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.

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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!

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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.

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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!  

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

 

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!