Friday, October 28, 2011

Hindu Challah

First Attempt at Hindu Challah: Fail.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to see Kritika and her mom, grandma, and aunt!  We went to a popular temple, Shreenathji, which is about an hour from Udaipur (more on that later).  I thought that seeing Kritika and her family would be the perfect occasion to bake my first loaf of bread in India.  However, ovens are very hard to find around here.  I was telling this to Gaurav, my host brother, and he said that Preeti (my host mother) actually has a little oven--perfect!  On the morning of the day that Kritika was arriving to Udaipur, I set to work making Hindu challah--I say it is 'Hindu' because I made it eggless since Kritika's family, like many Hindus, do not eat any meat, including eggs.  Perhaps 'eggless challah' is somewhat of an oxymoron, but oh well!  :)

I shaped my loaves and let them rise and then Preeti Ji took out her oven, which I then realized could not have been more than 4 inches tall AND that it had one temperature setting...oops!  At this point, I knew the bread would not turn out right, but of course, I was still going to experiment, especially since Preeti Ji was encouraging me to hurry up and squash the loaves flatter so they would fit inside the oven and to use the oven quickly incase the power goes out.  After squashing the challah into fat pancakes and putting it on the oven, Preeti Ji informed me that it should be done in 10 minutes...this is when I realized that the one temperature setting that the oven has is REALLY high!  So I checked back in 15 minutes or so and the outside of the bread was burning!  We unplugged the oven and let it bake in the lower temperature for awhile.  I was going to continue plugging and unplugging the oven in order to bake the challah, but then the power went out!  In the end, the challah was a bit under-baked inside (and very squashed haha) but still tasted alright--although it certainly looked very funny!  I left a loaf with my host family and brought one with me to see Kritika and her family!

I have since learned that my Hindi teacher, Madhu, has a toaster oven.  It is very small, but I could make it work to redeem my Hindu challah!  I was all set to bake today, but then Madhu told me that the top coil of the oven does not work.  Of course!  Not sure now if I will bother reviving my Eric Pallant sourdough starter that I dried and brought with me (sorry Eric!)...unless I befriend a baker at one of the bakeries in town!  :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Biogas Chai

Biogas chai with my coworker, Jamnada, and interviewee, Rupibai

My overall goal for my work at the Foundation for Ecological Security is to expand their sustainable energy initiatives in the rural areas in order to reduce the rural population's dependence on unsustainable resources--in this case, primarily wood for cooking and kerosene for lighting.  FES has already worked toward this goal by installing biogas digesters for about 80 households over the last 5-6 years, so one of my projects is to apply for funding to build even more biogas digesters.  In order to do this, I am completing an impact assessment of the biogas digesters already installed by FES in hopes that the assessment will be positive and be good fodder for grant applications.  After an introductory day in the field and some online research, I wrote a survey that, with the help of my coworker, Jamnada, I will distribute to (hopefully) 30 of the households.  The survey asks a lot of questions about the history of their fuel usage, such as "How much wood did you use for cooking before versus after the installation of the biogas digester?"  The idea is that, after the assessment is complete, we will be able to say that FES's biogas digesters reduce wood use by, say, 60%, save women 30 hours of wood collection labor a month, increase crop yields 205, minimize smoke in the household, etc.

A second project is to start new sustainable energy initiatives with FES, e.g. solar PV, solar cooking, microwind, etc.  In order to get a good sense of the energy needs of the community and what technologies would be most suitable, I also wrote a survey that asks households about their general energy use history--what they use as fuel for cooking and lighting, how they transport water, if they are interested in solar PV, rainwater catchment systems, etc.  It's a fairly long survey.  Of course, Jamnada interviews the family in the tribal language, and then write their answers in Hindi, and then attempts to translate to me in English.  His English is a bit difficult to understand, but we have started to hit our stride.  In total the biogas interviews take about 1.5 hrs and the energy interviews take 2 hrs.  We have been completing 2 of each survey a day, so I get back to Udaipur between 6:30 and 8pm on most days.

To complete the surveys, Jamnada and I bop around to the different households on his motorcycle (don't worry mom, I wear a helmet!).  Around 8am, I catch a public bus out to a smaller city, Gogunda.  From there, I walk to FES's cluster office, which is basically a small apartment that FES's employees use for meetings and staying overnight if they have to while working in the field.  Jamnada has been staying there, so I meet him there and then we head off on his motorcycle for about an hour to get to our project region.  From there, we bike to different households (they are all spread out) to complete the interviews.

Here are some photos to get a sense of what we've seen out there in the field.

Biogas Digester.  Cow dung and water is put in the hole in the front, the dome is the digester where the gas rises and goes through the tube to the stove in the kitchen, and the slurry comes out the rectangular outlet and is used as fertilizer.

The animals are kept very close to the inlet, making it convenient to carry the dung to the inlet.

This is Indrabai cooking wheat chipati on her biogas cookstove.

This is Laxibai cooking with a soil burner (wood stove) on the right and with her biogas stove on the left.  We are obviously trying to get the households to stop using the soil burners altogether.  So, why is she using wood if she has the clean biogas burner?  Many of the households do not like the biogas stove for cooking certain kinds of food, mainly mez (maiz) chipati.  From what I have gathered, it seems that it is partly about flavor and partly that the biogas stove takes too long for cooking the mex chipati, but I need to look into this more.

Here I am enjoyign some biogas chai (tea) with Jamnada and Rupibai (who made the chai!).

The biogas is also used for lighting, although many of the lamps were broken in the houses we visited--something we are going to look into improving.

Another biogas lamp.

Here are examples of two types of kerosene lamps, which we are trying to replace with biogas lamps.

This is a biogas digester that Jamnada is working on.  The tube will be the inlet, the dome is the digester, and the square will connect to the outlet.  We made some progress on it during one of my days in the field.

Laying the cement for the outlet.

I have a bajillion more photos I'd like to share and comment on, but I have to run!  Check out the !ND!A picases album though for more photos (no descriptions though, yet).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Navratri Festival

Shortly after I arrived in India, the nine day Hindu festival Navratri began! There seems to be a variety of versions of the story behind Navratri, but the version that my Hindi teacher told me is that the demon king Ravana had abducted Lord Rama's wife, Sita. After nine days, Lord Rama defeated Ravana and rescued Sita, and so Navratri celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

A traditional stick dance called Garba, or Dandiya here in Rajasthan, is played at night for the nine days. I played dandiya at a public gathering for three of the nights, including the last night, which is of course the most festive! Here is a video of me and two of the other girls in my program playing dandiya.

Playing Dandiya!
Click Pic to Play Video

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My First 12 Hours

Neemach Mata Temple
The temple sits atop an 800m hill, overlooking Fateh Sagar Lake and all of Udaipur.

Sorry for the delayed blogging, but I now have internet access during personal time!  Well actually, I have been kicked offline twice before getting to this line of text, but I am determined to finish this blog entry!  Thank you Aarish for making me the great blog; so glad I can finally put it to good use!

I had hand-written a blog entry on my first day and thought I'd start off with sharing that.  Having been here almost three weeks now, the novelty of my observations from that first day has already worn off.  It's amazing how quickly you can adapt and adjust to things!


September 21, 2011

I'm in India now!  All 28 hours of traveling went very smoothly.  My mi   dnight-5am layoverat Delhi was the toughest, but I happened to meet a solar hot water installer from Delhi and enjoyed a good conversation on attitudes towards environmentalism in India and the US (the conclusion being that not enough people care).  I'm now equipped with his business card!...perhaps a potential contact for my work here?

My arrival at the Udaipur airport (my final destination) was a little intimidating.  At the exit, there was a large mass of Indians, mostly men, holding signs, looking for their visitors--a very similar scene to that which I remember from Ghana (except they weren't Indian!).  And of course, I was alone and the only white person, so I was intimidated to step out in front of them all, especially considering I did not know who was picking me up!  I ended up exiting with a family and standing to the side.  Of course, I should not have worried about trying to find my ride because it was pretty obvious to them who I was.  After 10 minutes of waiting, my Program Director's husband pulled up in his car and introduced himself.  He let me call the Director, Roma, and then off we went in his car towards their home for introductions!  We sped along the small highway, with the horn blaring 40% of the time and frequently stopping for cattle in the road.  Welcome to India!

Most Stereotypical Indian Things That Occurred in My First 12 Hours
  • Profession of Indian businessman sitting next to me on my flight to Delhi: IT software developer
  • Cows in the road!
  • Car horn blaring 40% of the time
  • I've been in India 2 hours, I'm taking a bucket bath, and mid-rinse, the power goes out: double points!
  • My first lunch: chipati (flat bread), dal (lentils), okra for sabji (vegetables), and palak paneer (spinach and cottage cheese) = yumm!
  • Was served chai 3 times
  • Shared the road with cows, motor bikes, pedestrians, bicycles, cars, trucks, buses, autos (like a rickshaw), tempos (like a rickshaw, but with scheduled stops), people pulling carts, entire families (including infants) stacked onto motor bikes, stray dogs, donkeys, goats, pigs, camels, and an elephant
  • During my first conversation with the two American girls also in the program, they told me "You will definitely get diarrhea."  Cool.

Least Expected Things That Occurred in My First 12 Hours
  • Toilet paper!
  • People's annoyance with rain (I thought it would be welcomed in a relatively dry area, but they actually get too much during monsoon season and it causes problems because the infrastructure cannot handle all of it).
  • My host brother raving about Pakistani singers

My First Meal
dal, palak paneer, chipati, okra sabji
(lentils, spinach & cottage cheese, flatbread, okra vegetables)

(how I get around the city)