Getting Started

May 22nd 2017

The exciting part of the day started around 3:00 pm, when we drove through the streets of Zuarinagar to meet with the people who would influence the direction and goals of the projects we were to spend the next 2 weeks completing. We’ve travelled through Zuarinagar many times since the program started, but today was the day serious work had to start.


We arrived at a place called Kiran & Niketan to meet the women who can make the bags we will be designing throughout the rest of our time in Goa. Kiran & Niketan provides spaces and programs for women to make extra money for them and their families by making products that can be sold in markets or during festivals.


We learnt a lot about the different techniques and materials used to make the bags, and the efforts and skills required to produce them. Some were made with dyed fabrics, which resulted in bags with bright colours, such as pink and green, or blue and yellow.


we were also introduced to the spaces within Kiran & Niketan that are used to make the bags, full of equipment and tools required to make them quickly and efficiently.  Although our project focuses on shopping bags, the women who spend their time there have the abilities to make many other things as well.


One of the women later brought us into her home to show us the space she works in during some of her spare time as well as a selection of things she makes, which were kept near her sewing machine. We discussed what she wished to see happen with the project while enjoying chai which she kindly made for us while we admired some of her finished products.


Having the opportunity to conduct interviews and discussions with the women who will use our project is one of the things we appreciate the most about spending time and working in India. Designing side by side with real people who will benefit from the finished product is something we aren’t used to doing, but it reminds us of who our work is impacting and why communication and understanding is important if you want your work to make differences.


Little Mumbai

When the day is long and you can’t wait to slide into you bed, but you wish you had a little bit more energy to do and see more of Mumbai. Today is one of my favourite days, and luckily I get to blog about it.

We started the day a little bit more flexible. The group had the freedom of either sleeping in, going shopping or walking in the streets of Mumbai. The group divided itself into the shopping lovers and the rest. I was in the shopping group with Genevieve and T’mikah. We have gotten much better at bargaining. It is one of those things you either really enjoy or don’t. We had more time to shop after we checked out the hotel. This time, mostly everyone went shopping. I was shopping with T’mikah and Melih. Melih was so excited to buy clothes, that if you walked a bit slower than he does – and he’s fast; you were left behind. You want to go shopping with Melih, bargaining is one of his hobbies.


We then visited a store called FebIndia. It is a beautiful store than has amazing fabric and better quality material that are made from traditional techniques, and mostly hand-based.  The store has workers that actually studied fashion so they are paid fair wages; which is not always the case in India, for that the prices were much higher than what we have been seeing elsewhere. Their vision is to celebrate India, and share their love to India with people from around the world. The Tags include a little story that tells you more about the design and the people who made it.




Food, Food, Food. We then head for lunch at a place called Candies. It has a variety of food with reasonable prices. If you’re here, and you miss your daily salad, that’s where you would want to go. While we were eating the food outside, the birds weren’t too happy with T’mikah and Genevieve, they decided to poop on them and their food. The same thing happened to Michael earlier, so we believe they have got cursed.


After food we had a tour with Reality Tours & Travel in the Dharavi slums.  Dharavi has about 1,000,000 people in a 2.16 Km2 area, which is around 400 football pitches. Knowing Mumbai, it is one of highest densest countries in the world, and Dharavi slum is 20 times denser than Mumbai. You can imagine the amount of people there. We went on a Sunday which is not a rush day as normal, so we were able to walk around freely. The slum is divided into two parts: industry and residential. I am not sure what you’re thinking when you hear the word slum, but we were amazed by what we saw. Dharavi is the home to many people but also the work place of so many others. Dharavi includes around 5,000 business and 10,000 factories with leather, plastic, and textile as their main industries. The daily wages range around Rs. 400 with a 10-12 hours of work. Hence that is why this slum is very different than other slums we might have seen. Slums are divided into legal and illegal slums. Legal in the sense that the people own their houses, but the lands belong to the government. Dharavi is a legal slum that used to be a big garbage dumb.


They stared to have tours around the slums to take away from the stigma that there is stealing and a lot of crime. In fact, it is very well protected because police men live inside, and more importantly, because have a sense of community that they don’t want to lose. We saw restaurants, bakeries, post offices, hospitals, schools, and market areas. Around 85% of children go to school, even if their parents are uneducated, to ensure a good future for them.


Source of images: Reality Tours and Travel                                             Link to more photos:

We ended the tour and head to the airport. Mumbai’s airport is fascinating, with beautiful interior and colourful space. We would have loved to had more time to explore it but we rushed to get food for the burgers lovers.


Spotted: the World’s King.


FYI: Melih’s new goal is to be the world’s king… Let’s see how this goes.

We ended the day by waiting for our luggage at the carousal, but since we didn’t check any in, we were happy to have found our lost member.  img_2510


Exploring Mumbai

We started off our Mumbai weekend with a visit to the Kanheri Caves. As we approached there were numerous Monkeys throughout the trees. The Caves where an ancient Hinayna and Mahayana sects Buddhist Monastery from BC to 11th century AD. The sun was beaming down as the group made our way though some of the 110 Caves dispersed throughout the hill. The architecture was dictated by the natural slope of the hill. It was clear that each cave was made for a different purpose from a dining hall to a meditation room, to living quarters. The group was amazed by the preservation of the structures and the different sculptures of buddha. We later learned that Buddhism was once one of the main believes with in India due to the influence of the king at the time named Swami Vivekananda. The Monastery was active for 1200 years and has been preserved since.20170520_09255020170520_10342920170520_093618


After the Caves we stopped to see the world’s largest outdoor Laundry service located in downtown Mumbai. The service stated with multiple laundry business opening up in the same area. The government eventually paid for out doors concrete tubs for the business. Now is very common for establishments such as hotels or any downtown business to use this service.


We went to lunch at a well known Mumbai restaurant called Leopole Cafe. It gave us a nice break after the active morning. After lunch our day was filling with activities consisting of bargaining at the market, aweing at the Taj Hotel, understanding the history of the gateway of India, seeing the first train station built by the British, smelling the spices at the downtown food market, and we finished the day by admiring the floating mosque at sunset. Seeing the busy city gave me a lot of context about the the history of India an how certain infrastructure came to be.






Feeling Fly in Mumbai…or not


I’ve started a routine of waking up early. It’s nice to start with a cup of tea on our verandah and start meditating on the day, do some homework, or catch up with friends back home. Our essays were due today, so there was an above average attendance in the porch area this morning, all of us editing and reading through each other’s essays.


Breakfast was brought into the guesthouse and we all gathered. As the week continues it becomes less strict about waiting for everyone to sit at at the table and people dive in more quickly.


We started discussing the overview, challenges, potential, and deliverables of each project. Indecision was high and all-consuming for some, others picked out of a vague preference for one and a slight indifference to being placed in either, and some felt strongly matched for a particular project.

As we were talking about all the different aspects of the projects, I began to form a preference for the Tara Trust project, whose aim is to create product(s) for a high-end hotel produced by a women’s group. Luckily everyone was evenly split, so the groups were fair and everyone was happy, mostly…albeit some may have still felt a bit of the crushing weight of indecision, even though the decisions were made.



We ate lunch, once again with some laggers and other keeners getting at the food in survival of the fittest style, but with plenty enough to eat that everyone got fed, eventually.


Immediately after lunch we had some time to pack, relax, and meet in our newly formed groups. T’mikah and I did some rose water facial masks, so that we could ‘feel fly in Mumbai.’ The rose water masks smelled so good, and made us feel as though it actually removed the layers of sweat built up over the week on our faces.


A little while later we heard squeals and gasps upstairs, Jacob cut his hair. But, he didn’t just cut his hair, he really styled it. Not fashioned it, per se, but it’s definitely a style.

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Finally learning to be responsible adults over the last week, we leave on time at 3pm sharp for the airport. Mumbai was an exciting prospect, although my stomach didn’t seem to think so. It began to grumble and I hoped it wouldn’t lead to more tumultuous situations.

As we waited we played a game I’ve known referred to as Mafia, although some know it by Werewolf or other shifty-sounding monikers. We were all fairly rough at it, and everyone knew slightly different rules, so we’ll just leave it at that we’ll need more practice to have a complete game.


We were all boarded and ready for take-off. At this point, my stomach was churning and I’d rather have just sat than stood for any given amount of time, but I was ready and willing to hold it together for a flight.





It all happened very quickly. We land, we stand, and we start moving, along with the contents of my stomach. I let Sarah know I’m in a bad way, and she frantically searched for any sort of container to contain whatever might come. First it’s a cup, and it just won’t do. Next is a transparent file folder which is going to make it very transparent to anyone around me what I ate for lunch earlier that day.

As I walk up to the front of the plane, I try to, as casually and calmly as one is able, throw up the entire contents of my day into the transparent file folder, all the while sandwiched tightly between other airplane commuters. This was not a high moment for me, this was very much a low, but I also instantly felt a relief I just wasn’t feeling before. As I reached the front of the plane, the stewardess sits me down immediately and provides a bag for the folder and cup of water. There’s wasn’t much time to rest, other airplane commuters were waiting just in the loading tunnel to the front door of the plane. I collect myself and my contents and meet up with the group just outside, and threw out the evidence as soon as I could find the appropriate receptacle.

Outside of the plane, there was a strong sense of rose water…figure that, it was full circle with the refreshing scents from just a few hours before. Mumbai seems so much more modern and cosmopolitan than Goa, and it felt a little shocking for such a drastic change after such a short plane ride. Traffic was faster and more hectic, Goa feels like a quaint countryside in comparison. The lights were all blurred and every few moments I felt like I was going to see a major accident occur before my eyes.



We arrived at the hotel, which has an all-marble entry, fine detail woodworking, and sculptures placed decadently on the walls. All the accounts are still done by hand in a book.



(The Fanny Pack) – a pack of ardent fanny pack wearers, with no shame, and no preoccupied hands

Soon after settling in, we made our way to our first restaurant of choice, Barbeque Nation. The table settings were all perfectly placed, and it felt lush, but unfortunately, and retrospectively predictably, the prices matched the aesthetic. After bartering a bit and finding out other menu options, we decided to move on and move out onto Sizzlers. It was an amazing choice, and the plates really sizzled, steaming a veggie and meat spa treatment into your face as soon as it was placed before you.

With my stomach still feeling sensitive, I opted out of food and had a fresh squeezed watermelon juice. I don’t know why I chose that…I don’t even like watermelon, but it was truly a delight.



I went back home (our temporary home at least), and began to write, which brings us all here. It’s late, and there’s more yet to do and see tomorrow. For the sake of my sanity, and to finally include some brevity in this lengthy post, I bid farewell and happy stomachs.

women x women | bridging the gap

Today we visited Kiran Niketan Primary School and Social Centre in Zuarinagar, Goa. The community centre provides training programs, after school tutoring as well as medical services. This organization acts as a platform for the migrant community to come together and learn skills that can be applied to many areas of their life. The main training program run by Kiran Niketan is the tailoring program; funded by the government and runs for 6 months, twice a year. This is a great opportunity to learn sewing techniques and to gain motivation to become an entrepreneur.

There are classes that teach young girls how to macramé and crochet. The first item that they create is to be taken home as a prototype to show their families. Then all of the other products made go towards the annual exhibition in February. All of the proceeds go towards the training and learning programs at Kiran Niketan. In past years these funds have gone towards providing sewing machines to the centre for the girls and women to work.


During our visit at Kiran Niketan we had the opportunity to meet the 10 women who are apart of the Paper Bag Project. These women have been working on the project for 3 months and have become very skilled at bag production. For newspaper bags the women have created an assembly line of which is separated into two groups: one group does the folding, cutting & pasting and the second group does adds the rivets and handles to the bag. The women are paid per bag that is completed. Together, these women are passionate about their job and create quick, quality work. Kiran Niketan Social Centre offers amazing services to support women’s empowerment and to help bridge the gap.


Tara Trust is one of the organizations that we have the opportunity to work with over the next few weeks. They have a group of 30 women who have been working along side Tara Trust for 3 years. Tara Trust rents one of the women’s homes in Zari for the ladies to use as their workshop. The women have learned many different skill sets over the past few years such as sewing, embroidery, paper making, weaving, crochet and macramé. There is one woman in particular who is an expert seamstress, tailor and pattern maker. She is the go-to for Tara Trust whenever the team has a new idea. She can visualize drawings and turn them into a prototype for other women to follow. The women are very creative and resourceful. Often many of the products are the ideas of women; they take different materials and transform them into unique products. They are evolving as the creative process goes along. It was an honour to meet these women and see how passionate they are about creating.

img_1530It was refreshing to see two organizations empower women to use their spare time to gain an income doing something they are passionate about. I am really looking forward to collaborating with this community of women so that together; we can create an impact on the community.

– T’mikah

Meeting new people and learning new things!

We began our day by meeting with the owner of Oscar’s Junction Supermarket, one of the companies we will be working with over the next three weeks. He told us about the kinds of bags that he provides to his customers, how those bags are used and how much it costs to make them. We also discussed his customers shopping habits, in particular the frequency of peoples visits. I learned that there are a number of motivations behind peoples’ habits such as transport, socialization and daily wages. I enjoyed taking an analytical approach to grocery shopping, it is interesting to look at something very familiar and mundane then place it in a whole new context.

In the afternoon we visited with Tara Trust, they are an organization that aims to empower women and underprivileged children though creative expression. They focus on teaching craft skills to women and further helping to bridge the gap between the women and their potential clients. In this case Tara trust aims to bring work from the women they educate into upscale hotels in Goa. We were able to look at some samples of the women’s work, mainly fabric goods and rope or paper bowls. This reinforces the value and empowering nature of learning, as well as the importance of investing in women. 18574967_1382782625140807_1332590163_o




Sweaty shops and recycling plants


It’s 10:30pm, and I’m writing from the safety of our air conditioned guest house in a make shift work space of hotel furniture and Indian electrical plug adapters. That being say, I feel like this air conditioned break is well deserved, because today was a great long and sweaty day.

We began the morning by exploring some new marketplaces, and getting a feel for what resources we have at hand for the upcoming project. As a long, somewhat awkward train of foreigners, we wandered through local shops selling fabrics, metal, clothing, and strange pyramid shaped sweets called “Jaggery.” We attracted the usual stares, but overall we were treated warmly by everyone we encountered.

Later in the afternoon, we had a chance to get meet with a local entrepreneur, who explained to us about the extreme lack of waste removal and recycling services in India, and even brought us inside a local recycling plant. The details he gave us were shocking, but I was extremely impressed by how passionately his team was working to address the issue. Not only were they efficient and organized, but they were actively involved in lobbying for new policies, and spreading recycling awareness to their community.

What also made a big impression was his commitment to address this huge issue in a series of small ways. Instead of aiming to continually scale his business as large as possible, he insisted on remaining small to avoid complications and to maintain a strong relationship with his employees and the community. He would then allow others to freely replicate the business model in different regions, leaving everything he did as “copyleft,” (an awesomee term for free to-use).

His mindset seemed to echo the idea of, “only taking as much as you need,” which I have heard repeatedly in these two weeks of India. I’m excited to see how we can learn more from this perspective, and bring it with us as our projects begin to develop.



And so we begin!

Landing in Goa, the humidity and vegetation make for a beautiful landscape and it seems that the vibrant colours of India only become more saturated after rainfall. Having travelled 10 days earlier in Rajasthan with Jacob and Maddy, we had seen more desert areas of India and were able to experience parts of Indian climate and culture before the start of the program.

In the morning, after breakfast and an overview of Beyond Boarders, we piled into a bus and drove around to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. Everything is overly intriguing, from the varying architecture of buildings to the various brands of cookies in a grocery store. I’m doing my best to accept looking like a tourist. I want to feel ok with looking like a fool at times too, being able to laugh at stupid moments, under rehearsed or completely ignorant, it’s fair to be clueless and I want to connect to that emotion as much as any other during this. Why else are we here but to learn?

We ended the evening by catching the sunset on Colva beach, grazing past shops, taking selfies and attempting our first haggles. I find a relaxed and fun, yet purposeful dynamic with this group and I am excited to begin these 3 weeks of collaboration.

*Thanks to Melih for the first 2 photos of the day!




Course Blog Assignments

One of your required tasks in this course is to post to the Design Abroad: India blog. One to two students will be assigned to post each day to the blog, reporting and reflecting on the activities you were involved in on that day. Each student will be responsible for three blog posts during the course. Students will write and upload, at minimum, a 200-word post. Along with thoughtfully written (and edited) text, you will choose and upload three photos that best represent the work and experience that day. For faster uploading, ensure you first re-save the photos as a smaller file size. Posts should be completed and uploaded by 9am the day following your assigned blog day.

Here is the blog assignment schedule over the next three weeks:

Mon 5/15

Tues 5/16


Wed 5/17

Thurs 5/18

Fri 5/19

Sat 5/20

Sun 5/21

Mon 5/22

Tues 5/23

Wed 5/24

Thurs 5/25

Fri 5/26

Sat 5/27

Sun 5/28

Mon 5/29

Tues 5/30

Wed 5/31

Thurs 6/1

Fri 6/2

Sat 6/3