Spring Break 2019 Day 4

Hey everyone, its Hannah! Yesterday was a very full day, and we got a lot done. We started early in the morning visiting Ranipura to look at some more stoves. We visited three women who had built stoves with Nanduben, who we had visited the day before. The first woman that we visited built her new stove into her old chulha, making a three burner stove, as you can see below.  I don’t think I have ever seen that before, and I thought it was a really smart solution to keep using the old stove.

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The second woman built her stove inside, but even though she liked the new stove better than her old one, she found that the edge was starting to crack and sink from the weight of the pots that she was using. A bunch of the community members had some really good ideas on how to make the stove stronger, such as mixing brick powder into the mati (the clay and straw mixture used to make the stoves) and adding extra supports. We also got to meet a stove builder, Ranjanben.

Afterwards, we drove back to Barola to visit Ramilaben and Kusumben. It was really cool to meet them after working on this project for two years and having only known them from pictures and from reading reports of interviews. We made plans to meet with Kusumben tomorrow and with Ramilaben to walk with them to collect water. Afterwards, we went back to the Setco office, had a really good lunch with some of the foundation employees, and finished up some work before we headed back to Baroda.

Back at the apartment, we got the best news so far, in my opinion, of the whole trip. Our cart had finally been constructed! The prototype built here looked even better than the one that we made back home. It was very clear, for example, that even though we tried our best, we had never weaved khatlo (a type of super strong fabric) before. If you want a cool game of spot the difference, check out the two pictures below.

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With the beautiful sunny weather, we decided to take an Uber and go visit the local zoo. The tigers were beautiful, and the leopard and lion cages were so close that you could pet them if you tried. Don’t worry, mom, I didn’t try and pet a lion. As we were walking back from the exhibits through the gardens, we also witnessed a personal wishlist item of Jesse’s as a wild monkey ran across the path that we were walking and climbed over the fence.

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That evening, we went to the local mall InOrbit for dinner. Kajal and Nikita, two Setco employees, showed us around and got a sampling of tons of food court options–  samosa chaat, vegetable momos, lassis, and chaas were just a few of the things we tried. With full bellies, we took a look at some of the stores, and then headed back to the apartment to play cards and a little bit of frisbee on the terrace.

Spring Break 2019 Day 3

Hi guys, this is Jesse! Day 3 shaped up to be a very exciting eventful day!

We began by meeting with the plumber who is in the process of constructing our water transportation device. Unfortunately, neither four-way joints or three-way corner joints are manufactured in the area around Baroda. Because of this, the plumber turned T-joints into four-way joints by drilling through them and used them as a substitute. While this will work great for testing purposes, it is important that we revise our design to only use available materials. On that same note, our rubber wheel is not accessible, so a hard plastic wheel will now be used.

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Our next plan was to meet with our water partners, Kusumben and Ramelaben. Sadly, we arrived to find a funeral occurring, so we decided to come back tomorrow. We moved on to visit two stove partners instead: Shakuntalaben and Nanduben. It was great to see how well stove project has taken root, as we are now approaching 1,000 stoves constructed! We interviewed the stove partners to validate the stove design. We found that the stoves reduced the smoke people inhaled significantly, decreased the amount of fuel needed, and decreased the amount of time spent cooking! Additionally, Nanduben has built 30 stoves and trained others to build stoves as well. The stove project has allowed her, and other women, to bring in income for their family (each stove constructed earns the women 100 rupees).

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At our final stove visit, we were visited by Charlie and Ann along with three students from GSFC. The students will be interning with SETCO over the summer and were interested in a potential partnership with BLUElab. We met with the students and discussed the possibility of working together. Both groups thought it would be a good idea for the students to begin by working with us to learn about the process of socially engaged design, and we agreed that they should start their own project after gaining experience. After meeting the students, we took a tour of the SETCO factory and learned about how their clutches are manufactured.

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After a long day of work, Urja treated us and SETCO employees to dinner at Mirchi Masala. It was a great experience to get to know some of the people we are working with, not to mention that the food was phenomenal!

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Finally, we headed back to our apartment and hung out as a team. We went up to our building’s terrace and saw an awesome view of the city. The night ended with some Bananagrams and Uno before the effects of jetlag set in and we all went to sleep.

Spring Break 2019 Day 2

Hi. This is Deesha. Today is Day 2! Yesterday was Shivratri, a Hindu holiday celebrating the god of destruction, Shiva (who, according to my dad, is the cool god), so when we got to the office in the morning it was mostly empty. After we ate a Gujarati lunch of roti, dal, and vegetables, people began to trickle in. We were introduced to everyone at the office and then we walked them through our plan for this week. After that, Urja & friends presented to us and the CSED team, Ann and Charlie, about what the Setco Foundation is all about. I thought the initiatives they have in place for healthcare are really cool. It’s not something we knew about before. The team also presented our plan for the week to the Setco Foundation. We were pretty tired when we got back to our apartment and took naps. Then, we got dinner with my aunt Krimali who lives in Baroda. We went to a restaurant called Pepperazzi that was American diner-themed and played covers of songs from 2013 that all happened to be by the same person. The menu was 10 pages long and had everything from pizza to Thai food. After dinner we were so tired, we crashed as soon as we got back. But now we are finally well-rested and have a really exciting day planned! Today we are going to check the progress on the water transport device and doing stoves interviews. Yay! 

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Us at Pepperazzi (the kid next to Jesse is my cousin)

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Baroda at night

Spring Break 2019 Day 1

Hey, everyone, it’s Gautham here! The BLUElab India Project team is very excited to be back in Gujarat for an exciting week of work with the Setco Foundation! Deesha, Hannah, Jesse and I had a very exciting 36 hours of travel to India. Starting in Ann Arbor the team took a very packed Amtrak train to Chicago Union station where we were met by Hannah’s mom. She took us out for a really delicious lunch at Xoco, a Mexican restaurant by chef Rick Bayless in the city. We enjoyed some sandwiches and chips and guacamole before heading to O’Hare International Airport.

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After we were checked in we wandered around the International terminal in search of a neck pillow for Jesse but ended up getting lost in the duty-free stores. Once we arrived in Dubai we spent more time exploring the terminal and its stores. Hannah got some really delicious camel milk chocolate that she shared with the team!

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Jesse had an interesting experience on the plane ride from Dubai to India. He was sitting next to two men from Palestine who were fascinated by his ability to speak some Arabic as well as the pictures on his camera roll. When we arrived in Ahmedabad were greeted by Deesha’s family who brought us many snacks and sim cards. The final leg of our journey was a car ride to Vadodara, and by then we were really tired so all of us fell asleep pretty fast.

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We finally reached the guest house early in the morning and immediately fell asleep. But we woke up after 3 hours to get ready to head to the Setco Foundation office! We are really excited as a team for this trip and to see what we can achieve with the foundation and our partner communities. Stay tuned for more blogs this week!

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Day 26: Last full day in the office!

Hey everyone, it’s Colby here writing our final blog post of the trip! (How did this happen so quickly??) We woke up per usual on Thursday with a yummy breakfast and headed to work. Once we arrived at the office we began preparation for the three presentations we were giving that day: two for the Setco Foundation team and one for Urja who we videocalled. We also worked on the May Trip Report, the summative document used to describe our work over the last month, and then at 11:00 headed to a conference room to present to the Foundation team.

 

We first presented about our stoves expansion work and then gave a general overview presentation for the entire trip. Overall, it was a great final meeting with the Foundation team and we were happy to share our progress with them. After that meeting we headed back to our office room and took a video call with Urja in order to share the same information with her. That phone call was lovely and it was nice as always to speak with her!

 

In the afternoon we travelled to Kalol to pick up the >100 photos we had developed for our partners in Dolatpura and Barola. We then headed to Barola to drop off photos with Ramilaben and Kusumben. They both loved the photos and Kusumben’s grandsons even seemed to enjoy them! It made us happy to deliver these photos to them from our time during this trip and to thank them for their work with us for the water technology project.

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Kusumben, Jayvil and Hitendrabhai (Kusumben’s younger son)
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Team photo with Kusumben and her nephew younger Jayvil 

We next went to Dolatpura to deliver photos to Sumitraben and say goodbye to her. Out of all of the photos we gave her, she loved the ones of her grandson Vivek the most (we can’t blame her, he’s the most stoic, cutest little toddler). She even said that those photos were the best we had ever delivered to her in any of our trips! Complete credit to Keny and her camera for that accomplishment. It was so nice to say a happy goodbye to Sumitraben after having done such great work with her during this trip.

 

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Our feelings exactly as we said goodbye to our community partners

 

After our day at the office ended, we went to Salmaben’s beautiful home in Vadodara for a delicious dinner (probably the best we’ve had this whole trip) and to spend some quality time with her. We had a really nice evening with her and her family and it was really the perfect end to our trip. Right after dinner, we headed to a barber shop so that Gautham could get shaved (he was way too scruffy). We then went back to the guest house, packed our bags, and headed to bed before our half day at the office and then our journey to Ahmedabad and, ultimately, the United States (home)!

 

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An action shot of Gautham looking eerily similar to Santa Claus during his shave

 

As our last days here in Guajrat are upon us, I would like to thank the Setco Foundation, UofM, BLIP, BLUElab, our parents, and anyone else who helped and supported our travellers during our month-long journey. We are all so happy to have achieved all of our goals for this trip and are excited to see what our team will be up to during this next semester. This month has been joyful, challenging, exciting, and everything in between! We say a bittersweet goodbye to India soon now and with that, goodbye blog!

 

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Our hearts at this moment as described by Michael Scott

Day 25: Early Departure

Hey everyone, Keny here! We started off the morning with some delicious mango and batata poha. Once we arrived at the office, Colby and I went to Kalol with Sabirbhai to have photos printed for community members. On the way back to the car, I spotted some mangoes at the market and had to stop everyone to buy a few.

Back at the office, Colby and I joined Gautham and Caroline to speak with Parth regarding the stencil for our stoves project and the next steps for our work with he and Vidhi in R&D. Then the team continued to finish up some office work before we headed to lunch. During lunch, Hetalben was kind enough to bring us my personal favorite Gujarati dessert Shrikhand (Indian sweet dish made of strained yogurt).

Back at the office, Rajeshbhai informed us that we could all leave the office at 2:30 PM and that we would be having dinner with him, Salmaben, and a few people from the Setco Foundation team. We were all very excited to have some extra time to relax at the guest house before dinner and were excited to spend time with all of them that night.

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Michael instructing the office it’s time to go home (early) as Rajeshbhai told us

After some relaxation time in the guesthouse, we met everyone at a restaurant called Old School. We had some yummy Indian-style nachos, tandoori (various seasoned vegetables and paneer), and garlic bread for appetizers. The punjabi food was definitely very filling, but Salmaben insisted that we all go out and get some baraf na gola (shaved ice) to end the night. Caroline, Gautham, and I all got a mango flavored syrup while Colby got rose. As good as it was, I got a brain freeze (oops).

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A photo of us all enjoying our delicious dinner at Old School!

 

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Our BLIP travelers eating their sweet shaved ice treat after dinner

Back at the guest house, we all started organizing our suitcases and packing to head back to the States. After organizing our bags, Colby and I watched some late-night “New Girl” and “22 Jump Street” then we all headed to bed before our last full day in the office tomorrow. I still cannot believe how fast time has flown by during this great trip and I’m so grateful to have been here!

Day 24: Dinner Party

Hey everyone it’s Gautham here! We started our day off with some delicious pooda (savory pancake), which has really become the team’s favorite breakfast food! We then all loaded up in the car and headed off to the office. We had a fairly relaxing morning, enjoying some chai and biscuits and working on documentation.

Later in the morning, we headed into Barola for a meeting with three stove builders in the community. Our plan was to discuss our stove stencil with them and gain some valuable feedback. When we got to the community only one stove builder, Leelaben, was present.  She provided us with very valuable input about how the stencil could improve the stove building process and we were very grateful to hear her perspective. We were then about to head back to the office when we ran into Samar Bhai, Premilaben’s son who is a Mechanical Engineer in Vadodara. We had a great conversation with him about our water technology project, and we were able to discuss technology features and local materials with him!

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After spending enough time in the heat, we had a quick lunch in the canteen and spent the rest of the afternoon working on various documents for our May trip report. It was a very productive afternoon in the air conditioning and we even enjoyed some delicious mango juice. While the team was working diligently, we were all excited for some fun evening plans!

Maiytree invited us to her house for some delicious Indian snacks, and in order to be polite dinner guests, we decided to bring some dessert to the party. We planned to go to a cake store in Vadodara, but Keny’s directions led us to some very random locations. It was very similar to when Michael’s poor sense of direction led him directly into a lake! We were eventually able to find a cake shop and the delicious chocolate cake we chose ended up being a hit at the party.

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Michael (Keny) driving into a lake

We had a really great time at Maiytree’s house eating some vada pav (potato fritter in a bun) and pani puri (classic Mumbai street food). Vidhi even wowed us with some of her magic tricks! After everyone ate we headed over to a nearby market and grabbed some more treats including a few sodas and popsicles. We were all reminded of Michael Scott’s dinner party fiasco, but our night definitely went better than his did. It was especially nice to spend time with our office mates outside of the workplace and we will surely miss them when we’re gone!

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Pam and Jim having a very awkward experience at Michael’s dinner party

That’s all from me for this May trip, it’s been real.

Day 23: Koi Pond

Hey guys, Caroline here for my final blog post of this trip.  We started the morning with a delicious breakfast we haven’t had before, aloo paratha. (imagine a quesadilla with potato in between!) We then headed to the office and found ourselves taking the scenic route as our driver, Sabirbhai, took us to feed fish in the Narmada river.  I was very surprised to see at least 100 giant fish splashing out the water for the bread crumbs we threw.  I was also hesitant to lean over the edge of the bridge, remembering Michael Scott’s fall into a koi pond from The Office.

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After that bit of excitement in the morning, we settled in at the office and took care of some work.  We prepared for our visit to Barola to speak with a few different community members, but upon arrival we found we had just missed them.  We chatted a bit with some familiar faces, but soon Vipulbhai was urging us into the car for another adventure and assured us that we could go back to Barola on Tuesday.  We visited a beautiful temple that was very ornate inside and out. The temple also had cows nearby, so the team went to take a peak and saw a calf that had been born that morning!

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Kripalu Samadhi Mandir 
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Gautham (once again) admiring the cows

After our short visit to the temple, we headed back to the office for lunch and got back to work, preparing for our final presentations.  I personally think the break to absorb some culture increased our productivity, but maybe we were just playing catch-up! At the end of the day, we headed back to Vadodara, but instead of going to the guest house, we made a pit stop to check out a tire store for our water technology project. Yet again, our timing was off as the store had already closed, but it’s been great at least getting contact information for numerous shops that could help us with materials in the surrounding area.

The team headed home, hungry and tired, but we indulged in more Kesar mangoes before the usual dinner of rice, roti, daal and subji.  As the days wind down, I am eager to go home, but I will greatly miss this experience. Luckily, we had a very productive trip so we can carry on some great work during this summer and the Fall semester before the team is back again in December!

 

Day 22: Day Off Plus a Conference Call

Hey everyone, it’s Colby! We started off Sunday, first and foremost, thankful for a day of rest after our week of fun travel and hardwork. Since Gautham and I insisted on sleeping in a bit, everyone got a late start with a mid-morning breakfast of maggi.  After that, Sabirbhai, our Setco driver, kindly picked us up at noon and drove us to a bustling market to do some shopping and also look at tires for our dolley design. Although we had little success with tires, Keny and Gautham were both able to grab great gifts for family members.

 

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Above are two photos from our market adventures!

It was boiling hot at the market, so we decided after a while to drive back home. With food on our minds, we then called an Uber and drove to Inorbit, a nearby mall in Vadodara. In a predictable fashion, we headed straight for the food court and then straight for the McDonalds counter. Caroline and I enjoyed some amazing seasoned potato wedges, while Keny and I treated ourselves to Oreo McFlurries (they tasted even better than the ones in America). Soon after, Keny and Gautham ordered a large meal from Chatoree, an Indian fast food restaurant in the food court. Their meal included chat, chhole, and gobi manchurian and they were quickly stuffed!

 

We then drove back to the guest house and watched an extremely interesting documentary about rock climbers that both scared and inspired us. Gautham then promptly fell asleep for a few hours until dinner. After dinner we took a call with Nicole, Nisha, and Kabir from the BLIP team in order to update them on the progress we have been making in regards to our stoves project. It was a great call and we enjoyed speaking with all of them!

 

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We could have had this sign on our door while having our conference call

 

Later that night we all relaxed after a nice day off and Gautham and Keny grabbed everyone a little ice cream (we’re trying to really enjoy our last few days of amazing Indian ice cream). We then dozed off, ready for our final Monday in the office!

Day 21: Pretzel Day vs. Ice Cream Day

Hey everyone, Keny here! We started off the morning with some warm batata poha prepared by Sanjay. Once we were at the office, we headed out to speak with our community partners Kusumben and Divyaben in Barola and also ended up speaking with Kusumben’s son  Virendrabhai while his adorable son sat nearby (reference the photo below).

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Yosraj making bubbles with his grandma Kusumben and dad Virendrabhai

After our trip to Barola, Vipulbhai and Hiren were kind enough to guide us to the Halol and Kalol markets to purchase materials to bring back to the United States for our Water Tech project. We visited a few shops and were feeling extremely hot, so to cool down, Vipulbhai graciously took us out for ice cream. Caroline, Colby, and I ate a yummy chocolate ice cream bar while Gautham tried the mango bar. Our expressions of joy while eating our ice cream were not unlike Stanley’s on Pretzel Day in “The Office”. He loves pretzel day, we love ice cream!

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Our faces when we were told we were getting free ice cream!

On our way back, our driver, Sabirbhai, showed us around Kalol a bit. First we saw Narmada river and a local dam that runs through a lot of Gujarat. We also stopped by to see a few baby monkeys with their mom (cute photos below).

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Narmada River, Gujarat

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After our fun morning adventures, we headed back to the office to get some lunch. Then Gautham and I went back to the Halol market to purchase pots and rolls of weaving material to take back to the States. Luckily, Vipulbhai lead us to the shops with the best deals and saved us a few rupees. Gautham and I then decided to go buy some Chiku (a very sweet fruit that resembles a kiwi) and Kesar mangoes, which are typically one of the most expensive and most delicious mangoes in India.

After a very productive day of material sourcing and a little bit of sightseeing, we headed back to the guesthouse. Since everyone was quite hungry, we decided to cut up some of the fresh Kesar mangoes and devour them. Dinner was like usual, but we decided to relax by heading to the movie theatre to watch “Deadpool 2”. The movie messed with my emotions too much but it was quite funny for the first half hour… then I fell asleep. Nevertheless, going to the movies in India is always an interesting experience – one man was having a full on conversation on the phone during the movie. Even better, they created an intermission right in middle of a scene to allow everyone to get snacks (Gautham and Colby didn’t appreciate this)! Once we were back at the guesthouse, we were relieved to know that we had Sunday off to relax and sleep in after such an adventurous day.