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!
After this weekend’s epic journey we decided to have a more chill day. Erica stayed home sick while Mitch, Mike, Jon, Zoha, and I left for the Setco Factory at 10:30.
Around noon, Zoha and I went to a workshop for adolescent girls. When we walked in, they were doing an activity on communication skills. However we were so tired that our communication skills were sub-par and we spent most of our time quietly sitting with the girls while they cut out pictures from magazines and wrote down the emotions of the people in the pictures. After that activity we left for lunch at the factory.
After lunch, the boys (Jon, Mitch, Viral, and Mike) went to Dolatpura to talk to some of the men of the town to try to set up a formal interview. There were a bunch of kids and teenagers hanging out at the end of the street and they invited the boys over to talk. They talked about our weekend adventure to Gir and showed them some pictures, and then they got to talking about the town drainage system. Few days before we checked out the drains and noticed a lot of blockage and debris. Sangeeta Ben, in our formal interview with her, also talked about how waste water removal is a big problem. But when the team asked the boys on the street, they said they thought it was clean. According to Mike, it seemed like the people of the village have better things to do than worry about junk in the drainage system. Apparently, it is the local government’s job to clean it. Prakash said that the government came by only six days ago to clean the streets, but the drains looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in at least a month. They walked down the road to where some bricks were sitting in the drain. When the team asked about that, the villagers explained that whoever put the bricks there didn’t want their neighbor’s dirty water passing in front of their house. The team asked about what Prakash did with his wastewater. He has his own drainage ditch that goes into fields to which he adds boric acid to kill insects.
The team also asked about Prakash’s wood stove which sits outside under a thatched roof in the back of their house. The ceiling was blackened and Prakash said he had to replace it once a year. They asked if he was bothered by the smoke and he replied that it was only bad for about the first five minutes, but otherwise it doesn’t bother him much. They also asked him if he cooked and he said he didn’t. When we talked to another woman she said that the smoke from cooking really bothered the eyes and lungs. We are starting to see a disconnect between the men and women with what they think the biggest problems in the town are. It’s something we’ve been warned about so we will be looking into it more throughout the rest of the week.
With only four days left, our trip is nearing an end. The pressure is now on to find a solid project idea to pitch to the Setco Foundation. Ever since we started focusing on a small community we have been able to more accurately pinpoint needs in the community. I’m waiting for that eureka moment when we figure out exactly the problem we want to tackle. I feel pretty confident that it will come, the way things are going. We’re getting a lot better at asking questions and people are become more comfortable in talking to us.