Day 5: Señor Loadenstein

Hey everyone, Keny here again! We began the day bright and early at 6:45 AM. Sanjaybhai cooked us a delicious breakfast consisting of fresh mango and puda (a vegetarian omelette made with chickpea flour and veggies). After breakfast, we left for another day at the office. We were especially excited to go on the walk to the water source for mota faliya with Kusumben at 9:30 AM (before it got too hot).

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Once we reached the office, we strategized for the day and our objectives. We then left to Barola to go walk with Kusumben. Unfortunately, as we spoke with Kusumben’s daughter-in-law Divyaben, we realized that she had already collected the water. Although we did not anticipate that, we quickly changed plans and decided to collect more data for stoves. At least we got an adorable picture of Yosraj (Divyaben’s older son) and their neighbor Sejal. Vipulbhai lead us to various homes in Barola and introduced us to a few stove builders in the community. We were able to gather information regarding the dimensions of the stoves and also document how the women felt during the training process. It was amazing to hear that the women have noticed a reduction in the smoke that they inhale.

After being out in the scorching heat and bright sun, we headed back to the office to begin work for the day regarding the new technology project. We looked at the various designs that we had researched earlier in the week and sketched more versions of each. Throughout the afternoon, we were very pleased with our progress on prototyping and decided that we would head back home an hour early.

Back at the guesthouse, we all decided to have some alone time to relax. Then we ate delicious jeeru rice (a cabbage vegetable dish), yogurt, and roti. After dinner, we headed to Caroline and Nisha’s room to do mehendi (henna). Caroline did a beautiful job even though it was her first time. Then Nisha decided to be basic and write everybody’s name in Gujarati on our wrists (see the “basic” photo below). I was getting impatient and wanted to rub it off but everybody kept telling me that it won’t be dark enough. But let me tell you… as I rubbed it off, it stayed completely black! Gautham then read the packaging and we realized that it was black mehendi (rip). After doing the henna, it was about 10:30 PM so we all decided to get ready for bed as we would be waking up at 5:45 AM to go collect water with Kusumben.

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Setco Factory Lecture Circuit

Hey everyone, Caroline here! I am beyond excited to be in Gujarat, and time is really flying by much faster than I anticipated. We started the day with my favorite breakfast: mango and bataka paua. Then, we left for the office around 8am and Keny and I ran to get in the back seat (these kids don’t know what they’re missing back there) and we got some great videos of water buffalo crossing the street. I will never get over the fact that no one watches the cows and they just know where to go.  

After settling in with some chai at the office, we got straight to work brainstorming prototypes and sketching possible design solutions for New Tech. It was a really productive morning and after taking a short mental break, we jumped right into the Stoves project.

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Before heading to community, we discussed our goals for the visit and how to best obtain the necessary information to continue the expansion phase of this project. We were also lucky enough to be accompanied by Urja and her close friend, Prasad, a well-known yoga teacher. I really look forward to visiting community every day and hearing from all the women. Today was extra special because we had the chance to meet Namrataben’s beautiful daughter, Manvi. This was the first baby the team made smile, which I guess isn’t something to be proud of since we have seen many children now, but better than nothing!

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It was an extremely hot day and while trying to be an attentive interviewer I was jumping back and forth on my feet because they were practically baking on the ground. Nonetheless, we gathered some great data today with Nisha doing the translating, Colby taking the notes…and me trying not to make a fool of myself. We also had some close encounters with the cows as they kept making intense eye contact with Gautham (he was VERY infatuated with them haha).

Once we were back at the Setco office we enjoyed a delicious lunch with the beloved mango rus and the wonderful company of Urja, Prasad, and Gayatriben. We debriefed our visit to community and then joined the workers from Setco Automotive for a presentation about the foundation’s work. They did 1000 times better than Michael Scott on his lecture circuit, but, hey, I can’t pass up a good “The Office” reference.

At about 5pm we wrapped up our work and were greeted at home by Sanjay and a delicious meal of pav bhaji (vegetable gravy with bread). If you can’t tell already, I am enjoying all the food since I think it’s crucial to share all the meals we have throughout the day. After washing up, the girls enjoyed some bonding time doing face masks (Keny even applied mine for me like a true spa treatment). Gautham passed on this great opportunity but I think he can be convinced later. I am looking forward to more great food and plenty more adventures!

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Day 3: New Boss (Urja’s Here!)

What up everyone, it’s Gautham here! We have really been getting more used to life in Gujurat and the morning routine. We started the day around 7 AM, with some delicious Indian sandwiches with jam and butter, watermelon, and mango juice. We left the apartment around 8:30 and headed to the office.
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Upon reaching the office, we began strategizing for both our Stoves and New Technology projects for the upcoming month. We debriefed the work we have accomplished in the past few days and developed some goals for the coming weeks. We also had a chance to discuss material sourcing ideas for our new technology prototype and brainstorm new possible design ideas until lunch.

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Later that day, in the middle of our work, Urja, Salmaben and Rajeshbhai surprised Nisha with a birthday cake! The whole office sang happy birthday to her and we all ate some delicious, rich  chocolate cake. Keny also tried feeding Nisha a piece of cake, but it turned out a little less graciously than intended (it’s ok, it still tasted delicious)!
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After a great lunch we headed back to the office for some preparation for our meeting with Urja (President of SETCO Foundation) and the foundation team. We then headed into the boardroom and waited for our meeting with Urja. Our discussion with Urja and the foundation team was very productive and we laid out the plan for the rest of our trip. We also had a chance to talk about our plans for our trip to Mumbai and our presentation at the American School of Bombay.

After the presentation, we wrapped up for the day and headed back home to the apartment. At the apartment we chilled for a bit in the living room before dinner. Our housekeeper, Sanjay, graciously cooked us a delicious dinner of bhindi (okra), daal (lentils) and bhaat (rice), and roti. After dinner, we headed out on the balcony and witnessed an amazing sunset. Since we wanted to take a break from work for a night, we watched “The Other Guys” until we all passed out from exhaustion for the night.

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That’s all for this post!

 

IT IS [MY] BIRTHDAY.

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Hey everyone, Nisha here! I’m so excited to be back in Gujarat with BLIP again. We started with an early morning…with half of the guesthouse waking up comfortably at 3AM. A few hours later we started our morning with fresh mango, bananas, chai, and bataka paua (a simple Gujarati snack of flattened rice and batata).

Realizing that we were the first ones to arrive in the office, we settled in and prepared for a day of meetings and community visits. We spent the morning combing through old interview notes and modifying our protocols. Once Vipul arrived, we left for Dolatpura.

We met with Sumitraben to get feedback on the stoves training process and introduced our stencil design. It was exciting to get her opinion on the stoves expansion and schedule a future stove build for later in the trip. We also got to see her cute grandson Vivek again, although we were still were unable to make him smile.

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A meeting with Vidhi and Parth served as a nice break between our community visits. Caroline led a great discussion about the future of the stoves design and how we could continue collaborating with the R&D team.

After a quick lunch, we headed off to Barola to introduce the prototype designs to our community partners for the first time. Once we arrived in Nishal faliya, Ramilaben was quick to greet us with a familiar hug and was thrilled to meet our new travel members. We split up the team, with Gautham, Keny, and Devna walking through Nishal faliya to reconnect with the community members while Colby, Caroline, Vipul Bhai, and I interviewed Ramilaben, with her son and neighbors joining the conversation later. It was very comforting to see her enthusiasm about our progress and gave much needed critical feedback on our designs. We were similarly please with our discussion with Kusumben in Mota Faliya, where Keny, Colby, and Devnaben were able to gain her insight on the designs we presented. Vipul led Gautham, Caroline, and I where we stumbled upon a stove (chulha) build. We were fascinated by how quickly and instinctively the two women were constructing the chulha with our design.

After spending several hours in the field, we were ecstatic about how quickly we had made progress. We then decided to leave early and head back to the guesthouse where we were greeted by Setco’s newest intern, Prakash.

With everyone else’s steadfast determination to celebrate my birthday, the team organized a dinner out.

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We headed to the Havmor restaurant ordering everything from gobi manchurian, to pizza, to butter chicken, and finishing the night with a loud rendition of the “happy birthday” song. Caroline was very surprised to find noodles in her ice cream dish (Falooda)! Overall, this was a wonderful way to spend my 20th birthday in Gujarat and I’m looking forward to continue the work at our team.

The Merger of BLIP & Setco aka the Merger of Scranton & Stamford

Hey everyone, it’s Colby, this year’s Trip Lead! We very excitedly started off our first day in the Setco office with yummy omelets made by our lovely caretaker Sanjay. Once we had eaten we headed to the office to meet with the Setco employees for the first time (reminiscent of when the Stamford and Scranton employees first met…?) It was really nice to finally meet so many of the Setco employees for the first time in person! We left in the morning to with Salmaben and Rajeshbai and headed into the communities for the first time.

We first went into Barola where we met with community members and local leadership, including two of our partners, Kusumben and Divyaben. It was great to finally meet her in person and schedule a more formal meeting tomorrow to talk about our progress.

We then headed to Dolatpura to meet with Sumitraben for the first time during this trip. Sumitraben and her two daughters welcomed us into her beautiful home where we immediately spotted her adorable grandson, Vivek. He did not seem as happy to see us (we were Michael Scott and he was a Stamford employee in this scenario) but we loved looking at his cute, chubby cheeks and adorable face! After having countless discussions online with her, it was great being able to interact with Sumitraben and checking in with her on her work as an excellent stove builder in Dolatpura. One of her daughters even asked us if we would like her to do henna on us to which we said absolutely!

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Once we left the communities we headed back to the office to do some work and then eat lunch. Rajeshbai graciously came and ate lunch with us and although we weren’t “Sittin’ in my office with a plate of grilled bacon” like Michael Scott in the Scranton: The Electric City video, we were sitting in the office eating some delicious toover and puri!

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We were able to start our afternoon with a great meeting with Vidhi, a Setco R&D employee with whom we work closely on the stoves project and planned for our future work during this trip. We finished up our work during the rest of the afternoon and, in all, had a very productive first day.

Before we went home to finish our day and eat dinner, we stopped by Crossword, a local bookstore, in order to buy a few reading books and get Keny a much needed notebook. We headed back to the guesthouse after that and finished up work before heading to bed, regardless of the massive celebration happening outside of our windows. Fireworks outside were an interesting sound as we fell asleep!

Day 1: Kevin’s Spilled Chili vs. Keny’s Spilled Ras (Mango Puree)

Hey everyone, Keny here! This May, Caroline, Colby, Nisha, Gautham, and I have been fortunate to travel to Gujarat with the BLUElab India Project. We were very lucky to have smooth and safe travels into Gujarat. Once we reached Ahmedbad, the team met Nisha’s grandpa and uncle along with my uncle, greeting us with snacks and SIM cards – you know, the essentials.
Once we arrived at the guesthouse, the team rested for a few hours after freshening up. Although we were still quite jetlagged, everyone took only short naps in order to sleep through the night. Nattubhai, one of the Setco drivers, graciously brought us a delicious traditional Gujarati meal of lentils, rice, vegetables, and roti (daal, bhaat, shaak, roti). As Gujaratis, Nisha and I excitedly explained what each dish was. Luckily, everyone enjoyed the lunch and especially my favorite, ras, mango puree.

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After lunch, we each began clearing the dining table and I decided to help out with putting the container of ras in the fridge. As I went to place it in the shelf, my finger slipped and the entire tub flipped upside down (I’m sure you saw this coming from me). Caroline immediately mentioned: “Hey this is like The Office scene when Kevin spills all of his chilli!” At this point everyone is dying and rolling on the ground laughing as I am feeling terrible for making a mess. So I began cleaning the Ras up, meanwhile Nisha and Gautham were laughing incessentally and taking terrible photos of me. After the filling lunch, we watched a movie and everyone dozed off for a nice 45 minute nap before waking up around dinner time.

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For dinner Nattubhai took us to a well-known Indian chain restaurant Honest. Even though we ordered mild, the curry was still slightly too spicy (rip). After driving around Vadodra after dinner, we headed back to pick up our luggage and move to a new guesthouse. After settling in, we explored the balconies and enjoyed the new view, later sitting down to discuss the upcoming two days. We reiterated our objectives and are very excited to introduce the new travelers to the Setco team and the communities, Barola and Dolatpura! To say the least, we had a pretty eventful first day back in India!  

 

Day 8: Kuvo (Well)

A-suhhh everyone, Div here, reporting on what happened December 30, 2017!

So I think I’ve gotten used to showering with approximately 3 minutes of hot water, and then 8 minutes of lukewarm-cold water – just as this trip winds down. I am thriving. Breakfast was amazing – as usual, and the car ride was long – as usual.

After finishing up some office work, we headed out to Medapur and Jetpur, two communities that we have expanded our stove design into. DSC_0177.JPG

There, I got the opportunity to talk with some of the stove builders in the community, and ask them questions about our stove design. It was amazing seeing these women feel so passionate about the work they are doing, and they had a lot of input and ideas for the expansion of our project.

Having spent a couple hours in the field, we went back to the office for lunch. Man, I could get used to eating Indian food, there’s nothing quite like it. After an enormous lunch, we sat down with the entire R&D team and their new head to explain what exactly BLUElab India Project is. It was an extremely productive conversation, as we received a lot of input on how to improve our current stove design to increase its lifespan.

Then, we headed out to Barola for another interview to identify a new technology partner family. Keny had a fantastic conversation with the women of the house, and obtained a lot of important information. We were also able to walk to a few different wells that the community members obtain water from.

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An exhausting day indeed. We got back home and ate some delicious pav bhajji courtesy of Harishbhai. Then we had a call with the team back in the good ole’ U S of A. It was exciting to update them on all the progress we were able to make during the trip. I wanted to sleep, but Keny and Kabir decided to watch some food documentary about meat. Not applicable to me because I’m vegetarian anyways.

Happy almost New Year’s Eve – be sure to make resolutions that you break two weeks into the new year! Catch you in a while, alligator.

 

 

Day 7: Paani (Water)

Hello everyone, Keny here again! We started out the morning with Harishbhai’s lovely breakfast. After breakfast, we were on our way to the office for an exciting day: Urja was going to be in town!

Upon arrival at the office, we prepared a Mid Trip Update presentation to share with Urja. At around 11:30 AM, we met with her and a few Setco team members to discuss the team’s progress thus far. We were fortunate to receive positive feedback from Urja and the team. With that said,overall we had a very productive meeting.

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After the meeting, we had lunch planned with Urja, Rajeshbhai, and Gayatriben at the Setco canteen. Rajeshbhai was very kind enough to share his own mango rus, a cold dish made from mango pulp. Even though I served myself a second time, Rajeshbhai continued to insist that I take more even though my stomach could not handle it.

After a very fulfilling lunch, the team was very excited to go to Nishal Faliya in Barola to document the path that the women take to obtain their drinking water. By taking the actual path that the women take, we were able to document the terrain, any obstacles, and the water source.

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To cool down, we headed back to the office and transcribed our notes from the meeting with Urja. Before wrapping up the day at the office, Urja warmly invited us to have dinner  at her place. To say the least, we had an amazing dinner and an insightful conversation about cryptocurrencies with Urja’s husband. After dinner, we headed back to the guest house and immediately passed out after.

 

 

Day 6: Vaat (Talk)

Hi-lo world it’s Kabir back at it reporting what happened the 28th of December. The day started off with the coveted cup of chai and some stellar Maggi noodles that we completely demolished. As soon as we arrived at the office, we sat down with Vidhi and Parth (individuals from Setco R&D that we work with) and updated them on the conversations we had in Mota Faliya. We briefly went over how to expand to 1000 stoves and incorporate design changes the user requires to divert smoke outside of their kitchen.

We quickly grabbed lunch after the conversation and headed off to Barola for three scheduled interviews in Nishal faliya. While Keny and Devna (a new face on the Setco team who studied communication) interviewed the women on shaded porches, Rajeshbhai, Div, and I interviewed the men inquiring about daily water consumption outside. To Rajeshbhai, the weather was “cold,” thus he was wearing a vest and long sleeve shirt in 87 degree weather. Meanwhile Div and I were sweating profusely clinging onto our water bottles as if our lives depended on it.

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After 3 hours in the blistering heat we conducted all of the interviews and headed back to the office for some much needed AC. While there, we planned on treating ourselves out for dinner to Barbeque Nation, a destination Keny only dreamed of going to.  Our team has been fortunate enough to be taken out to dinner by the foundation team to the restaurant in the past and it is quite the experience. For one flat fee you get unlimited skewered appetizers that would make any kebab shop envious. After eating far too much food, we head back to the guesthouse to continue work and go over our schedule for the next day. Till next time.

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Day 4 and 5: Gaam (Village) and Parivaar (Family)

Hey everyone Keny here!  We apologize that we were unable to upload a blog for the 26th; we had a super jam packed day consisting of building a chula (stove) with Sumitraben and conducting interviews.

I’m sure you were waiting for the Gujarati word of the day, which we decided should be gaam (village) because that was the day that I visited a village for the first time.

Upon arrival, at the office we planned our entire day before we were on our way visit to the community of Barola for the first time.

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Visiting Barola was particularly exciting as it was Div and I’s first time interacting with Barola’s community members. We both had the opportunity to brush up on our Gujarati as we set up times to interview with women of potential partner families.

Once we left the community, we headed back to the office for a delicious traditional Gujarati lunch with the Setco team. After lunch, we met with a few Setco members to discuss the plan for the 1000 stoves expansion by 2018, which was very thought-provoking and productive.

After leaving the office, Devna and Gayatriben kindly invited us to dinner and to watch a new Hindi Bollywood film: “Tiger Zinda Hai,” AKA Kabir’s favorite Hindi movie now. Now I will hand it over to Div, who will share what we did on Dec. 27th!

 

Thanks Keny – hello everyone, Div here again. We had an absolutely jam-packed schedule today (12/27/2017).

The morning was normal – coffee, tea, the whole shebang. After we got to the office, we finished up some logistical work with the interview questions for the community members.  Then, Salamaben offered to take us to the Panch Mahotsav Festival. It was essentially a huge field filled with stalls that sold handmade crafts, art, and a ton of food. Experiencing this aspect of Indian culture was amazing, because none of us had an idea of the intricate designs that could be created by hand.

After that, we headed back to the office to grab a quick lunch and then headed to Dolatapura to build a stove with Sumitraben and Manjulaben. Let me tell you, these are two of the smartest women I have ever worked with. It was an amazing opportunity being able to help make the stove – kneading the maati, forming the bricks, and creating a chulha from scratch.

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Being the stoves project co-lead, it was everything I could have imagined while interacting with our community partners. The experience, intuition, and skill that they have in creating the stove, left me in absolute awe.

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Afterwards, we headed to Mota Failya in Barola to conduct interviews with potential partner families.

Kabir, Salmaben, and I talked to a few male community members, while Keny and Devna (SETCO representative) conducted the female interview questions. Overall, it was a fantastic discussion and there was a ton of information gathered.

Salmaben took us out for dinner with some people from the office, and needless to say I put on another 3 pounds.

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She has taken care of us so well these past few days, she made India feel like home and SETCO feel like a true family.

We ended the day playing some cards, which was a great time and I don’t think I’ve laughed that much since I watched “IT” on the plane. It just wasn’t scary at all.

Anyways, we’ll be back soon with more updates for you all. Peace out girl scout and hi mom!