No More Photos Please

With a day packed full of activities, sleeping in was not an option. Our day began early in the morning with an introduction to the Dean of the Faculty of Design Gayle Nicoll and her husband John who joined us for the day. After an hour-long bus ride to North Goa we arrived at Aguada Fortress, aguada meaning ‘watering place’ in Portuguese. We were reminded upon arrival to the fort that when visiting tourist destinations we become the main the main attraction, families and little children asking us (sometimes begging) that we take a photo with them. On a hot Saturday morning most of our replies were “No photos please.”

Goa is unique because of its Portuguese influence and our next destination displayed Indo-Portuguese architecture that can only be seen in this state. This Architecture Museum is located within an exclusively designed geometric household. Its winding spiral staircase and circular windows were able to captivate the group for a while but hunger crept up on us. We all decided to have seafood and Raksha recommended Ritz Classic, a restaurant famous for their Goan cuisine. Because of the popularity of this place, the only way to accommodate all their incoming guests was to have them wait by a table that was still eating. After standing awkwardly watching people eat we were finally seated and eventually rushed out again. After lunch we visited the Ruins of St. Augustine. The Portuguese government ordered its demolition after it was abandoned due to the expulsion of the religious orders from Goa. Artifacts from this church were either lost or sold and dispersed within other churches in Goa and the bell from the tower was actually taken to the Aguada Fortress first but now resides in the Lady Immaculate Church in Panaji. Our final stop was at a functioning church called Basilica of Bom Jesus. There was a wedding service going on but we were still able to explore one side of the church and even saw the preserved body of Saint Xavier. After a slow day of sightseeing a few of us decided to walk to the beach. With the sand between our toes, the sky painted orange and grilled corn with masala and lime in hand we watched the sunset fall into the Arabian Sea.


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“Magic Bus, Magic Bus!!”

I woke up with that Friday Feeling, the one that always catches you by surprise after a long week and gives you that extra push to roll out of bed because finally – finally – it’s almost the weekend. Breakfast was a slow start; the early birds in our group weren’t occupying their usual tables and the only noises that morning were coming from our cooks in the kitchen, even the dogs who like to attack us on sight were calmer than usual. Which meant my handful of slobber was downgraded to a head-butt in the knee. I decided to eat my breakfast, some spongy idli with sambar and coconut chutney, by the pool before the days activities began.

Once everyone made it outside – and faking awake – Sarah broke down our schedules for the day. After splitting into our teams the morning would be spent on defining our overriding design direction based on the feedback we received from the previous days presentations and visits. The second half of the morning would be spent on prepping for whatever activities or survey questions we would need for our afternoon visit to Zuarinagar. For my group this meant we had to finalize the pilot session with Magic Bus and the kids from the community. Most of our questions and games were already decided on but we were concerned with the possibility of kids not engaging enough with what we had planned – whatever insights we brought back from this pilot session would decide our design direction for the rest of the program. Which meant the weekend vibes would have to wait for just a bit longer. We spent the rest of our time fine-tuning questions and making our activities more interactive to break the ice as quickly as we could in the short amount of time we had for the session. After a quick dip in the pool to cool off and a bite to eat we all headed out for the community visit.


We pulled up to our regular parking space and as soon as we stepped off our blue bus there was a group of children yelling out “Magic Bus! Magic Bus!” and waving us along to follow them to their playground across the road. We were expecting ten kids – there were at least four times that. It turned out we didn’t need to do much prepping at all. The kids started to hold our hands and ask us what games we were going to play and began to tell us how much they already knew about waste management. One of the younger girls was even swinging around a pair of nail clippers tied to a string. They were ready. The first half hour – true to Indian timing – was spent trying to find a spot to begin. We bounced from place to place until we found a small mandir to use as our home base. The next two hours was loud, erratic and went as smoothly as trying to control forty amped up kids in a small room goes. We managed to get the answers we needed but not expecting the kids to exhaust us as much as they did, combined with it being Friday…we unanimously (and non-verbally) decided to analyze our findings after the weekend. Besides – it was Bollywood Night!

Raksha – our tried and tested dancing instructor for the past two Design Abroad programs – attempted to teach us a dance to a song from a Bollywood movie we watched earlier in the week. Despite Raksha’s best efforts we only made it about a minute into the song and an hour of trying to get there.


A Second Wind


Awakened by a pack of howling foxes, I was slapped in the face by another hot and humid day in India. I started the morning early in my own personal sanctuary; our breezy balcony overlooking our jungle backyard where pigs frolic and water buffalo graze freely –a far cry from the raccoons we’re used to.

After a breakfast we’ve grown to know too well –mint and potato sandwiches on white bread- the two groups presented their finding based on interviews we had conducted through our respective organizations. As our group is working with Magic Bus, we had spent the previous day interviewing mentors of the program, collecting insights into how we could assist with the new curriculum they’re designing, where their resources are lacking and where our unique skill sets of both 2D and 3D design could fit. Our presentation was met with a somewhat defeating critique, as issues of sustainability, cultural barriers and lofty goals were addressed. Back to the drawing board.

After another brainstorming session and some bean curry with roti, we piled into the van back to Magic Bus, where we met with the head honchos and discussed how the project will roll out. Our ideas were better received, and we decided on conducting a pilot session with the children of Zuarinagar, with activities relating to the mapping of their community to help this migratory community form a connection with their environment and a better understanding of public and shared spaces. We’ll follow up with exercises to promote understanding of waste management, separation of garbage, the effect that littering has on creating blockages within the open sewers and the health issues it creates around dumping in public spaces. Our ideas are still in their early stages, but we headed back home feeling optimistic that we had found a direction. We got our second wind.

We still had the van for a couple hours, so Raksha, Ali and I drove out to Margao, since I had never been. We picked up some supplies for our session with the kids: colourful paper, crayons, a ball and a world map. We then headed into the market for some sensory overload; merchants pedaled underwear and wedding dresses next to bags of unidentified spices and fruits, Goan sausages made from unknown meats swung from the rafters and flies swarmed between them. We picked up a couple petticoats for the girls’ sarees, and I got a dabba (an India lunch box for you uncultured Western folk). We dodged motorcycles and pedestrians and found our way back to the car, to head to the ice cream shop everyone had been raving about all week. Closed, of course… must be running on Goan time, where the traffic moves fast but the people move slow. We settled for some mango lassi and I played a round of Indian Dessert Roulette, landing on something called Besan Ladoo. It was… interesting. Back to Heaven Goa for a night of lazy pool hangs and rejoicing over Indian-Italian fusion for dinner.


One long day in India

My day started off with a sticky face, just like yesterday. Fanning myself did nothing — neither did changing my position or sticking a pillow in between my legs. My body refused to cool down. It was hot, gross and sweaty, like my socks after a workout. A quick shower with a bucket of cool water from last night always helps to wake me up.

At this point in the program, both groups got a chance to interview the organizations that have the ability to help us interact with the community throughout our projects. The one that our group is collaborating with is Magic Bus, the organization that uses sports to reach their goal with Community Youth Leaders. We called them mentors. Coming up with the equitable questions for the mentors were very difficult. We had to think very thoroughly in order to make the most out of the given period of interviewing time.

By the end of our group meeting, the white board was full of curiosity. Four of the chosen members including myself got driven to the Magic Bus office and slowly but surely our questions were insightfully answered. The language was a barrier throughout the whole interview, but the conversation flew naturally with my tint of silly questions.

Tomorrow in the morning, we have a presentation based on how our interview went today. The program started to become much more intense at this point, and my brain is about to explode right now. All I want right now is a juicy hamburger patty.




After breakfast today,Sarah asked the students about what they like and what that don’t like about the course and experience.
Some students starts missing Canada, while others were still in the honeymoon phase and enjoy being here.Sarah also told us that we need to approach our project slightly different. As a result we are dealing with organizations instead of the community.
They already built trust in the community, and they would be helpful in overcoming some barriers that we might have to face. The class was divided into two groups, which were waste management and water filtration. We started by brainstorming questions that we could ask the kundalini organization. Profu, Kundalini’s founder, travelled to Heaven Goa and answered our question in order for us to find possible solutions . After having lunch, we came up with questions to ask the Magic Bus organization . We went to the magic bus administration office and we interviewed them with questions that we prepared.Rashima who is representative of magic bus answered questions that the two groups came up with. Delgit got jack fruit form his neighbour for us. We tried jack fruit for the first time in our lives. Raksha brought the girls to a tailor to altar the Sarees that they bought. Two groups had another meeting and try to organize and analyze all data that they gathered from the organizations to make their surveys.

Work is the most glorious thing!

AAA_4765AAA_4630AAA_4702Monday, May 18, 2015

After an exciting weekend trip, it’s time to go back to work. It called for a bit more energy to get up on this Monday morning. Fortunately, I am a member of the water group and I have work buddies stand by me. That makes life much easier. My group focuses on water sanitation and health education. First, every group member was assigned a title, a leadership kind of position in the project. I got a position, being responsible for doing budget, along with Yinan. Our project manager is Natassja, Christian is 2D leader, Melis is 3D leader, Kersti is logistics manger. See, all of us got promoted in a single day. Many celebrations! Once our organization was formalized and institutionalized, our work got done quickly and efficiently. Soon, we found a way out of the fog of the mission when Christian came up with a brilliant idea. Afternoon we went out to the community and began to put our plan into action. We moved around and made a lot of observations about the community’s water usage condition. Their water usage is really uncomplimentary. Our group was very glad to have a good start. Bravo! The other group – the garbage workers sweat even harder; they kept on working on garbage when our group concluded our job and sat inside the quiet and cool temple. In such a hot and humid day, walking inside the foul-smelling garbage and trying to find ways to help the community, they endure and carry on. What a courageous and benevolent act! After spending more than two hours in the community, we headed on to Margao city to shop. The girls and boys were thrilled to have some scoops of flavorful ice cream. Then we went to the market to try to find some blouses for our final dinner party. Though we were unable to load the right blouses, we all got crazy in this evening adventure. It’s time to go back our GOA home and adjourn for the day.

Our weekend adventure has come to an end


Saturday May 17, 2015

It’s been exactly one week since we arrived in Goa. We have spent the last week adjusting to the extreme heat, as well as some minor inconveniences such as frequent power outages and new toilet etiquettes. This weekend, we were spoiled with a two-night stay at a luxurious air-conditioned hotel and a memorable experience exploring many temples throughout Hampi.

We started our day a bit earlier than usual this morning. We ventured out of the hotel through a dark lobby, hopped on the bus, and raced our way to the hill to watch the sunrise. We thought we were going to miss the sun climb into the sky due to an unexpected train passing that stopped us on the way. We hustled as fast as we could up the uneasy ancient stairs. The sunrise was beautiful as any sunrise is, but what made this sunrise greater was the scenery and our unusual mix of art and design students. The chanting of Sanskrit played in the background and stood as a constant reminder that we are here – we really made it all the way to India. We were welcomed sit and join the ritual by played instruments as the two men sang Sanskrit into the microphone. Coming together to worship as a group creating a unity between us all.

Indian Temple

By noon, we had packed ourselves into the bus and traveled from luxury back to reality. Although the bumpy and twisty roads led to an uncomfortable ride, most people fell asleep. We were so exhausted from full days of sight-seeing in the hot sun. Our stomachs began to growl after the feeling of hunger took over our thoughts, we stopped for dinner at KFC. It was a meal very familiar to us, but with an Indian twist. With our tummies full of fried chicken, we drove the remaining 4 hours back Heaven Goa.

Exploring Ancient India

On Saturday, we woke up in our hotel rooms after the previous day of traveling to Hampi. In the morning, we gathered in the hotel restaurant to have breakfast together. Once we were ready to go, we got on the bus and headed out to explore Hampi. This city is home to many important monuments from the times of ancient India.

Our day was filled with sightseeing, as we explored Hindu temples and ancient ruins. Many of the temples and monuments are found amongst grand rolling hills. Atop these hills, the Indian landscape alone was breathtaking. Lush greenery, mountains of rocks, and ancient ruins in the background were apart of the awe-inspiring view from these hills.

The temples and ruins themselves were incredible to look at. I noticed the details on these ancient walls. They were beautifully carved as if by a devoted artist. The wearing of time had only dulled their edges but they looked beautiful nonetheless. Detailed carvings were featured on columns, doors and gates; guardians to paths that led to the ancient temples. Our guide told us stories of these temples and monuments, giving us some insight into the history of India. Within the ruins we found monkeys, as well as an elephant!


After walking through the Virupaksha Temple, we set out to explore the nearby marketplace. As we walked through stores of handicrafts and antiques, we eventually settled down for lunch. We went to lunch at Mango Tree Restaurant; which was an experience in itself. We gathered together on the cushioned floor and ate Indian cuisine.

After lunch we were shown what I think was my favourite monument. The Lotus Mahal stood in the gleaming afternoon sun, as we carefully studied its intricate architecture. It had lovely doorways, with fine detail and carved patterns. By the end of the day, we had seen several magnificent monuments. After our full day of exploring, we ended our day by grabbing some dinner and calling it a night at the hotel.



Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Hampi We Go

Today, our first assignment was due. We each wrote about our first impressions and expectations that we had after we experienced a week of Indian culture. Some of us finished early and packed our suitcases at a leisurely pace for our weekend trip to Hampi, while the others finished their essays right on time an packed frantically. We would begin our trek to Hampi at 12 PM and it would take us 8 long hours to drive there. We journeyed through lush mountainous regions, winding, bumpy roads, and layered plateaued fields. We craned our necks to get the best view possible of the changing landscape. During our bus ride to Hampi we made a stop to an abandoned structure where we took photos, and to stretch our legs. It was unkempt and overflowing with greenery. On our way to Hampi we also saw some monkeys while we drove through a wildlife sanctuary.
We arrived at the Orchid hotel by 8 PM. Although we had air conditioning in the bus over to Hampi, we were relieved to sleep in air conditioned rooms with sheets and comforters. We briefly freshened up, oo-ed and ahhh-ed over our rooms and toilets and met for dinner. Many of us returned to eating Indian cuisine while others tried out different dishes. We retrieved to our rooms as quickly as possible to recover from a long day and start fresh tomorrow. We’re excited to see what Hampi has in store for us!

“Taking a million from childhood to livelihood”

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As an extension from yesterday meeting with the Kundalini Clinic and their work for Zuarinagar, today’s goal was to meet and familiarize ourselves with the organization Magic Bus. After a breakfast that you can only assume the local Indians grew up with as a child, the potato sandwich, also known as Aloo Masala, gave us a taste of a starchy tradition.


With a short bumpy (a rhythm we have come to know all too well) bus ride we arrived at the Magic Bus offices in Goa. We were greeted by the kind organizers and mentors that run this location and took a seat in a circle where everyone introduced themselves. Our first taste of Indian Chai was offered with biscuits and despite everyone’s sweaty brows we sipped and enjoyed the hot tea while Magic Bus introduced the organization’s objectives and model through a moving video. We were all amazed by the organization’s continuous efforts to implement sport and play as an education tool into the slums of India. The presentation became a discussion of deeply rooted Indian culture and tradition and the hurdles that Magic Bus faces within their placements. A cycle of a lack of initiative and motivation towards education, the polarization of gender roles, the attempts to overcome hierarchical family systems are all hurdles we might face when it comes to research and implementation within the community in our own projects. Magic bus seeks to eradicate these issues and tackle them through 5 core subjects: health, education, gender equity, socio economical development and right to play. Magic Bus, with the help of Arun, his wife Parfu, and Sarah, familiarized us with these topics so when it came to our work we could create more effective and sustainable solutions within the existing systems. After the informative and engaging presentations we heard personal stories from the mentors about their favourite parts about working with children and some struggles they face. We were asked to engage in some of the activities that they do with the children within the communities and with giggles and eagerness we readily accepted. The icebreaker reminded us what it was like to be a kid again, laughing and smiling until our faces hurt the whole time. Even when the games were educational about substance abuse we still were able to engage and understand and gave us a glimpse into the successfulness of Magic Buses educational system. With many thanks and a wealth of knowledge we boarded the bus back to the guesthouse.

Our last objective for the day was to brainstorm our possible design opportunities and finalize the groups that we will be working in for the remainder of our time. After much deliberation and consideration we narrowed it down to two final groups one that will focus on water filtration and the other that will focus on garbage and waste management. With essays to be finished, pool swimming to be had, and sweet syrupy dough desserts to be digested we all settled in for another night.

Snap Out of It

The day started earlier than usual, eager with excitement to meet Aaron’s wife at the clinic. Having no previous knowledge of Indian medicine, we were fascinated to learn about Ayurveda medicine. After learning about how their training programs benefited women and provided them with a source of income which they can earn from home, we sat down for lunch, at Sai Punjabi Rasoi, where we ate freshly baked naan with paneer. With our stomachs filled, we rode the bus down to the community. When we arrived, we walked to our interview with a local community member.

We entered through a door, tucked between brightly, coloured, narrow houses. Inside we sat down on blankets that were carefully laid out by her. She was Ganga. A 35 year old Indian woman who dressed brightly in traditional clothing. Sarah began questioning her with the help of Raksha, our leader and translator. One thing that I noticed was the way she filtered the water of her household; a method she learned from her mother. The cloth was put over the tap to absorb all the dirt and out came “filtered” water. A makeshift solution that was a well known tradition. Aside from all this, what stood out to me the most was the fact that in that one small, humid space housed a family of 10, including Ganga. Stacks of urns were placed throughout the house and bundles of clothing lay scattered.

After returning to the temple, we took a tour of the surrounding area; the Zuari Nagar factory, where most of the migrants worked unskilled jobs for daily pay. It has served as a place of income for generations of migrants and perhaps many more. We then walked around the community. And as i walked, looking at the colourful houses and children playing, i realized that this wasn’t a place of struggle but a place where happiness and ease of life flourished. Neighbours visited each other freely, kids played without a sense of care and women chatted. Like a flower growing in the mud, this happiness was found in a place where men and women defecated around piles of garbage. The images of the slums were already familiar to us but the reality was not. Once our feet hit the gravel and we absorbed the smells of the community, we realized that this was something completely foreign to us.

Visiting the Slums

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As I sit here and recall the events of today — I have a greater appreciation for tomorrow. I have been exposed to a way of life that is unfathomable to the people that I know back home. It’s a way of life that has the channel changed on it when we get over feeling sad. This is a place we can barely begin to perceive.

The moment I stepped off our air-conditioned van, the heat and smells of the slums we visited today hit me like a brick wall. As I looked around in all directions, I saw fields of garbage being roamed by stray dogs, goats and cows. Next to that were storefronts, a restaurant, and a bar or two. And most notably, humans living amongst it all.

As we turned to walk up the side street, I could feel the energy from the glances of the locals. This energy is not negative, nor positive. It felt neutral to me. After all, they can only be left to wonder. Who are we, and what is our right to be there anyway? This is not our community, or our home. I am caught staring back multiple times and can’t help but notice the eyes of both children and adults. Rich, chocolatey browns, emerald greens, and gold gleam in the bright afternoon sun. Behind these eyes lie both innocence and curiosity.

I have yet to speak with anyone personally. However, the bright personalities of the children I saw, combined with the colours of the buildings, temples, structures, and clothing are all so vibrant. There are so many things that are happening at once in this place. So much order amongst so much chaos. With all of this going on, will I ever truly grasp the complexity?

I am excited to immerse myself more into these communities as the program moves on. There is much more to see before I can gain a sense of what I’m feeling right now. As an outsider, it is easy to dissect certain elements I see on the surface but I am curious to know how deep I will be able to dig.