Day 12: Twelve+ Hours of Layovers

Hi, everyone! Rachel here for one last blog post. The final day of our trip was spent on airplanes, in airports, and driving. Some of us stayed awake for most of this ~40 hours of travel (which included a lovely few hours in Delhi) while others did an impressive amount of sleeping. All of us, however, watched our fair share of movies on the 14 1/2 hour trans-Atlantic flight to Chicago.img_3837

In O’Hare we had the pleasure of going through immigration (thankfully all in one piece and without having to open our luggage for immigration officers). After that, we got some (American!) McDonald’s breakfast before getting our boarding passes and heading back into security. I got to speed through that process thanks to TSA pre-check while the boys waited in line for what seemed like at least an hour. I got Starbucks and toured most of the terminal while I waited.

The rest of the day was spent in the airport attempting to write the trip report, playing games on our phones, and occasionally succumbing to jet-lag-induced sleep attacks. It was a long layover and it was a relief to finally get on our short flight to DTW. As soon as we began to taxi I think all three of us were out like a light. We were woken by the captain telling us to prepare for landing. The wheels hitting the ground was a beautiful thing. Finally, we were back in Michigan!


We gathered our luggage and wedged ourselves and our bags into my small car that my brother was driving. After a car ride spent reminiscing about the trip, we dropped everyone off at their respective homes and finally unloaded my car at my place. As soon as my things were upstairs I hit my bed hard and slept. It was so good to be back in my own bed, but I missed the sounds of Baroda lulling me to sleep.

Day 11: Eleven Prototypes Presenting

Kabir here again. So we forgot to set an alarm. As we moved faster than the speed of light packing all of our remaining clothes and toiletries while inhaling our food the reality of leaving had not set in. While heading downstairs to meet Rajeshbhai to travel to the Environmental Sanitation Institute for our meeting, we were intercepted by Salmaben saying her final goodbyes. She graciously presented snacks and foods to take home and sent us on our way to Ahmedabad.

When we figured out the true location of ESI we were greeted with the beauty of lavish amounts of both flora and fauna. The first thing we came across on campus was every iteration of composting toilets that the group has tried and evolved.


Moving further down the campus there were prototypes of smokeless chulas that incorporate different innovations in their two designs. After learning about their awareness modules, as well as the toilet and stove iterations themselves, we were given a tour of the rest of campus.



All in all, no water is gone to waste, all materials that can produce biogas will be used to produce biogas, and expect that any structure you stand on serves as a form of water storage. The most breathtaking scenes were the meditating structures sitting on top of a lake with a glass bottom floor.


After concluding our visit at ESI we headed to the Silver Platter…Silver Dew….Silver Cloud…Silver something. There were so many Silver names on the building we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The restaurant itself was a Jain-friendly (strictly vegetarian) restaurant. After having a hearty meal with Rajeshbhai we headed to the Gandhi Ashram. The thought of walking in Gandhi’s footsteps was extremely grounding and amazing. I reveled in the thought that the tree I was touching or the sight I was looking at could have been shared with Gandhi! Concluding our journey we headed to the Ahmedabad airport. We boarded our flight and headed off to New Delhi. The flight ahead of us will take about 15 hours and I know we are all looking forward to that! My heart is heavy but I still hold onto the hope that I will see everyone I miss in the near future.

Day 10: Ten Mehndis Appearing

Sai here! Today was our last day in the field and it started off by trying to fix the toilet sensor. After installing the new battery we found the day before, we downloaded some data from the sensor and realized that there might be an issue with some of our equipment. We decided to check it over when we got to Dolatpura and had access to the probes. So after eating a delicious lunch, we headed off to the factory to pick up one of the R&D volunteers.

While waiting for the volunteer, we sat down with the head of the R&D department at Setco Automotive to discuss some upcoming goals and their role. Once the volunteer joined us we were off to Dolatpura for the last time this trip. When we arrived, we ran into Chatrsinhbhai so we decided to visit the toilet first. Rachel and Kabir took measurements of the prototype while I reinstalled the sensor and tried to determine if there was still an issue with the equipment.


After we wrapped up work with the toilet and said our goodbyes to Chatrsinbhai, we visited the anganwadi and Manojbhai’s house to get detailed measurements of the stove and also run through the design with the R&D volunteer. It is really important that we setup the mechanisms to collect the technical feedback from the stoves that Sumitraben builds. The rest of the time in Dolatpura was spent laughing at our terrible Hindi and one of Sumitraben’s daughters making impressive mehndi designs on Rachel’s hands and feet. It was great to spend some time with Sumitraben’s family and just relax after a week and a half of hard work. After finishing up the mehndi, we headed back to Baroda.


Viral graciously invited us to his house for dinner where we got to meet his family! While deciding where to go for dinner, his son played with milk voucher cards by rearranging them in every possible way. A little while later, we headed to Masala Mirchi which had a variety of traditional Indian food (like pani puri that we could actually eat)! We tried many dishes and finally said our goodbyes to Viral. After we got dropped off at the guesthouse, we finished packing up for our long day in Ahmedabad and return back to the US.

Day 9: Nine Ladies Dancing

Rachel here! The day started off with one of Harishbhai’s wonderful omelets which was followed by a car ride to Kalol spent working on documents. When we reached Setco, we worked out our schedule for the day which comprised of spending time working at the office and going to Dolatpura. We had initially planned on completing a post-presentation assessment in Medapur to see what effects our presentation had on the audience but due to the elections that were held this past Tuesday we decided to let the community get its new government established before we entered again.



Instead, our field work today was all in Dolatpura. We observed two more stove builds conducted by Sumitraben. She and the recipients of the stoves made pretty fast work of the mati making, chimney installing, and chulha molding.


Between the stove builds, we watched Sangeetaben dismantle her low-smoke chulha that was built during the May trip. We got important feedback and were able to observe some internal issues that led to the chimney cracking. It was unfortunate to see the chimney fail, but the clay pipes we’ve bought this trip directly from the factory seem sturdier and we learned a lot about the role that the bricks play in the long-term success of the stove. And the stove did work really well for several months without issue beforehand, so we know that there are still benefits that justify the hassle of rebuilding and assessing failures.


We headed back to Baroda after we finished up our time in Dolatpura. Viral rode with us to help us find a replacement for the battery in our sensor that died. It was a bit of an adventure to track down, but he managed to do it. We dropped him off near his home and headed to the guest house to freshen up. We were then picked up by Salmaben for a night out to celebrate the New Year. There was tons of food and dancing!

Day 8: Eight Places-A-Going

Kabir here! The day started off as you typically expected, a refreshing cup of chai and wonderful smelling breakfast. We had planned a meeting with Urja at 8:30 am so to our dismay breakfast did not come out in time before we left. We swerved around the buzzing streets of Vadodra to pick up Salmaben from her house and Elsa from her home. We arrived at the Foundation, chugged a cup of chai in anticipation of the meeting, and got ready to discuss plans for stoves and toilets. After the meeting we met with yoga instructors and analyzed the type of steel used in our stove design.


After downing our lunch we made a quick stop in Dolatpura to drop off a chimney so Sumitraben could start on another stove. Then we headed to Ambica, the chimney factory, to pick up more chimneys to take back to the US and leave in Dolatpura. We stopped at our local metal dealer shop to pick up strips of stainless steel and aluminum. I had to use my thorough background in mechanical engineering to use calipers to measure the width of the sheet. No one was impressed. We headed back to Dolatpura. We gave Sumitraben a chimney and two strips of metal for future stoves.


Sai took pictures while she constructed a stove at Manojbhai’s home and Rachel and I took measurements of the newly built stove at Sumitraben’s.Afterwards we attempted to interact with the community. I emphasize attempted heavily because we relied on Nathubhai to translate Gujurati to Hindi, I translate Hindi to English, then English to Hindi to rely our response and Nathubhai Hindi to Gujurati. All in all it was a great time spent in the community, I spoke my broken Hindi, Sai told everyone that I eat elephants, and we were able to check off some of our tasks.


We came back to a party to celebrate the retirement of an individual who worked at Setco Automotive for 31 years! The celebration brought me back to my childhood with rich green chutney sandwiches, oily potato chips, and heaping amounts of cake. To wrap up our day at the office we spoke to a couple R&D members about the technical assessments needed regarding the stove to be conducted while we aren’t in country.

After a series of days of being the last ones to leave and close up the office we finally were able to leave ten minutes early! With this newfound time we headed back home, freshened up, and went to the Inorbit mall. Somehow we ended up at McDonalds with the holy grail of non-veg sandwiches, the McSpicy Chicken. After personally eating way too many, we made our way to the movie theater to watch Aamir Khan’s new film Dangal. To our surprise it was also produced by Disney and was an all-round awesome movie! The theater itself was insane with seats that literally reclined all the way back. We also found ourselves standing for the Indian national anthem and waiting for the movie to start back again after an 18 minute intermission. It was a really cool experience!

We headed back to the guesthouse and went to bed immediately. It was a great day!