Day 24: Goodbye to Gujurat!

Hey everyone, Sai here to talk about our exciting/sad last day in Dolatpura. This is will be our last update from Gujarat as we are leaving tomorrow for Mumbai. Today was full of goodbyes and thank yous in Dolatpura. We went to Sumitra Ben’s house first to thank her for all the time and effort she has put in over the last month. She allowed us to build one of her stoves with her and let us teach her how to build our design. Her expertise with stove building has allowed us to truly co-design a better stove.

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We also explained to her what our plan was for the future. There were also some questions by some other women in the village in regards to the cost and availability of the materials. Since we are still working on an implementation strategy with the SETCO Foundation we conveyed to them that they will be notified about the plan soon. While we were talking to Sumitra Ben about the plan, she began making a chimney for Sangeeta Ben’s new stove and also one for herself. She plans on building another stove with a shorter chimney for herself. Sumitra Ben was cutting the chimney by herself when her husband also decided to help. It was great to see that he understood the benefits of the stove and help her with the build.

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After talking to everyone for a little while, we gave Sumitra Ben some photos from her daughter’s wedding and some of the stove builds. She was really excited to see the pictures with all of us behind the stove that we built. Meanwhile, Erica went over to Manjulaben’s house to give her pictures of when she helped us build our first prototype. We all said our final goodbyes and thank yous to Sumitra Ben and her family and went over to Chattarsin’s bhai’s house.

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We went over to Chattarsin bhai’s house to thank him for all the time he has spent with us. He took time to speak with us over the phone many times over the past semester and took us to his farm to speak to more women in the family. We also mentioned to him our plan for the toilets project and that we will stay in close contact with him throughout the next year. Sangeeta Ben was out of town so we stopped by the anganwadi and gave her son more pictures that we had taken over the month for her to distribute.

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Finally, we visited Jena Bhai’s house. He invited us to his home and we also talked to him about our plan for the toilets project. We made sure to clarify that we are finalizing a design and will hopefully begin testing over the next year.

It has been an exciting month full of hard work and building long time relationships. We all learned so much from this trip and it couldn’t have been done without the help of so many people. We want to thank everyone at the SETCO Foundation for all the time and effort they have dedicated to our project. We also want to thank SETCO Automotive for their support and all of Dolatpura for their willingness to work with us! We are looking forward to the upcoming year to continue our work and stay tuned for more updates!

Day 23: Waiving and Workshops

Hi everyone Kaylla here!

Today was filled with a multitude of workshops both at the office and in Dolatpura. We started our day at Dolatpura hoping to hold a workshop with Sameetraben and several women in the village, but she was still out of town so we headed back to hold our workshops in the office. The two workshops we held were on grant writing and the other on communications/digital media. It was good to share some of our own knowledge and experiences with the SETCO Foundation team since they have been helping us so much here in the field.

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In the afternoon, we went back to Dolatpura to hold the stoves workshop. Just in time, Sameetraben and her husband came zooming back into town on their motorbike to facilitate the event. Sameetraben’s expertise and opinion is extremely important when convincing other women about the effectiveness and potential of the stove, so we were relieved that she could make it back.

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As we waited for Salmaben and Rajesh to come with their cameraman, women began to filter into Sameetraben’s backyard, gathering around the second prototype, and under a tree to find shelter from the heat of the afternoon.

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Erica eagerly handed out copies of an illustrated pamphlet we made yesterday which details the materials, tools, and designs of our stove, so women could follow along as Salmaben, Zoha, Sai, Shilpen, Rajesh, and Sameetraben explained the why’s, what’s, and how’s of the co-designed stove.

At first, many of the women were tentative since they were not sure how fast the stove would actually cook food, but as soon as Sammetraben started to talk about her experience co-designing with us, the women started to be convinced and more willing to try it.

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Salmaben also talked about the stove as a way of empowerment and economic opportunity since the stoves have business potential. Eventually, the crowd moved toward the last prototype Sameetraben made at Manojbhai’s house, and its neater, taller, and square design were characteristics that a lot of the women liked. All in all the workshop went very well with some women even coming from other villages (visiting their families in Dolatpura) and thinking of bring the design to their own homes.

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Tomorrow is our last day in the village and I am sad to leave our friends in Dolatpura and at the foundation. The experience of co-designing and making relationships with people across the world in an entirely different amazing culture has taken my life view in new directions. Thank you to everyone who has worked with us, helped us navigate the language, learn building techniques, culture, and logistics, and made our trip as successful as it was.

I’ll be back for Rajasthan.

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Day 22: Surpaanch Shows Septic Sytem

Hey everyone! Shilpen here checking in. Today Sai and I were able to connect with Arjunbhai who is the Surpaanch (leader) of Dolatpura. Although we went to him to gain feedback on composting toilets from a male perspective, we discovered a government scheme that are soon to be implemented in Dolatpura. The plan is that each house has a toilet that is connected to a main underground sewage pipe that will run through Dolatpura. The pipes will all join and flow into a large composting septic tank on the edge of the village. In the detailed plan, the liquid waste will be pumped out while solid waste is stored and composted in the tank. After a year of composting the government will come and remove the composted waste, package it, and sell/export it to other farming areas. Arjunbhai also took us to the nearby town of Kalol where the tank and underground pipeline is almost complete. We were able to see to designs and gain a good understanding of the government scheme.

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We were also able to visit Arjunbhai’s farm and see the new toilets he had built with his grant money.

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They were traditional toilets with septic tanks only three feet deep.

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As we discussed our technology he became very interested and hoped to try a prototype in his farm. During mine and Sai’s research adventure with Arjunbhai, Erica, Kaylla, and Zoha were in Dolatpura taking measurements of the 3rd prototype and working with Sumitraben to develop a plan for our Stove Workshop in Dolatpura. Our plan is to have Sumitraben lead the workshop and host it around our 2nd prototype to show other stove builders around Dolatpura our newly co-designed stove. We are all extremely excited for the workshop tomorrow as it will begin the process of piloting the technology in Dolatpura!

Day 21: Selfies and Self-Design

Namaste India, Europe, USA, and to readers from other parts of the world!

I, Zoha, am writing my last blog post for the trip and BLUElab India. This trip has been phenomenal because of the FAILURES and CHALLENGES I faced, the support of SETCO Automotive, and the exchange of knowledge between us and the residents of Dolatpura. I cannot think of any better way of spending this last month in Dolatpura. I hope my failures and successes here allow me to apply my knowledge in my future career (or careers). Now on to today’s blog:

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Today, the team and I went to Dolatpura to build our third prototype. Erica, Kaylla, and I decided to teach Sumitraben the methods of building the chimney and support metal strips of the stove. Sumitraben quickly caught on. She was excited to use the tools to cut the metal and bend it with the pliers. After she successfully build the metal parts of the stove, Erica and I worked with Sumitraben to prepare the kali mati (black dirt). Then, we suggested that Sumitraben take the lead in building the stove. As she was building, we noticed that she was able to quickly build and replicate the design. In addition, she made the necessary modifications we discussed.

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During our building session today, a couple of stove builders came to visit and view Sumitraben make the stoves. In fact, Sumitraben talked about the designs and explained why she was building the way she was to the other stove builders. One woman helped Sumitraben build the stove.

IMG_7391editSumitraben’s husband decided to assist her in building the stove as well. Everyone was discussing the design amongst themselves and with us. When they had design questions or comments, we were able to clarify. When we had questions or comments about their design techniques, we communicated with them. It was definitely a co-design experiment.

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To talk about what Sai and Shilpen did…here’s Shilpen: Hi all! Sai and I had an interesting day searching for materials that the families in Dolatpura wanted to incorporate into the design. Specifically, we were looking for cement pipes to put around our metal chimney to protect the metal pipe and prevent people from being burned by touching the metal. Unfortunately, cement pipes that are small enough and light enough to fit the stove design were nowhere to be found. We looked in three different towns, no luck! Instead, we are planning to suggest that they put a second metal pipe around the existing pipe. During our search for cement pipes,  we discovered cement chulas (stoves) that cost 500 rupees, which is significantly expensive. Overall, Sai and I gained a really good understanding of the materials that are available near Dolatpura.

After the boys returned to Dolatpura, we discussed our future workshop with Sumitraben. I am excited to work with Sumitraben to conduct the workshop.

This is my last goodbye, and it is bittersweet.

Avjo (see you again),

Zoha Momin

PS: Hi world, Kaylla here. Today while documenting the stoves process I took a great selfie with some villagers hence the title :)

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Day 20: Wow, it works!

Namaste everyone. Erica here with some exciting news…

OUR STOVE WORKED!

You heard right, ladies and gentlemen. Our second prototype performed positively. Here’s what happened…

This morning, we headed to Dolatpura with the intention of testing our second stove prototype. Sumitraben told us to be on time, ten o’clock sharp, so that she could cook for her family. We had pretty low expectations; when we tried to cook on our first stove prototype, Sumitra had to transfer her food to her old stove because it wasn’t heating enough. The rotla was only cooking in the middle!

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But this time, everything was different. When we got to Dolatpura, we plopped down in a circle around the stove. I threw some paper in the opening to help start the fire. At first, the smoke was coming out the pot opening, but after the fire started, Sumitra put the flat roti pan on the stove and the smoke started coming out the chimney. We were all putting our hands over the pan and over the chimney to figure out how much heat there was. There was still heat coming out of the chimney, but the pan was significantly hotter.

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Then, the real test began. Sumitraben threw a rotla onto the pan. It immediately made a sizzling noise. While the first side was cooking, Sumitra kneaded the dough for the second rotla. We watched her face carefully to try to figure out how things were going. Sumitraben flipped the rotla and started to flatten the second rotla with her fingers and palm. The rotla on the stove started to turn into a big pillow (that’s good!). Sumitra picked it off and threw on the second one. We began showering her with questions. She told us that the stove was plenty hot enough; the rolta was actually cooking faster than it usually does! She was more comfortable because there was less smoke.

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After the rotla, Sumitra started cooking her kadi on the stove. This is a soupy, spicy curd. When she added the garlic and spices at first, it sizzled and bubbled. After she added water, the kadi started to boil. (WHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!) We all kept our composure, but were inwardly bursting with excitement (see last comment in parentheses). There was virtually no smoke, which indicated that the increased airflow was allowing complete combustion of the fuel, and what little smoke there was went right up the chimney! In addition to the smoke, upon completion of the cooking, Sumitra told us that she did not need as much fuel as she usually does (the efficiency increased!!!).

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All of this was quite exciting. We did get some feedback on materials and construction though. People were worried about the metal chimney because it got really hot to the touch and there are lots of children running around who could easily get burned. The pot for the kadi rocked a little bit on the stove because the pot opening wasn’t even. Lastly, people would prefer if the back of the stove was square backed instead of round. That way, the cooks could set utensils and pots on the stove.

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We also shared with Sumitraben all of the chimneys that we made at the Setco factory on Thursday. She liked the completely round one and the hexagon one. We agreed to teach her how to make a chimney on Monday; she seemed confident that she would have no problem. Sumitra took the hexagon one to build another prototype at her farm, where people have been asking about the stove. Taking all of these into consideration, we decided to make one more prototype on Monday at Manojbhai’s house to solidify our design; we will make some small design changes (a concrete pipe! a perfectly round opening! a square back!) and teach Sumitra how to build the metal pieces in the stove.

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So, this afternoon, we’re off to Kalol to buy some cement pipe (we’ll put it on top of the metal pipe to block the heat). This evening, we’re headed to dinner at lovely Salmaben’s house. Yay!

An incredible end to a successful day. Maybe I’ll take a nap to celebrate.

Kal malchu

-Erica

Day 19: Visitors in the Village

Hi guys Kaylla mostly here (50% of my body weight was probably shed from sweating in the heat). Pre apologies for the lack of nice pictures; I left the memory card on the table this morning and took ten pictures before realizing they were going no where. Anyways, today we split up with me Erica and Zoha heading to Dolatpura to talk to several women from different households to get their opinions on composting and if they would be open to having a composting toilet in their home in the future. After visiting three homes accompanied by Sangeetaben, we obtained a general consensus that the women just wanted more information on composting, such as what the compost would actually look like, what it would smell like, how would it affect crops, and other questions on feasibility and cost. Though we had heard from the women in the fields on Monday that they were unwilling to handle the waste, the response from the women in Dolatpura seemed positive if more information and demonstration/proof was provided. Sangeetaben suggested that the best way to convince people would be to build a prototype. Though we are not there yet in our design process, it was good to see interest from women within the village and gather questions for the future. After visiting the other women, we went to Sumitraben’s house to check up on our stove as it spent the day drying yesterday in the sun. Unfortunately, there were some pretty deep cracks on various parts of the stove, particularly (again) the places near metal such as the bridge and the chimney, but Sumitraben did not seem too worried about it.

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After putting another coat of dung on the stove, I ended up sitting down with a bunch of girls nearby to learn some Gujarati. So far on the trip, not being able to talk and communicate to people because of the language barrier has been one of the most frustrating aspects of working in another country. Yet being here and hearing a lot of Gujarati has helped me pick up on a few words and phrases, and gestures go pretty far as well. As we waited for Urja and the rest of the Setco team to come check out our progress at Dolatpura, I picked up a charred stick and started to draw animals on the ground to pass the time. A few seconds in, several girls came over with other pieces of coal to draw along with me, so we exchanged the way each one was said in English and Gujarati, and somehow within that they asked me if I was in college, where I went, and how to spell it; I learned how to write “college” in Gujarati too.

While we were in Dolatpura, Sai and Shilpen were at the Setco office. Sai spoke to Salmaben about some government programs that were creating smokeless chulhas and Shilpen began planning the final report and also began writing it. Also, Urja asked if they could meet with the head of the research and development, Mr. PK Roy, to talk about our project because he was very interested. They learned a lot from him regarding chimneys and drafts. After the meeting, they met us in Dolatpura.

When Urja and her company arrived, the team talked extensively about the design, implementation, our progress, as well as Manjulaben’s stove which utilized our technology with her add-ons. After coming back and doing some office work, we met with Urja to continue our discussion on our projects.

Day 18: Materials and Meetings

Hi all! Shilpen here checking in. Today, we had an exciting day at the SETCO Factory as we got to meet with Urja and Harish. To start the day we took a trip to Kalol and got plenty of materials to prototype different chimney shapes and styles. After much evaluating our selection of sheet metal we stuck to the galvanized steel 18 gauge sheets due to its high heat capacity and flexibility. Back at the office Urja arrived and quickly re-energized everyone. It was great getting to sit down with her and Mr. Harish to discuss the progress we have made and the work we have ahead of us. Both of them are extremely supportive of our team and are anxious to see how our prototypes turn out. Mr. Harish even brought up an interesting problem that troubles thousands of Indians. It was really exciting to see his passion for improving people’s lives and further developing India.

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After our meeting we returned to our stoves project to develop potential chimney shapes to use for our stoves. We were given an outdoor workshop behind the factory were a veteran metal worker named Yaseembhai co-designed with us to develop a prototype that required rivets to seal the binding and prevent smoke from escaping.

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We ultimately developed four different types and are planning to work with Viral and see some of the ideas he has about the chimney. We are all excited to see how the new chimney designs work and to show Urja and the SETCO team our second prototype.

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Overall, our meeting with Mr. Harish and Urja along with our potential chimney design breakthrough gives us a much needed burst of energy to push us through the final week and a half of our trip.

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Day 17: Pots and Prototyping

Namaste, Sai here. Today was a long and exciting day! Yesterday we talked about how we can change our design to solve the problems we were having. There were a few changes that we all agreed on to do for the second prototype. We decided to increase the overall size of the stove so that there is more room for pots and for the chimney. Since the pot was touching the chimney on our first model, we would move the chimney further back and create a short tunnel from the combustion chamber to the chimney. Another change was to move the opening to the chimney closer to the top stove so that the air will flow up towards the pot before going out of the chimney. We also decided to decrease the diameter to 3 inches to decrease the airflow through the stove. For the opening for the pot, we wanted to design it so that the pot sat lower in the stove but also fit all the different pot sizes. With all of these changes in mind, we were ready to build today.

We built our 2nd prototype today based off the design changes that we had decided on yesterday. When we arrived in Dolutpura, Sumitraben had the mati piled up and was ready to build. We explained to Sumitraben our new design and asked her for suggestions or any concerns that she had. She said that as we build the stove, she will put in her input.

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As Shilpen and Kaylla were making the mixture, Erica and I began working with the chimney. The sheet metal that we had got for this chimney was a different material so we decided that it would be better to find a strong pipe that we could roll the chimney around. When we just rolled the chimney, there were some gaps between the rolls because the sheet metal had folds in it. Kaylla and I went to the factory and found a really heavy pipe that was the approximately the diameter that we wanted.

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After it was cut to an appropriate height, we took it back to Dolutpura and folded the metal around it. Then we folded the edges together so that there were no gaps. While Shilpen, Erica, and Viral worked on this chimney, Kaylla and I started building the foundation for the stove with Sumitraben. We built a larger foundation so that there would be space between where the pot is placed and where the chimney sits. After we finished the foundation, we asked Sumitraben for her largest and smallest pot so that we can make sure that they sit without any large gaps or unevenly. The chimney was done at this point so we pushed the middle section of the back part down so that we can make the opening for the chimney higher. Also, we made sure to make the opening to the chimney have a sort of funnel shape for better airflow. Furthermore, we packed more of the mixture behind the chimney for support. Finally, we smoothed out the whole stove with some water. While we were building the stove, Sumitraben and Manjulaben were sharing their opinions about the design changes. Sumitraben made some suggestions about the bridge that we were adding to the front of the stove so we are going to look into the change for the next modification.

Tomorrow, we are going to cover the stove with the cow-dung and clay mixture and wait for it to dry! We are excited to test prototype number 2!!

Day 15: Chats and Chimney

Jai Shri Krishna! Zoha boluchu (“Zoha speaking”).
After our weekend trip, many of us are tired. Traveling to Sidhpur and back was a little draining. Nevertheless, it was a great experience! We went to Dolatpura today to test our stove! I was very excited to see the results of our hard work.
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When we arrived to Sumitraben’s house, we were informed that no one has tested our prototype because Sumitraben was out of town. Therefore, we decided to test it together. Also, we learned that Manjulaben built her own version of our prototype! I guess people are liking the idea of a smokeless stove.
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Sumitraben had already started cooking lunch on her stove before we arrived. She told us to use corn cobs and matches to light the stove prototype.
Alpa (aka: Alpi) and Shilpen lit the corn cobs in the stove. Immediately, Sumatraben transported her pot of kadi (yellow curry) from her stove to ours. Initially, the stove appeared that it was functioning well.
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The smoke was coming out of the chimney with little heat escaping. With the fire and draft growing stronger, the smoke started to creep out from everywhere. It was escaping from below the stove, through chimney cracks, and etc.
The team realized that we need to decrease the draft of air through the fuel entrance of the stove. Sumitraben suggested that this can be accomplished by elongating the stove and creating the placement of the pots a bit deeper. In addition, Kaylla suggested that we should decrease the size of the internal chimney hole because the fire was traveling through the chimney pipe. Another problem with the internal chimney hole is that the fuel was creeping inside the chimney hole. All these issues caused the heat to escape along with the smoke. After our conversation with Sumitraben, we have a better understanding of the changes that need to be made with our next prototype. I am excited to co-design with Sumitraben and make these changes alongside her this coming Wednesday.
After testing our stove, Sumitraben transferred her pot of food back to her stove. The team decided to observe the stove and her cooking habits. As we were watching, she asked me if I was interested in making rotla (wheat bread). I told her that I have made rotis before. Then, she asked Erica and Kaylla. They both excitedly said yes! Erica watched Sumitraben make her rotla and made her own. It was perfectly circular and ready to be placed on the stove. In a hurry, Erica accidentally broke her rotla as she placed it on the stove. Everyone laughed, including Erica. Sumitraben said that her first try was not that bad! I couldn’t agree more. I remember how difficult it was when I first learned to make rotla. Next, Kaylla made a small roti too. Her turned out very well. Sumitraben notified us that she will eat both Erica and Kaylla’s roti for lunch.
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After lunch, we visited Chatrasinh’s farm to talk to the women about composting toilets. Chatrasinh’s family has a farmhouse on the outskirts of Dolatpura. It is located near their farmland. Majority of his family lives in that area with the exception of Chatrasinh, his wife, Prakash, and Prakash’s wife. While the girls and I interviewed the women, Shilpen and Sai took a tour of the farm with Chatrasinh and Viral. After hearing about both the designs, the women informed us that they preferred a system that minimizes interaction with human waste. Therefore, they disapproved both our design and the idea of composting altogether.
After our discussion with the women, the team plans on interviewing more females to understand their opinion on composting toilets. In addition, we plan to sit down with Viral to discuss our findings. Today was a very productive day, and I am anxious to learn more about toilets.
-Zoha Momin
P.S. Shilpen taught the kids in Dolatpura to play Hill Climber on his phone! According to him, Manisha was the best player of them all!
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P.S.S. Check out some hardware store photos with Erica and Viral. Both had problems looking at the camera (lol)!
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Days 13 and 14: Sightseeing in Sidhpur, Napping in Nadiad

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Hi everyone, this is Erica checking in about this past weekend. It was eventful and relaxing at the same time. Sai, Kaylla, and I traveled to Lodhpur, a small village in Sidhpur, with Zoha to visit her grandparents. Shilpen went to Nadiad to spend the weekend with his uncle. Here is Shilpen’s quick report: I had a relaxing weekend with my uncle. We enjoyed lots of mango pulp as mango season just began in India. I also did some shopping around town and discovered the benefits of napping after lunch. All in all I got some much needed rest as I passed the halfway point in the trip. When we reached

When we reached Zoha’s grandparent’s beautiful home on Saturday afternoon, we were served a delicious, home-cooked meal of chicken and gilodi shak (vegetable). We were so excited to eat meat because most of our meals have been vegetarian. That evening we headed into the city so that Zoha could go to the dentist.

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While they were examining Zoha’s teeth, we wandered around the market of Sidhpur with Zoha’s aunt. The architecture was beautiful. Kaylla had an awesome time taking photos of the bustling market. After the dentist appointment, Zoha led us to her favorite gola cart for an icy treat. Kaylla proclaimed that Kalakhatta (Zoha’s favorite gola flavor) tastes “like purple”.

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We were excited to find that this gola man was adding coconut, raisins, and nuts to the middle of the golas. We all added coconut and it was AWESOME. He dipped the ends of the golas in this gooey, milky, green, straight-sugar stuff called malai. I had a hard time fending off the bees that were attracted by the golas, especially the malai. The next day, we visited the Rani-ki-vav step well in Patan.

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The intricate stone carvings were incredible and it was cool to think that the well had been buried under ground and lost. Around the step well was a large park where many people were picnicking and playing games. We relaxed there for a spell before we went to a kathiavadi for lunch. We all sat on dholadis (hand woven-beds) and ate a traditional Gujarati meal. We left for Baroda around three.

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That evening, Shilpen’s second cousins invited us over for dinner. We ate another meat meal (!!!!!!) on a terrace (!!!!!!). It was so breezy and was wonderful to watch the city from so far above. There were cows bellowing in the darkness. For dessert, we had the best ice cream we have had yet; it had whole mango chunks in it! Yum! Our weekend prepared us for another busy week of stove testing and building. -Erica