Day 20: Stinky Work

What up everyone, it’s Gautham here! We started the day off early with some delicious omelettes that were prepared by Sanjay before heading out to the office. On our way, we stopped by a local lumber store in Baroda to get a measuring stick for our toilets work during the day. We had some fun trying to fit the two meter stick inside the car, but we managed to figure it out.

Once at the office, we headed straight to Dolatpura to meet with Sumitraben and Chatrahsinbhai, our stoves and toilet partners in the community. Our team was very excited because we were able to put finishing touches on the stove that we built last week with Sumitraben. We filled in the cracks of the stove with a mud and straw mixture, and we were able to speak a lot with Sumitraben and Manjulaben, the designated stove builders in the community.

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Putting finishing touches on stove with Sumitraben
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Caroline and Colby with the contractor
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The open toilet bins

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we finished with the stove, Keny and Colby headed over to Chatrahsinbhai’s house to meet with the toilet contractor who was helping us open the toilet’s bins. Keny and Colby felt like Michael Scott when there was a smelly accident in his office! Caroline and I stayed with Sumitraben in her kitchen to speak with her more and help her cook lunch for the day.(I’m no expert, but I made a pretty great rotla!) We headed back to the office very tired, but very happy as we had great interactions with our community partners.

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Rhotla (thick millet pancake)
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Cooking with Sumitraben

 

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Before lunch we had an opportunity to receive a short yoga lesson from a visiting guru from Varanasi who teaches at the local Anganwadis. We practiced various yoga poses and ended with meditation exercises. After a great lunch, Keny and Colby headed out to Barola to hold an interview with Kusumben and Divyaben, while Caroline and I stayed back at the office to work on a final stoves presentation for the foundation.

Back at the guesthouse, we all got some very well needed relaxation from the heat with some TV and reading and then enjoyed an amazing dinner of rice, dhaar (lentils), and tindoora subji (ivory gourd) prepared by Sanjay. It was a very productive day, and we all fell asleep very quickly, ready for our last work day of the week: Saturday!

Day 19: Stress Relief

Hey everyone, Caroline here! Now that our little vacation in Mumbai is over, we have been very eager to spend this next week finishing all of our work before we head back to the United States.  We started the day with an early-ish wake up and after enjoying some jam sandwiches, we hit the road for work. The whole team easily fell asleep for the ride to the office while I blasted through levels of Candy Crush.

Since we did not have WiFi in Mumbai, we spent part of the morning posting the previous days’ blogs.  We then packed up and headed to Dolatpura to chat with Sumitraben. Since her grandson was visiting, we offered to do a baby photoshoot and they immediately changed his clothes and combed his hair for the occasion.

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The team chatting with Sumitraben and her family
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Sumitraben’s grandson, Vivek. (still cannot make him smile)

The team later returned to the office to go over notes and prepare for the next few days of material sourcing for the water technology project.  We headed to the canteen for a delicious lunch and Keny got to have one of her favorite after lunch snacks, dhana daar. She was thrilled and said it reminded her of childhood.

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Keny at lunch

After an afternoon of office work, we headed back to the guest house to be greeted by a nice dinner of pav bhaji courtesy of Sanjay.  We all headed to our rooms to relax on our own for a bit and soak up some AC.  I was doing some work on my laptop when the power suddenly went out and had it not been for the light from my screen, I probably would have panicked.

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This is what I look liked for the first 5 minutes of the power outage.

We all gathered in one room and tried to stay as cool as possible, alternating whose phone would light the room.  After a solid hour of lying down I had the brilliant suggestion (if I do say so myself) of having the boys venture out to retrieve ice cream for all of us.  Of course, as soon as they returned, we were reprieved of our sweaty states, but nonetheless enjoyed the sweet treat for the night!

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Vivek and Nilesh looking cute as can be!

Day 18: Pam’s Art Show vs Mumbai Art Gallery

Hey everyone, Colby here! On Wednesday we were sadly leaving Mumbai in the afternoon, but before that, we had a little more fun. In the morning, we decided to go to a little café called The Nutcracker, where we ate delicious  breakfasts even including a plate of breakfast quesadillas and pancakes! Once we were full from breakfast, we headed to the Taj Hotel: a famous hotel in Mumbai with a beautiful, luxurious exterior and interior, situated directly across from the Gateway of India. I even grabbed a nice pastry from the bakery located inside!

 

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The menu at our yummy breakfast restaurant, The Nutcracker.

 

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A photo of Keny’s delicious breakfast.

 

After our visit to the Taj Hotel, we headed to Jehangir Art Gallery. Inside, we saw many beautiful and interesting pieces of art throughout the gallery’s many rooms. We then took a taxi to the Setco Foundation Mumbai office in another district of the city and met up with Urja, Devna, and Maitreyee. It was great to be welcomed into another Setco office and even nicer to be able to say our final goodbyes to Urja before heading back to Vadodara.

 

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A few photos of amazing street art in Mumbai!

Once we departed from the office, we stopped by a small restaurant called Swati’s Snacks for some of us to grab food on-the-go before our travel back to Vadodara and then we were off on our journey back to the guesthouse in Gujarat! We arrived at dinner time and ate a delicious dinner of maggi noodles and vegetables before everyone fell asleep very early due to our crazy yet exciting few days of travel. We ended the day feeling very grateful to have experienced such an amazing big city, spent time with Urja, interacted with students at ASB, and had such a fun time!

 

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Day 17: Presenting at ASB vs. The Business School

Hi everyone, Keny here! The team started the day on Tuesday with a great breakfast courtesy of our hotel. After breakfast, we were very excited to head to the American School of Bombay (ASB) to present to 9th and 10th graders about our project.

Since we arrived at the school early, we sat down with Urja to chat over some coffee. Then we headed over to the presentation room and were introduced to a few teachers and board members of ASB. After that, we excitedly gave our presentation followed by a question-and-answer panel for the audience of students. Overall, we were very impressed with the level of engagement of the students and how insightful their questions were. It was amazing to hear about some of the CSR work that they have been working on as well and to engage in such an enriching conversation with them.

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Instead of presenting to the business school (like Michael), we presented to ASB students
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Meeting with the Consulate General

After our presentation at ASB, Urja kindly treated us to dessert at Le Pain Quotidien, a cafe in Mumbai’s financial district. I decided to skip dessert and ordered a citrus aloe vera juice with chia seeds (yum!), but the rest of the team indulged in some cakes.  We had a really fun time and got the inside scoop about the best things to do in Mumbai as well as having yet another engaging and thought-provoking conversation with Urja.

We had the whole day to ourselves after that, so we decided to head back to the hotel to relax before exploring more of the city.  Before we ate dinner, we walked down one of Mumbai’s best market streets and did some shopping for more gifts for family and friends. We also made our way to the Gateway of India (similar to the French Arc de Triomphe) and captured some beautiful photos there. For dinner, we chose a restaurant called Irish Pub, which had delicious fondue and sandwiches. To end the night, we took a stroll by the beach on Mumbai’s famous promenade- Marine Drive. Caroline and I also tried watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” back at the hotel but we immediately fell asleep.

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Markets in Mumbai

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)  

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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.

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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!).

 

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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!

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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!