Day 18: S is for Sarah’s (early) Birthday!

Hi all, Natalia here. Today we began with our typical morning routine of breakfast, chai, and naps in the car. We arrived at the office ready for our second round of focus groups in Barola, this time in Nishal faliya.

The women’s focus group drew an impressive crowd of over 20 women and almost the same number of kids. Nisha did an amazing job of managing the massive influx of information and connecting with the participants, while somehow still managing to translate back to the rest of us. We learned about a wide array of problems faced by this part of the community. During the mapping activity, Sarah took out her camera, and many of the participants asked to have their pictures taken with us. Meanwhile Kabir carried out another focus group and mapping activity down the street with a smaller group of men.

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After the mapping activities and photo shoot, a few community members offered to show us two wells nearby. It was interesting to see these water sources while taking the opportunity to observe a part of Barola that we hadn’t seen yet.

Yesterday the panchayat member had invited us to visit a wedding in Motu faliya, so of course we had to stop by before returning to the office. I had never been to an Indian wedding before, and was amazed by the enormous tents decked out with flowers, statues, and bright-colored fabrics. We met the bride and her family, took a few pictures, and generally gawked at how extravagant everything was. Nonetheless, we were all eager to return to the car and its air conditioning after a very long and eventful morning.

We got back to the office around 1pm with one thing on our minds – lunch. We ate and then spent the remainder of the afternoon working in the office. We solidified our plans for the coming days and finished defining our criteria for selecting a need to work on. As we were wrapping up, Salmaben came by our table and invited us out to dinner, since it is almost Rachel’s last day in India. We were happy to accept.

Our work at the office completed, we headed back to the guest house. At this point in the needs assessment we have no time to lose, so we spent the entire car ride debriefing on the morning’s focus groups. At the guest house, we had just enough time to snack, nap, freshen up, and figure out where we were going and how we were getting there, before it was time to head out.

We met Salmaben and Rajeshbhai at Barbecue Nation. We split into two tables based on diet – Veg or Non-Veg – so I was at the carnivore table with Sarah, Kabir, and Salmaben. The waiters began delivering us a relentless onslaught of delicious barbecued meat on skewers. I tried to pace myself but decisively failed. Stuffed full of chicken, shrimp, fish, and lamb, I sat back, thinking it was all over.

I was wrong.

Apparently that was just the appetizer course. Now it was time for the grand buffet. We reluctantly piled up our plates and somehow survived two rounds of the buffet.

Throughout the evening we had noticed several birthday celebrations at nearby tables, so we let the staff know that it was Sarah’s birthday today (technically it’s tomorrow, but close enough). Everyone was waiting on the edge of their seat for the celebration. I could explain what happened, but you really have to see it, so here’s a video.

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After the brouhaha, we took plenty of pictures and said goodbye to Rajeshbhai and Salmaben, making sure to thank Salmaben for her generous invitation. Returning to the guest house, we convened in Kabir’s room to finish our debrief and create a list of problems based on today’s visit to Barola.

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