had a nice dinner with Selma, an employee of the foundation.

We had a long but awesome day and we can’t wait to visit the angwandis again.

-Mitchell 

P.S. blogging is hard.

 

 

Day 2: Meeting SETCO

Hey everyone,

This is Mike checking in. Our second day was super informative… and jet-lagged. Most people are still running on a 5pm-1am internal sleep schedule, but we’re getting there.

After eating breakfast, we headed over to SETCO Headquarters to meet with Neethu (Exec. Director of the SETCO Foundation) and Viral (who has been helping with our project too). The day was largely informal. Using our design review presentation, we talked out every aspect of our project and progress (over some unreal Indian Chai tea), and got great feedback. Neethu and Viral also clarified a ton of information about Kalol and the water situation in the town. After that, we planned out our first few days in Kalol; tomorrow, after we move to Vadodara, we will go to Kalol and get oriented in the SETCO factory. We’ll also get to meet Priyank Gandhi!! Priyank is a Civil Engineering student who lives in Kalol, and will be helping us with our project. It will be awesome to get to know an engineering student who knows the town and is the same age as us.

Later in the day, we explored Mumbai some more. We went to the Phoenix mall and the Hanging Gardens of Mumbai. As we were moving around the city, the income disparity really stuck out to me. We would see homeless people and run-down shacks, and then a Lamborghini or million dollar house, all within the same line of sight. There must be a middle ground between poor and rich, but it is certainly hard to spot. For example, we passed by Antilia, a billion dollar skyscraper, staffed by 600 people, that houses ONE billionaire and his family. This is estimated to be the most valuable private home in the world, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. For this reason, I think it is misleading to just say that the per capita income of Mumbai is three times the national average… the few that are super wealthy (and/or tied to Bollywood), drive up the average.

A few other things that we noticed: Firstly, “Head Bobbling,” which looks similar to shaking your head to mean “no”, can mean “yes,” “no,” “I understand,” or “okay.” We’re definitely still trying to get used to different social cues. Secondly, a lot of cars have bumper stickers that say “Honk OK Please,” because honking is strongly encouraged on the roads. The way that the driving culture is, cars are constantly weaving in and out of traffic, and getting very close to other cars. Because of the close proximity, drivers cannot pay as much attention to their mirrors, and just look forward instead, honking to signal their presence to other cars. The sheer skill of the drivers on the road is pretty amazing, though. It makes sense; it’s obvious that bad drivers would be weeded out super quickly here.

Our day pretty much ended around dinner time. A bunch of us passed out early at 7pm. We have an early 4:30am wakeup Tuesday, and a 7:55am flight to Vadodara to look forward to. We’re excited to see what Vadodara and Kalol are like!

Mike

 

 

 

“Adventures with Easygel” and “Wandering the Streets of Mumbai”

Hi All:

This is Erica; just letting everyone know that we are indeed, alive, safe, and mostly well in Mumbai (a few of us are nursing colds, but with a family pack of cough drops and beautiful 110 degree F weather, those shouldn’t last long). The flights were mostly uneventful. The food wasn’t great. Jon watched Frozen. Mike watched Nebraska. Brianna was surrounded by three screaming babies for nine hours.

The most exciting part of transit was our adventures with Coliscan Easygel. As many of you may know, we are planning on doing some water testing in Gujarat, so we brought some water testing kits. These kits of specially treated petri dishes and bottles of gel needed to be refrigerated throughout our travels. This made things interesting. Our chosen method of refrigeration was a lunchbox and ziplock bags of ice; however, we could not take water or ice through security, so we had to dump it before we went through and then get ice at a fast food place in the terminal. The first two airports were fairly easy; a McDonald’s had an exposed ice machine and a Sbarro’s was generous enough to fill us up. Then came France.

The Paris airport is Extremely Classy; the most approachable place was a Starbucks, but it was packed and there was a long line and Oh! our flight was boarding in five minutes. If it weren’t for a caviar and lobster bar, we might have been out of luck! So, leave it to me to walk up to a classy restaurant in CDG clutching ziplock bags and begging for ice. Spoiler alert: I survived. We got ice. Our Easygel kits are now housed safely in our hotel fridge. We will be testing water in Gujarat, India.

 

The morning after we arrived in Mumbai, we ate breakfast and then wandered. We went to the markets at Colaba, the Gateway to India, and the Indian supermarket. As we were wandering, I was observing the way that people treated their trash: peels from fruit, newspapers, and random pieces of plastic. There is a lot of trash on the streets, but people seem to sweep it away from the fronts of their businesses. So, do people view trash as a problem? They keep throwing it on the ground, but they also don’t seem to want it there.

I guess that talking about trash in Mumbai isn’t really the point of what I was thinking. After we observed the trash, we started talking about needs in a community. If people don’t really view trash in the streets as a problem, who are we to say that it is? What if the trash causes disease, but people don’t realize it? Where is the line between developing a technology that is 100% desired by the community and developing a technology that isn’t completely accepted, but can be paired with education to solve a problem? Who decides the problem? Is there a happy medium?

So many questions. We’ll keep yall posted.

Hanging in there,

Erica

PS: Jon will be turning on his phone for his Birthday.