Day 3: Fly in the Chai

Hi everyone, Garima here! After a quick morning game of Frisbee (during which Rachel repeatedly almost got hit in the face with the Frisbee), we all headed over to the SETCO factory for the day. Once we went over the day’s plans, we traveled to the village to talk to Chatrasinh about our current design (lugging our cardboard model from yesterday with us for demonstration purposes). Using CAD screenshots of our DSCN2536design and our cardboard model, we explained how our proposed design would work and got a lot of great feedback about what Chatrasinh did and didn’t like about the design.

The team was also able to talk to him about the compost research we have been working on since last semester back in Ann Arbor. We went to his backyard where we took some measurements and pictures of the government toilets him and his neighbors have, and were able to learn a lot about what people would like to see in an improved toilet design.


As before, picture-taking of the toilets quickly turned into pictures with the villagers (they love taking pictures!!).


While in the village, we also quickly met with Sumitraben, but with the community being busy with wedding preparations today, we plan to build our new double-burner stove design with her tomorrow. On our way out of the village, we stopped to take some pictures with a groom and his family on their way to a wedding function. Back at SETCO, we enjoyed a good lunch at the canteen with other SETCO workers, and I had a really interesting conversation with Gayatriben about the many social and health programs SETCO has started in local villages, including maternal health programs, adolescent education programs, and a program to teach women marketing and business skills and help them get micro-loans to start their own businesses.

In the afternoon we were able to travel to Katol and see a different toilet design that has been implemented by Sulabh International and SETCO. Again, we went to work taking pictures and measurements (utilizing the gyrometer in one of our phones in a pinch to measure the angle of the pipes). We were able to learn a lot from this design about ways to improve our design and how Sulabh and SETCO have handled certain design issues differently than we have in our design. After a productive day, we all got some delicious chai (though, much to Elena’s dismay, a fly decided to make her cup of chai its new home). We are looking forward to getting started on a two-burner stove build tomorrow!

Day 2: Introduce and Produce

Hey guys, Rohil here with the team updates. After getting enough rest yesterday, the travel team is ready to take on the work awaiting them in the week ahead. The day started early with everyone getting ready to eat breakfast in the hotel at 8 AM. We left at 8:30 AM for the Setco Office where we were greeted by Viral and his team followed by Salma ben. We exchanged greetings and introduced our new team to the people in the office. We went through our plans for the day one last time, loaded up on water bottles and left for the village.

A lot of smiles and hand-waves welcomed us to the village. We sat in the anganvadi where we met Sangeeta Ben, Sumitra Ben, and a lot of cheery, excited village kids. We introduced ourselves to everyone there and started interacting. Rachel brought a coloring book filled with stickers, which was a hit amongst the kids. Everyone got a sticker which aptly represented themselves (the kids thought it was funny when Rushil ended up with the monkey sticker).

We came back to the Setco office for lunch, some brainstorming, and a break from the sun. As we had a little extra time on our hands in the office, we used the resources present there to build a cardboard model of the bin which we plan to use in our toilet design (Garima and Elena were very excited about this, as it was the toilet team’s first official prototype!!!).


After successfully completing the model, we made our second trip of the day to the village. In the village, a few of us witnessed our first Indian marriage celebration while sitting inside the car as the celebrations were blocking our way. We sat down at Jana Bai’s house in the village where we introduced and talked to some other people of the village. While Shilpen and I continued the conversation and explained the two burner stove system, Elena, Garima, Rachel, and Rushil went to analyze an existing toilet system in the backyard of the house.



What started as taking snaps of the existing toilet system soon turned into a photo session with the villagers.


We then bid our farewell to the villagers for today and went back to the Setco Office. While there, Rajesh Bai and Viral showed us an alternative toilet system (built by Sulabh engineers) that is being used in quite a few villages, one of which is quite close to Dolatpura. This allowed us to compare our design with theirs, take notes, and gather further information. We ended the day in the office Indian style, with some hot chai, biscuits, and light talks. In the evening, we went out for ethnic Indian wear shopping which ended up lasting for hours. I was given the lucky position of holding Rachel’s clothing while she shopped more. This was followed by some pizza (actually a lot), breadsticks and a good night’s sleep.

Day 1: Bright Lights and Late Nights

Hey everyone! Elena here, updating you on our progress so far. It’s only the first day, so not much has happened yet other than sleeping, eating, and of course preparing for the work-filled week ahead. Nevertheless, here is an update on our adventures so far (sorry for the delay, the WiFi at the hotel isn’t the most reliable).

We arrived in India safe and sound! Our flight got in a little before 3 AM local time. Nobody’s luggage was lost and we got through immigration with no problems. At the airport, entire families were lined up outside to greet their incoming loved ones. It was refreshing to see the huge grins on their faces as they spotted who they were looking for.


The plane ride, by the way, was incredible. For the first flight, the plane was nearly empty, so everyone had an entire row to themselves. This meant sleep and beautiful views. Plus, Garima and I got upgraded to business class for the second flight and we were spoiled by the treatment there.


Driving through Ahmedabad to Vadodara, the differences between this country and ours were quite evident. There were stray dogs, brightly colored clothes, cars honking non-stop, and street vendors galore. Our driver got us to the hotel at around 6 AM. We then checked into our rooms and got settled. Rohil and I went on a mosquito-killing spree (the hotel has since made an effort to remove the pests from the room, and we are both wearing insect repellent while we sleep.  As a side note, I won the game, killing nearly twice as many mosquitoes as Rohil) and everyone took a short nap before meeting up for lunch.

There is a mall just down the street from our hotel that we walked to. Here, we were able to grab a bite to eat and stock up on snacks. The woman at Paratha Express didn’t think Rachel and I would be able to handle the food, so she made it less spicy (which, by American standards, is still pretty spicy). At the grocery store, there were a lot of sweets for relatively cheap prices, resulting in a very happy travel team. We then returned to the hotel to rest more, grab some dinner, and have a meeting to organize ourselves for the busy week ahead.

Today was a rest day, so that’s pretty much all that’s happened thus far. Stay tuned for more action in the coming week!

India, Here We Come!

Our six-person travel team is taking off in less than 48 hours! We are packing our bags, determining how to get to the train station in a snowstorm, and scrambling to get our homework/exams done before departure. Below, get a glimpse of who you will be hearing from during our spring break trip Saturday February 27 to Friday March 4!

Garima Gupta – Toilets sub-team co-leader and problem-solver extraordinaire

Elena Stefanko – Toilets team superstar and overall detail-oriented go-getter

Rohil Hakim – Hindi pro and active toilets team member

Shilpen Patel – Stoves sub-team co-leader, Gujarati speaker, and seasoned BLIP traveler

Rushil Bakhshi – Toilets sub-team co-leader, Hindi-fluent, “the thinker”

Rachel Ross – BLIP team co-leader and founding member

Stay tuned for daily updates from the field! Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram for even more BLIP!