College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota
College of Science and Engineering
http://cse.umn.edu/

India 2013

Jan 18, 13

Namaste. See you again . . .

When our group of 15 students arrived at the Minneapolis airport three weeks ago, we barely knew each other. As the instructor, I was unsure how we would fare when faced with the culture shock and unpredictability of India. Now, returning, I can report that the trip was a success beyond my expectations. The students were fully open to the experience; their enthusiasm, curiosity, patience, and spirit were inspiring. They were as comfortable in the world-class ITC hotel and the US Embassy as in slums and rural villages. More than anything, the group came with the empathy to listen to the thoughts, concerns, hopes, and dreams of the people we met. This inspiration is something I bring home from the trip.

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Jan 17, 13

A Beginning to an End

WE ARE GOING HOME TODAY!!!! This morning started as an early morning of packing and making sure we were all ready to travel back to Minnesota. With two lectures, lunch at the US embassy and one field visit left, everyone was anxious to get our day started.

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Jan 17, 13

Where is Delhi?

These were the words of the security guard outside the Delhi International Airport. When taken out of context, they prove quite frightening! As is customary at the Delhi airport, one must show a receipt upon entering the airport as only passengers are allowed to enter. Our receipts weren't quite up to par with the expectations of the guard at the airport, and his primary complaint was, "Where is Delhi?" Such a question made me think, "We have a lot bigger problems than getting into this airport."

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Jan 15, 13

Public Health in the Developing World

After lunch, we took a bus ride to the north of Delhi where we continued our discussion on air pollution and public health concerns in Delhi. We revisited a number of issues and concepts regarding quality of life indicators, like housing, food security, poverty and public health.

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Jan 15, 13

Quality of the Delhi Air

In the morning we found ourselves back at TERI University for a series of three lectures about transportation issues and air pollution, and of course our favorite cups of chai. After just a few minutes of discussion, I was thankful we heard the air quality information statistics on one of the last days here.

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Jan 14, 13

Social Well-Being and Waste Management

After lunch, we toured the multiple buildings that house the operations of Goonj, an organization that redistributes clothing to people in need.

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Jan 14, 13

Managing Waste in Delhi

Today's topic was waste management, and understandably, we were in for a long day. One of the first things that you notice in Delhi is that in virtually every gutter, behind every fence, and in every vacant lot, you will find heaps of garbage strewn about by nearby homes and the casual litterer.

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Jan 13, 13

Social Entrepreneurship Workshop

The primary goal of a social enterprise is to address a social need that has not been given enough attention. This is one of the things we learned at our social entrepreneurship workshop today with Meena Vaidyanathan at Teri University.

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Jan 12, 13

Social Entrepreneurship and Transformational Thinking

Today we once again made the journey to Teri University, this time to learn about social entrepreneurship. I was particularly interested in the presentation given by Anna de Costa, "System Change and the Role of Enterprise." She discussed the present challenges facing our society in terms of systems, outlining the interconnectedness between problems and the paths to solutions. Anna pointed to the research of Donella Meadows, discussing twelve leverage points, or locations within a system which can be altered to affect the greatest change. These leverage points can be of different types: physical, informational, social, or transformational.

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Jan 12, 13

Social Entrepreneurship at Teri University

Today we once again made the journey to Teri University, this time to learn about social entrepreneurship. I was particularly interested in the presentation given by Anna de Costa, "System Change and the Role of Enterprise." She discussed the present challenges facing our society in terms of systems, outlining the interconnectedness between problems and the paths to solutions.

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Jan 12, 13

Time to Relax

There are no words to describe this night... other than "classic."

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Jan 11, 13

Water Treatment and Elephants

Another bus ride to Teri University started off our morning, all of us excited for the half cup of chai that is almost guaranteed upon arrival.

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Jan 10, 13

Basti Slum Heritage Walk

After a very interesting, indescribable morning, our afternoon and evening was spent navigating the labyrinths of another Delhi slum: Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. I had come to Delhi with the preconceived notion that India's slums might entail similar layouts to each other and be structurally comparable, but again I find myself surprised by the unique character of this particular informal settlement.

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Jan 10, 13

"Smile you are at Sulabh."

As you can verify with the other students, I have been unable to control my excitement for today's planned activities for the past week. Today was finally the day we were going to the Sulabh International Toilet Museum. With images of a 2 year-old girl defecating on the sidewalk and numerous men and women relieving themselves on the side of a busy road ingrained in my memory, in addition to mastering my "favorite" games of human waste minesweeper and "human or animal?" scat identification during many roadside walks, I boarded the bus anxious to learn more about Sulabh's current efforts to address open defecation in India.

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Jan 9, 13

Our Own TED Talk

Our day started with tea, as usual. 

I came to India to be challenged, and the program has not let me down. Today was especially challenging. In addition to visiting many slums in the afternoon, we discussed challenges surrounding access to water in our morning lectures. It's challenging to pinpoint reliable and accurate data sources when measuring all people in India or the world, including people living in informal settlements. Read more...


Jan 9, 13

May the FORCE be with you

The Forum for Organized Resource Conservation and Enhancement (FORCE) led us on a tour today to a number of sites to investigate different ways people cope with the water shortage in Delhi.

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Jan 8, 13

Adventure Island

By David Giacomin

Well, we didn't find the island, but a theme park will do in lieu. Today's theme was public transportation in Delhi. Split up into our four groups, we navigated Delhi's public transit facilities to reach various destinations in the state of Delhi. Our group's destination was Adventure Island, a theme park in the northwest. 30 kilometers away? 2 hours away.

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Jan 8, 13

Teri University

Another day passes and with it another journey full of memories and incredible sights implants itself in my head. Bargain shopping in the local markets, getting lunch with new friends, and befriending rickshaw drivers culminates into a perfect off day before starting fresh this morning.

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Jan 8, 13

A city of barriers

"I see Delhi as a city of barriers," our facilitator from micro Home Solutions made my thoughts more eloquent than my sleep deprived mind could have as we walked through the cramped streets of Govind Puri, an informal settlement in Delhi. Despite a hectic day of travel yesterday and relatively sleepless night, we were on the bus by 8:45 a.m., and on our way to a slum workshop with the social entrepreneurs responsible for micro Home Solutions (mHS).

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Jan 7, 13

Quality of Life Index - Group Projects

The afternoon starts off with each group conducting interviews with the local residents of the community. Group B, or Bollywood, or bagels, or baseball, as we have come accustomed too, decides to conduct interviews with numerous different types of people in order to come up with a very diverse and interesting index. We manage to talk to some local women, a shop owner, some young adults, and even some teenagers and children. We gather various pieces of information from each of them in hopes of somehow making a quality of life index that could be widely used throughout different communities and even around the world.

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Jan 7, 13

Micro Home Solutions

Go Vikings!

Today starts off with a few students waking up extremely early in order to watch their beloved Minnesota Vikings in playoff action. While the excitement builds, we soon divert our attention to the daily tasks at hand and board the bus en route to the headquarters of micro Home Solutions (mHS) once again. When we arrive, we are greeted with the customary warm welcome and asked the one question that has yet to receive a negative response: do you want some chai?

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Jan 5, 13

Women for Water

Before I came to India, I heard the following about how the process of cultural acclimation goes:

1. We eat with our hands??!!

2. :) We eat with our hands!!!

3. We eat with our hands.

I think I'm at step 2: starting to learn a few things about India and excited to share them when I get home.

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Jan 5, 13

A slum in the eyes of students

We arrived at Katha in the late morning, which is an innovative school for the under served children in some of the informal settlements in Delhi. A group of about 20 students from Katha was there to welcome us. The students went around and introduced themselves and told us where they lived. Then we all introduced ourselves and told them about Minnesota. We were all assigned to accompany a small group of students, who were instructed to show us their homes, their favorite place, and something they would change in the community.

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Jan 4, 13

Meeting self-help groups in Pipra

Today we were fortunate enough to journey to one more village, Pipra, and meet with three representatives from self-help groups (SHG's) who, along with Salomi's patient translation, shared their success stories in the community.

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Jan 4, 13

"Not all of us are dam engineers."

If you are looking to avoid the long, wide-eyed dramatic glances in Hindi drama shows, not even remote villages that aren't connected to the energy grid are safe. Ending the day in Rampur, the country's first rural village powered by solar energy, we were able to witness the unique juxtaposition of traditional rural life with the aspiration for luxuries once reserved for urban life. Street lights powered by a photovoltaic array light up narrow pathways spotted with cow dung.

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Jan 3, 13

Village Dhikauli: Watershed Management and Home Gardens

Our third day in Orchha begins with the now familiar haze of fog, hot and delicious chai, and breakfast with a review of the previous day thrown into the mix. As we warm up in our conference room, we get an explanation of the caste system here in India, which as our comprehension level (aka, slightly confused) indicates is extremely complex and nuanced.

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Jan 3, 13

Seeing Development Alternatives in Action

After a long morning learning about Development Alternatives and touring the TARAgram campus, we had a chance to see some examples of what DA was actually doing in the field. Our stomachs full from another satisfactory lunch, we ventured out to the city of Orchha for the afternoon and evening.

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Jan 2, 13

TARAgram facility tour

The morning opened with a presentation of the history and purpose of Development Alternatives, the organization that TARAgram stems from (www.devalt.org). Development Alternatives was established in 1983 with the goal of developing business models and managing processes that create economic, social and environmental value on a large, sustainable scale.

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Jan 1, 13

Train Ride from Agra to Jhansi

The long train ride from Agra to Jhansi turned out to be an unexpected opportunity to learn more about Indian culture.

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Jan 1, 13

TARAgram and an Introduction to Sustainable Rural Development

We meet our hosts at TARAgram. TARA is an acronym which stands for Technology and Action for Rural Advancement. Gram means village. TARAgram belongs to Development Alternatives, a group that leads sustainable rural development programs.

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Dec 31, 12

CURE Heritage Walk

Today began (seemingly right where yesterday ended) with a 4 a.m. wake-up call to board a train headed for Agra and the Taj Mahal. Considering that tonight is New Year's Eve, we've decided that our sleeping cycles may not approach "normal" until next week.

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Dec 31, 12

Agra Fort & Taj Mahal: A Day of History

These first few days in India we've been playing the tourist role and the history here is almost overpowering. Luckily we've had a wonderful guide who attempts to paint a picture of what we are looking at or where we are standing.

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Dec 30, 12

A Trip Through the Streets of Old Delhi

We get a glimpse of a very different city culture as we walk through the streets of Old Delhi. We share the narrowest streets with pedestrians, bicyclists, mopeds, stray dogs, and the occasional cow.

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Dec 30, 12

Day 1 - Old Delhi and Food

Today was our first day exploring India. Even though we didn't get to bed until roughly 2:30 a.m., most of us were awake well before our 10 a.m. brunch meeting. I was able to go on a walk in the Haus Khas park with John, Rob, and Dan, which was interesting and fun; however, I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that the highlight of the morning was breakfast.

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Dec 29, 12

Namaste Delhi!

Months of preparation, 24 hours of air travel, a short walk through customs, and the CSE India winter course has begun! An interdisciplinary group of 15 UMN-Twin Cities students (CSE, HHH, CFANS) and civil engineering professor Julian Marshall arrived safely in Delhi, India December 29 on a crisp, foggy evening. After snapping a quick picture (below), we headed straight for a taste of Indian chai tea and veg snacks at our guest house. Even after a long trip and jetlag, the students are beaming with excitement as they look forward to the next three weeks of discovery.

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Dec 20, 12

Design for Sustainable Development: Discovery

DEC. 28, 2012-JAN. 17, 2013

The world is faced with complex, but solvable, challenges. To make real changes, students and professionals must be prepared to collaborate across academic disciplines, continents, time zones, and cultures. They must also understand the role of governments, NGOs, communities, and other stakeholders in implementing solutions.

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