Day 4: A Day in Dolatpura!

Hey Everyone! This is Erica. I am pretty excited to be back in Gujarat. I’ve missed the food, the colors, and the noise. I think I can even say that the heat (108 degrees F today!) is bearable.

Today was our first day in Dolatpura. We spent a couple hours in the morning seeing all of our old friends and partners. It was exciting for me to see familiar faces (both at the factory and in Dolatpura). I even remembered some names! We wandered around Dolatpura visiting some houses and waving at people. All of the girls remembered me drawing the animals and made me get out my notebook.


One cool thing we saw were some monkeys (“vandro”) running through the village, jumping on the roofs, and drinking out of people’s water buckets. People threw rocks to keep them from stealing water. When the monkeys ran on the corrugated metal roofs, they made loud banging noises. At this point we were visiting Jenabhai’s family. His son told us that sometimes the monkeys damage the houses. I started to imagine the effect of having squirrels the size of small children running around and climbing trees in Michigan. I bet Michigan Squirrel Club would love that!


We also visited the woman who builds stoves, Sumitraben. She told us that she is planning on building a stove for her own house sometime soon; she said that we could watch. When we asked if we could help, everyone in the room laughed. We’ll see! Everyone in Dolatpura was excited because Sumitraben’s daughter is getting married this week. The wedding will last three days. Preparations were being made and music was playing in the streets. It is so exciting to be around at such a festive time!

I sat in on a talk about dreams with some of the girls in the village while the rest of the group played cricket outside in the street. Then, they dragged me out and made me play too. I felt super awkward with a cricket bat, but all the boys love to teach us how to play and don’t care that I am a beginner.


After visiting Dolatpura, we went back to the factory for a meal in the canteen. We quenched our thirst with Maaza mango juice and Thums Up cola. Yay for delicious Gujarati food!



Day 25: Also Know as “Day A LOT”

Namaste! This is Erica checking in for day 25. Today was my second day back in the office after taking Monday off. I got pretty sick on the drive home from Gir and was up all night trying to recover. Needless to say, not really a story for the blog, but if you’re super curious about the gory details I can fill you in some other time.

Today was an exciting day because we had two formal interviews planned and also we had a presentation to the villagers scheduled for the afternoon. Lately, we’ve been splitting up our groups based on gender. We’ve found that this leads to better formal interviews because a woman is more willing to talk openly about her life with Zoha, Brianna, and I. As for the male team members, I think having us females around just cramps their style (that is a joke. Side note, but kind of not a side note: observing the gender roles here has been fascinating to me. I would like to talk to more people and do more research so that I can speak more intelligently about them); the men of Dolatpura seem pretty willing to speak their minds regardless of who is in the room. At 11 am, the males went to interview Andu bhai (a 63 year old man who still climbs 20 meter palm trees), while the females interviewed Parvati ben at her home. 

A bunch of Parvati’s female neighbors also came in to listen and the security guard from SETCO was kind enough to hang out outside. Parvati ben was much more shy than Sangeeta ben. She also expressed some frustration with the intricate dance that is our translation process. Women have said to us on multiple occasions that it would be easier to connect with us if we could speak their language, but we have also all collectively agreed that we are doing our best under the circumstances. A smile, a few animal names, and some noises to accompany the names later: connection made.

Zoha has been kind and patient enough to do an incredible amount of translation, but it still gets exhausting at times. I was really proud today to realize that I could occasionally figure out what people were saying based on a little bit of prior knowledge (from the other women we had talked to), some context clues, and their hand gestures and body language. That was pretty exciting. Additionally, in order to clear the foggy translation process, I speak directly to the woman we are interviewing when I ask questions. Even though she likely does not understand my English, I think it is really important to show respect for people by speaking to them. I realized early in the trip that some of my teammates were not doing this, so I pointed it out. 

After the interviews, we headed back to the SETCO factory canteen and had arguably one of the best meals we have had there (I think we say this everyday). Then, we tromped up to the office to gear up for the afternoon’s presentation. About halfway through the trip, we decided that we weren’t going to run a formal workshop while we were here because we did (and likely still don’t) understand cultural nuances enough to claim (deserve?) attention from anyone. In spite of that decision, we decided that giving a presentation would be beneficial to us so that we could learn how people respond to a more formal group setting so that in the event that we give workshops in coming years, we would have somewhat of a base. In addition, we wanted one more chance to let everyone know where we are from, why we are here, what our plans are, and what we hope for our relationship with the community.

We arrived at the presentation to find quite the setup. Jena bhai had rigged the front porch of his home and those of his neighbors into a screening room. The SETCO Foundation had provided a projector so that we could add visual aids to our presentation. The audience was mostly women and children, but, as time went on, men began to gather in the back of the room. It was exciting to see the familiar faces of people whose homes we had visited (we knew their names too! That is another thing that I have emphasized to myself. Remember EVERYONE’s name). We gave our spiel and then, as orange pop was being served to everyone in the crowd, asked for questions. Throughout our trip, we had mostly been referencing our project as research about water and this presentation was the first time where we had explicitly stated that we were hoping to co-design technology with the help of the community. People were incredibly receptive to this prospect and were excited that a group will also be returning next year. It is interesting that people are so honored that we are visiting their homes and talking to them because we are so honored that people are being so friendly and letting us in.

When Mitch, Mike and Jon went to talk to Duda bhai in the afternoon, they were much more candid about our project ideas and about our perception of the needs in the town. This led to some extremely good input about our ideas and observations thus far. More to follow, I think this post is getting a little long. I got carried away. Like Passion Pit. 

Headed home to Vadodara. Mitch and Erica walked to store. For some reason, they don’t sell Crest toothpaste in India. Learned that poster board is called char paper. I think we may be becoming regulars at the grocery store. The cashier might have smiled with recognition today.

We’re stilling hanging in there! Avjo!


Disclaimer: Title courtesy of Jon because apparently my original title was “socially unacceptable”. 

Day 17: Learning Animal Names

Hi all: this is Erica checking in for day 17.

On Tuesday, we went back to Dolatpura for a second consecutive time. During this visit, we were hoping to meet with the municipal water pump operator, but we found out when we got there that he would not be joining us. In addition, the patient and kind Surpanch, Arjun, was headed to a wedding in a neighboring town, so he would not be showing us around. We are getting used to last minute changes in plan, so we elected to wander and meet some families under the guidance of Arjun’s younger brother, Jaideep.

Most people (and by most I mean pretty much all) in Dolatpura are farmers, with very strict daily routines. People wake up early to farm and then nap in the afternoon. Women do chores for pretty much the entirety of the day. We are still figuring out how exactly to interact with people in the village without imposing on them. People are so hospitable that it seems as though it would be against their cultural values to refuse to invite us to their home to speak to them; however, we create such a large commotion and disrupt their daily schedule. In addition, it is wedding season, so things are already quite hectic.

We talked this over with Priyank and Gayatri and we decided to split up the group and speak to less families. We also decided to ask the anganwadi worker, Sangeeta, if she would be willing to let the girls in our group interview her. We can figure out a time that works for her and go from there.

One technique that I have found engages people is learning animal names. We had some downtime in the anganwadi when we were waiting for the pump operator, so I took out my notepad and started drawing animals. I made some friends (a crowd of blushing little girls and one bold one) who taught me the Gujarati names for all the animals I drew. Then, as I was walking around the village, I pointed at animals and tried out all the animal names. With this new-found game, I have expanded my vocabulary to include words such as buffalo, cat, and snake.

After another awesome lunch in the canteen at SETCO, we decided to have recess. We threw the frisbee around for a while on the grass before we went inside to reflect and work. Having some down time in the middle of the day definitely helped our productivity in the afternoon.

In the evening, we headed over to Salmaben’s house for a lovely non-vegetarian dinner. We love Ramesh’s food, but it was nice to get some meat. Salmaben’s nephews were super cool and filled us in on all the rules of cricket. As the cricket match we were watching was on national television, there were commercials for alcoholic drinks. I found it interesting to watch these commercials in Gujarat, a dry state. The cricket match also gave us a taste of pop culture in India. I find it interesting to compare American commercials with Indian ones.

That’s all for now!