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”.