Day 16: Business Trip – Mumbai Edition

Hey everyone, it’s Gautham here! We started out the day super early on Monday because we needed to leave for Mumbai at 7AM. We quickly ate some puda (an Indian savory pancake) that Sanjay prepared, and left for our trip to Mumbai. Devna and Maitreyee joined us and then we were headed to the big city!

Once we arrived in Mumbai we were immediately hit by the heat and humidity (us Michigan kids aren’t used to that!). We hopped in a taxi and all headed towards our hotel Garware Club Hotel. This hotel is attached to Whankede stadium, a famous stadium where the Mumbai Indians play (an Indian Premier League Cricket Team). The hotel rooms were very spacious, and we saw an amazing bright blue pool which we would have loved to enjoy immediately. We felt like we were on a business trip just like Andy, Oscar and Michael when they visited Winnipeg, although we would like to think Mumbai is more fun than Winnipeg.


After resting for some time in our hotel rooms, we all headed to lunch at a restaurant on Marine Drive called Pizza by the Bay. It was a great Italian style restaurant, and I ended up eating a pizza and a half. We all really enjoyed being right by the ocean, and seeing old-style, double-decker buses driving by the restaurant.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for a quick siesta before dinner with Urja. She took us to an amazing Burmese restaurant that was located in the Colaba district. We had a great time tasting all the exotic fruit based drinks and burmese dishes.  We ate everything from spicy mango salad to khow suey and were exceedingly grateful to Urja for such an amazing dinner.  It was a great first day exploring and enjoying the city’s amazing food. At the end of the day, we headed back to the hotel to practice our presentation for ASB and get some sleep for the next day.


Day 15: The Negotiation

Hey everyone! Caroline here again.  Since Sunday is our day off, we all slept in and woke up to a yet another lovely breakfast prepared by Sanjay.  We then spent a couple of hours relaxing and chatting until we decided it was time to explore Vadodara.

Around 11AM, we headed out to shop at a few Vadodara markets and were fortunate enough to have the company of Salmaben.  She was a huge help in navigating the stores and bargaining our way to some nice presents for friends and family. Top tip: if the price is too high and you start walking out of the store, it will immediately get cheaper! (I wish this worked in America sometimes.)  


This is what we tried to do when bargaining. 

After quite a sweltering hot afternoon of shopping, Salmaben treated us to some refreshing coconut water.  We watched as a man with a machete hacked away at a giant coconut until it was open just enough to stick a straw in and enjoy. The fun didn’t quite stop there because after we drank the coconut water, the man insisted on cracking the coconut open so we could have the meat.

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A close-up of our delicious green coconut!

Before heading back to the guesthouse, we stopped at Bombay Sandwich, a restaurant Keny would not stop talking about from her previous trip and we enjoyed yummy veggie sandwiches and devoured a mountain of potato chips. Very full from our large lunch, we headed straight back to the guesthouse and all laid down in our beds for some relaxation time. Shortly thereafter, Nisha sadly had to leave us to drive back to Ahmedabad and fly back to the United States. We all said goodbye to Nisha, gave her big hugs, and she was on her way (we’re wishing her luck this summer!). Towards the end of the night, the four of us remaining packed our bags for our trip to Mumbai and went straight to bed for our early morning travel!

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This sandwich shop claimed to be unique. (There were 5 stands with the same name down the street)

Day 14: Michael – No, Nisha – Says Goodbye

Hey everyone, Nisha here! My time on this May trip is unfortunately a bit shorter than the rest of the team. We started off my last day in the office with a visit to Dolatpura. It was great to see Sumitraben in great spirits as she excitedly showed us some of the stoves she had built over the past year. She led Vipulbhai, Caroline, Keny, and I through different faliyas in Dolatpura that we had never visited to assess a few of the stoves. It was clear that Sumitraben was loved by the community and it was great to be exposed to more of the area. The other travellers are hoping to meet with Sumitraben a few more times before the end of the trip to have a few more great discussions with her.


Here I am pictured with Manjuben (left) and Sumitraben (center).

Later, a wedding in Barola prevented us from visiting the community but we had luckily been able to stop by the day before, allowing me ample time to see our partner Ramilaben, her son Ravi, and her neighbor Janki while also reconnecting with another Ramilaben that I had met last May.


While back in the office, we were able to make progress in solidifying communication plans with the foundation and R&D teams for the coming semester. In addition, Vidhi and Parth were able to sit with us later in the day to discuss some of our water technology prototype designs and give critical feedback. It was great to get their perspective and include them in our current design phase for water technology.


Our day in the office ended with several warm goodbyes for me from different members of Setco Foundation, R&D, and other staff members that we had gotten to know over the course of this trip. Then we headed back home for a relaxing Saturday night after another productive and exhausting week.


This has been another amazing trip and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. Being able to reconnect with so many community members and Setco employees that I have been working with over the past two years was an incredible experience and I’m so excited to see the outcome of the rest of the trip! I feel as bittersweet about leaving this trip early as Michael did as he departed Scranton.



Michael saying goodbye on his last day, not unlike me saying farewell on her last day.

Day 13: Grocery Store Fun with Kevin (AKA Keny)

What’s up everyone, it’s Gautham here! We started the day off very early with some mango, monaco biscuits, and toast with jam and butter. We had plans to travel to Barola early in the morning to meet Ramilaben in Nishal faliya before she left for work, so we were picked up by our driver and Rajeshbhai around 7:30 AM.

Ramilaben was very inviting, as always, and we had a great discussion about local materials and some of the design features that we had been developing. It was an informative conversation since we were able to speak with her son Ravi again and reconnect with her neighbor Janki, who we have gotten very close to during this trip!


After returning to the office we were able to sit down with Vipulbhai to discuss the overall logistics and details regarding the stoves expansion plan. It was really interesting to learn more about how he has been able to quickly develop relationships with so many community members in various villages. He provided insight on discussions that we had previously had with our different community partners, highlighting several minute details that we hadn’t picked up on but added a lot of context to those meetings. This was incredibly helpful for our team’s understanding and we are excited about the progress of expansion moving forward!

We all had a great nap on the car ride home, and we really enjoyed the delicious egg subji and lemon rice that Sanjay had prepared for us. After dinner Colby, Keny and I took a trip to the 7 Seas mall where we visited a grocery store called Big Bazaar. Here we all stocked up on delicious snacks while almost losing Keny in the aisles because she was so excited about the snacks. On the way back from the mall, we indulged in ice cream: Keny ordered a delicious rose flavor, while Colby and I got a chocolate cone. Finally we headed back home and fell asleep in the Baroda heat.

Keny after eating her elaichi (cardamom) cream biscuits
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Strolling through the aisles of Big Bazaar

Day 12: A Benihana-ish Dinner

Hi everyone, it’s Colby! We started off our Thursday morning with pooda, a delicious, savory Indian pancake that we all loved, courtesy of Sanjay. We then drove to the office to begin our morning of work and immediately began typing up notes, importing photos, and writing our blog post for the previous day. We had a busy morning of office work until we went to the canteen for lunch at 1PM.


After lunch, we quickly gathered our materials and headed to Barola in order to hopefully speak with Ramilaben and Kusumben and interact with more community members in each faliya. Although Ramilaben wasn’t home, we walked through Nishal faliya where she lives and were able to interact with many lovely people there including Kokilaben, a recently trained stove builder, and a few other women who all remarked that we looked a bit red from the heat (which was definitely accurate!).



Jasudaben, one of the women in Nishal faliya, washing rice


Once we finished our great conversations in Nishal faliya, we headed to Mota faliya. Unfortunately our partner Kusumben was tired from her work in the fields for the day, so we decided to come back and see her on a later date. We continued walking through Mota faliya and met with Lilaben, one of the primary stove builders in Barola, and Manjulaben whom we had met earlier in the trip. We had a great conversation with both of them and then decided to head back to the office in order to escape the heat.


Once back at the office, we attended another Setco factory employee stoves presentation and then headed home for the day. During the car ride home, we had a fun time listening to a bunch of old songs from our middle school days (i.e. “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore). We then got ready and went out to dinner at a delicious Asian restaurant called Kai Asia in another part of Vadodara. There we had a lovely dinner filled with udon, dumplings, massaman coconut curry, and nice vegetables, a dinner that could not help but remind us of the “Benihana Christmas” episode of “The Office” except a bit less awkward!


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The BLIP girls ready for dinner on Thursday night!

d5c0d758b4aad198706a9763ec63dfd032e01b5f.jpgThe boys of “The Office” having almost as great of a time as us at their Benihana dinner


After that we all relaxed in the guesthouse and dozed off to sleep after a productive day.


Day 11: Fun Run from Barola to Alindra

Hi everyone, Keny here again! We started the day off bright n’ early in order to go on a walk to the water source with a member of our partner family, Ramilaben. We quickly ate the warm batata poha that Sanjay made us for breakfast. At 6:45 AM, extremely tired, we were on our way to Barola to meet Ramilaben. Vipulbhai and Megha, two Setco Foundation employees, was kind enough to join us on the walk.

During the walk, Nisha asked Ramilaben and Janki, Ramilaben’s 13-year-old neighbor who collects water with her, questions while I filmed the terrain and the path. Colby, Caroline, and Gautham made detailed notes and documented observations throughout the walk. It was awesome to spend more time with Ramilaben and her speed was similar to that of Michael in “The Office” episode when everyone runs the 5K! After the walk the team headed back to the office to speak with Rajeshbhai and the R&D team regarding validation for our stoves project.

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An accurate depiction of how quickly Ramilaben was walking down the water path

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The team with Ramilaben and Janki

A few hours later, our team headed to Dolatpura to meet with Sumitraben to build a stove with our new stencil. It was a wonderful experience to work with Caroline, who is also our incoming Stoves Sub-Team Lead, to build a stove and witness how effortlessly Sumitraben builds the stoves. While Caroline and I were constructing the stove, Colby and Gautham were taking notes and Nisha was taking photos. After successfully building the stove, we were excited to head back to the office for a break and lunch.

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Our faces after  building the stove

After lunch, we all really wanted a siesta, so we took a short break and then continued our work. The team began brainstorming questions to ask our new technology community partners regarding features of the prototypes that we have been developing over the past week. Overall, we had an extremely productive day at the office as we ended it by attending another stoves workshop with Setco Automotive factory workers. After that, we headed home after a great day of work and Gautham got a 90 rupee haircut after dinner!



Day 10: I’m a Dog Person.

Hey everyone, Caroline here! We started the day off with maggi noodles (imagine ramen noodles, but for breakfast).  We had a sleepy morning at the house with a 7AM wake up. The team seems to get hit by waves of exhaustion. I like to think it’s because we’re working super hard, but the extreme heat may be contributing as well.

Upon arriving at the Setco office, we briefly discussed the day ahead and headed out to community.  First, we met with Chatrasinbhai to check on the toilet that was built in 2015. In the house next door, Sumitraben greeted us with a friendly wave, so we headed over to chat and plan when we would build a stove with her (update: stove build is tomorrow yay!). Gautham was even lucky enough to receive an offer of cooking lessons from the stove and culinary expert herself, Sumitraben.

Nisha pictured with the toilet

At this point in the day, it was midmorning, the weather felt nice, and I was feeling pretty good.  The team even had the energy to visit another community, Jetpur. Colby, Keny and I hopped out the car to find some stove beneficiaries but little did we know what we would find…. Colby was taking diligent notes while Keny and I chatted with a Jetpur Aganwadi worker and all of a sudden we heard a huge bang that made me practically jump into Keny’s arms. Next thing I saw was a giant monkey on the ground who had jumped from the roof of a nearby home that was essentially mocking the look of horror on my face. It had never occurred to me that I would be afraid of a “cute” little monkey, but never say never I suppose!

This is how the monkey looked at me.

Thankfully, we returned to the office unscathed by the monkeys. (For safety purposes, I want to reiterate that we were never in danger and I just have a vivid imagination.)  After a delicious lunch, we reviewed all we had accomplished during the day and then Nisha, Keny and I packed up to visit Barola. We continued our data collection work for stoves while Keny got distracted by baby chicks.  Despite the eventful day for the team filled with “exciting” wildlife, I still believe dogs are the best.


We headed out an hour early in order to have a conference call with New Tech members back home to update them on our progress. Sanjay prepared us a lovely dinner of daal, rice, cabbage, and potatoes subji.  The team settled down for the night with books and movies and fell fast asleep, ready for the next day!


Day 9: Traders by Trade

What’s up everyone, it’s Gautham here! We started our day with a great breakfast of omelettes and toast (filled with chilis!) prepared by Sanjay before we headed to the office.

We had a very busy day planned for material sourcing in Kalol and Halol, two major cities neighboring the office. The goal of the trip was to see what resources are available, and their potential prices, for our new technology prototypes. We walked through several markets, stopping at various stores in both communities to ask about sizes, materials, and prices.  It was very interesting to walk through the Halol market and see many vendors selling extremely fresh fruits and vegetables…but unfortunately didn’t end up tasting any of the fresh mangoes or sugar cane juice that we passed. This reminded me of an episode in “The Office” in which they have a garage sale and trade their novelty objects. Luckily, today we did not have to do any bartering!  


Fresh Fruit from the Halol Market










After we came back to the office we were completely exhausted from the heat, so we debriefed our visit and then headed to lunch. We spent the afternoon continuing to brainstorm prototypes, incorporating the materials that we found, such as khatlo (woven bed) and PVC, into the new designs. We ended our day in the office with another presentation to Setco’s factory workers about our chulha design. Megha ran the presentation to a smaller audience and was able to get a lot of interest in the new design.

We headed back home for the day and took some well needed rest.  Caroline likes to lay in the AC in a position she calls “starfish” to soak up the optimal amount of cool air.  Meanwhile, Sanjay prepared a delicious meal of rice, dhaar (lentils), mixed vegetable subji, and papad (fried rice wafer). We spent the rest of the day just chilling in the house and watched an excellent Bollywood movie, “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara”, By 10 PM we were all fast asleep ready for the next day!

Picture of our team: Nisha, Keny, Gautham, Caroline, Colby

Day 7: Gettysburg vs Laxmi Vilas Palace

Hey everyone, Nisha here! For our first rest day of the trip I woke up to Keny and Colby, gently reminding me that I had been asleep for 12 hours and may want to consider beginning my day. We started off with Upma, a cream of wheat porridge, and a chai for me.

Wanting to see more of the city, we decided to take a field trip to the Laxmi Vilas Palace, home of Baroda’s royal family. We crammed into an Uber, excited to see an unexplored part of Baroda.

Image result for gettysburg the officeUs on the way to the palace

The palace grounds were gorgeous; we were able to explore everything from the armoury, to a ballroom,swords, to the gardens and what appeared to be a golf course. Luckily, one of the guides precisely directed us to all of the key spots where we could take selfies to commemorate our visits and insisted on taking a photo for us. We wrapped up our visit in a small cafe area near a fountain, cooling down with Pepsi, Miranda, samosas, and what Gautham argued was a quiche. Meanwhile, we befriended another tourist who shared our confusion over the strict regulations the palace had over photography inside the building. As we waited for our Uber back to the guesthouse, I felt secure as Keny stood fearlessly in front of us, threatening to fend off any stray dogs that may be bold enough to approach our group…luckily no such showdown occurred.

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Once we were back home at the guesthouse, Sanjay treated us to an incredible dinner of khichdi, a rice and lentils dish, bowl. Even though we openly discussed being full, we decided to make an ice cream run to a shop near the guesthouse, grabbing several strawberry and chocolate ice creams. But Keny and I truly stumbled upon the holy grail when we discovered that they sold cardamom Shrikhand, an extremely rich strained yogurt dessert…we could both only eat one bite but it was worth it.

Overall, this was a great way to spend our weekend and a much needed break from a busy week. Looking forward to starting week 2!



Day 6: Fun at the Mall!

Hey everyone, it’s Colby again! We had a very nice and productive day on Saturday as it was our last day in the office for our first week. We started out the day with bread and jam sandwiches prepared by our lovely caretaker Sanjay. After that, we headed to the office.


We made sure to get to Barola early to walk with Kusumben along her path to collect water. Although she had already left for her work that day, we walked with another woman named Sonalben who was on her way to get water. Along this walk, we observed and spoke with Sonalben and several other women and girls who were walking as well; it was just one of several trips they make in the morning. The conversations and observations made during this trip proved to be incredibly valuable to our team in solidifying our knowledge of the water collection process for Mota faliya. Keny was also able to record video and Gautham took many photos which we know our team will use for a long time to come!

IMG_5374.JPGThis photo shows a few girls transporting their water in Mota faliya


After this visit we went back to the office in order to continue New Tech design work based on the information we had gathered from our Barola visit. Around lunch time we had a planning meeting with Vidhi, Devna, and Maitreyee from the Setco office in order to ensure we are ready for communication with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.


We completed more New Tech work after that, finished our day, and headed back home. Since it was a weekend night for us with no work on Sunday, we thought it would be fun to go to a mall so we headed to Inorbit Mall in Vadodara! The mall looked very similar to our malls back at home in the United States and of course we headed to the first restaurant in our sight: McDonald’s! We enjoyed yummy veggie sandwiches, seasoned fries, and the best Coke that I have ever drank. Although our stomachs weren’t very happy with us, the food tasted great and we walked around the mall after that. During our walk, we humorously had to dodge a mini train driving children around the place as it sped through the mall hallways (we were frightened to say the least!). We then grabbed some dessert at Burger King (why don’t American Burger King’s have delicious Magnum ice cream bars??) and headed home.

IMG_9533.jpgA photo of us eagerly awaiting our McDonald’s

980x-2.gifA perfect depiction of our joy while eating our yummy Burger King ice cream


It was a great day filled with work and play and we excitedly awaited our Sunday activities!