This blog represents the students’ thoughts and observations during the 2017 Design Abroad: India course. It also serves as an archive of the project and work accomplished in collaboration with the local community. To learn more, read the following blog posts, starting at the beginning through to the final day’s post.
This is our last day in India, I am writing this in the international terminal of the New Delhi air port, I am with Alyssa, Melih, Michael and Jacob we have completed one lag of our 3 lag journey. We are going to be in this airport for 10 hours before catching a 9 hour flight to London. This allowed for plenty time to reflect on the past 3 weeks. I don’t feel like I will be able to have a clear understanding for the course immediately afterwards but in time and through the process of making project 4 I hope to have this course fully debriefed in my mind.
We occupied our time with card games and come as well as looking at shops. This one store in particular was very cool, there was a reflection pond in the middle of the store and all of the product were beautifully made( and also very expensive) it reminded me of fabIndia or like an Indian anthropology. There was 3 people playing traditional instalments and it sort of created an oasis of sorts within the airport.
Most of my day was spent sitting in different chairs and waiting in different lines, that is sort of the nature of travel. I have been trying to be productive on the flights but mentally I was only able to watch movies and relax. That’s the thing about long plane rides, they force a certain level of relaxation. I have enjoyed letting my mind think about nothing as opposed to trying to get my brain to balance so many aspects of your project. I am a little unsure what do with all of my extra brain space. I should probably reflect.
When I was on the plane to India almost exactly month ago I wrote a small list of intentions. I felt it would be better to go into this without goal presay because that creates a certain level of expectations. Instead I wanted to frame my mindset for the trip. I aimed to stay open to new people and experiences. I wanted to make my work a reflection of my observations not my ambitions. I wanted to excise empathy to help me understand the dynamics of a culture I knew almost nothing about. That is what I found most challenging during his course, trying to create something for people you don’t yet understand for a system that is new to you. I believe that it was a learning experience on many levels.
I am really grateful for this experience and I am aware what a privilege it has been to learn through travel, I can’t wait to get back on a plane to go somewhere new.
Today was our last day, we are up on two hours of sleep, but somehow we are functioning. We woke up with a rush, people running around trying to finish their presentations, people packing, and others eating breakfast to get their energy for the day.
After breakfast, we were joined by volunteers from Tara Trust. We all gathered around, while my group presented our final presentation. Tricks to anyone who doesn’t like presenting: don’t sleep the night before and your brain won’t even function that well that you won’t get nervous.
While presenting, all I could do is compare my feelings from Monday morning to Friday. While the past Monday, my group and I had no idea where our project is heading, and it seemed that we were running out of time. It was upsetting because we wanted to take advantage of every single opportunity that came in our way in India, and not having a concept or a direction for our project wasn’t a good sign. But day after day, we were able to put our ideas into action and I am proud to where our project ended up. I really believe that this project can go a long way. The women we worked with are intelligent, creative, and hard working women that are thrilled and excited to start working, and just with their passion, I can see how this project can keep going after we’re gone.
At first I was upset that I wouldn’t be able to see the outcome of our work. It is like we plant a seed but we’re never going to see it growing. But as I think about it now, what is important is not for me or my group to see that we made a difference and see this change, but for the women to realise it and I believe that we helped them be on the right track to reach their goal.
We finished our project, then we headed to Oscar’s Junction for the other group to present. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout their entire presentation, knowing that they have done an amazing job, and helped Ashford find a solution to his store. I have no doubt that their project will also go a long way.
We had dinner at the guest house. Many people from different organizations joined us, it was our graduation dinner party. I enjoyed this opportunity and being surrounded with all the people and new friends. I believe that it was a great opportunity for my career as a designer and opened my eye in many different directions.
This morning we will leave for the airport and say goodbye to India.
Although we were able to sleep in until 10am today, my eyes still peered open by 8:00. We adopted a very specific lifestyle here in the last couple weeks. Wake up early, find time in the afternoon to nap and stay up late finishing up with project work. Last night, beyond staying up getting more henna, I packed my things, trying my best to fit the clothes, journals and gifts I hadn’t planned on buying into my pack.
This trip has been amazing and I haven’t yet accepted that we’re leaving. Yesterday we lost two members of the team, Megan and T’mikah, and this morning we’ll part ways with Liza. The group slowly dissipating only vaguely reminds me of the coming separation from India. I’m still in a daze. I guess we’re all exhausted from the last few nights of finalizing our projects, so general consciousness is difficult to hold onto.
I’m noticing all the last things that will happen in the next little while towards the airport. Last breakfast at the hotel with rice pancakes, samba and coconut chutney. Last time I gather my sink washed clothes hung around the bathroom the night before. Last morning that we scrounge for paper wifi codes fallen under the couch, lost within the mess of our living room.
Last time Raksha ushers us into the bus with her foghorn call: “Let’s goooo.”
We throw everything into the back of the van and pack into the bus.
It was always enjoyable to sit in the bus and watch the streets pass us by. This time was especially nice. Faint with exhaustion and disbelief of departure, we stared out the windows, some slept or listened to music and it was overall a serene ride. For one last time I soak in the colours of the buildings, the vegetation and the baurs and birds we pass by on our way to the airport.
Here comes our last airport adventure.
As it comes time to board the flight, Genevieve, Jake, Maddy, Melih, Michael and I say our goodbyes to Sarah. Once again we are on our own. I am extremely thankful that this program was put into place and it’s feeling more and more real that we were are now splitting up from the close knit group we had formed over our time in India.
Landing in New Delhi, Genevieve leaves us to begin her own journey of travelling India. The rest of us prepare for a 30 hour flight journey home. Before coming to India I wanted to instill a less stressed mentality about things. Our culture seems to be rushed the majority of the time and I easily fall into this busy lifestyle. Instead I’ve wanted to become comfortable sitting and being without letting my mind run towards what to do next, what to accomplish next. India helped reinforce this state of mind. The airplane journeys definitely helped reinforce this idea – slow down, allow for boredom to pass by, but be able to enjoy being present without having to be constantly stimulated.
We were all warned about the culture shock when going to India, but I never thought about the potential culture shock coming back to Canada. It’s been such an immersive experience that I’m not sure how to immerse myself back into my former life. Something I do expect is a more critical perspective of the way I live in Toronto.
On the airplane, I give the newspaper a good look, expecting it to be the last Indian newspaper I’ll read for a while. It’s clear to me that I’m going to miss a lot of things about India, newspaper articles are definitely in that list.
With a 10 hour layover in Delhi, Maddy, Melih, Michael, Jake and I count down the hours by playing cards, enjoying a cappuccino and chocolate muffin deal and exploring different shops. I’m finding that time passes more quickly than you would think.
We stayed in one store for quite some time, listening to their live music band, looking at the memento merchandise and sitting with our feet in a pool of water. A very commercial view of India, but quite the calming stop for an airport.
This is also where Maddy realized that it was her birthday! And so began her 33 and a half hour birthday across three different continents and time zones.
I feel very lucky to have joined this group and had the opportunity to go to India. We’ve seen so many new ways of life and it only makes me want to learn more about the world.
You can build an idea of a country, you can read books or articles about a culture and hear about people’s lifestyles second hand, but it is so different to step into a space and walk within a culture. I am so glad that we were able to see what we did of India. One of the most important things I’ve left with is the understanding that I will never have a full understanding of India, or any country for that matter. This isn’t a disappointment and it’s in no way discouraging. I think it’s rather humbling and exciting to understand that the world is so vast that there will always be more mystery to explore.
So, it is the end of this journey. It is the end of the three weeks that passed so quickly. Tonight, we are finalizing our presentation and our preparation for the final presentation. Even though I am so whiny about the food and the heat, I think I will miss how relaxed I felt in India. The energy that people spread out here is amazing.
Usually, I think about the social issues that we have in our world and I am an emotional person so since we got here, I’ve met so many people who are struggling in life but the thing that I noticed was that they always carry their smile on their faces. It is both so beautiful and sad at the same time… I knew that this program was going to be an eye-opening experience for me and make me discover more about myself as it happened. So many people shared their life experiences with us and made me realize how privileged most of us are. Sometimes just a little thing we are dealing with turns into a huge mountain but we do not realize how small the issue actually is. I think we should start being grateful for things that we have and be happy with small things. All I can say now is that I believe this is the key to happiness in life.
Okay, so this part of the blog will be non-emotional.
So today my team went to women’s house who we are working with to show our logo ideas in order to understand how they would like to be represented and they showed some techniques that we want them to learn. Yesterday night, I drew somewhat coconut shapes on a fabric to create the sense as it is printed for them to get it sewed today. I also worked with photoshop to add our patterns on the products.
It’s Time to Reflect
I like to make fun blog posts, it’s one of my favourite activities on this trip. I like to think of how I can break up the events of the day and share them with you all in a fun and light-hearted way. It’s a good way for me to process all the things that are taking place without talking about them too seriously. This is, in part, because I’m not a very extroverted emotional person, I process things mostly internally, or conversationally one-on-one. But we can’t always do things in the way in which we want, so this blog post is my compromise to give a more in-depth look of my mind today, and all the struggles, fears and joys of designing on the program.
A lot of this whole design process has been understanding constraints. We have the time that we have, we can only finish within that time the amount that we can finish. Our control lies in strategizing and prioritizing that time, trying to edit and build whatever we can within it, but beyond that, it is out of our control.
I started off this trip with an essay about time, and that it’s the thing I really have to offer. It was vague, and broad, and maybe didn’t sound at all important. But I still think it’s a precious commodity, and I appreciate the organizations that have given us their time, and I hope that I’ve been able to utilize the time here to contribute back.
Today we met with Ninoshka and Silke and talked about the trajectory of our project for Tara Trust. We’ve been lost for awhile, looking for a direction that made sense. They were both open and honest with us in terms of what they didn’t like and what they thought were really exciting prospects. It was a clarifying moment for us as a group, and in a way, it was nice that we were on our own without Sarah, because it created an opportunity for us to fail, and only in that opportunity were we able to really to see clearly what we needed to accomplish in the next two days. Pressure really does help form the diamond ideas.
So we’re wrapping up everything now. The prototypes, the presentation, the implementation plan, the whole shebang. It’s amazing that we’ve all been together for three weeks, with very minimal physical personal or emotional space, essentially no time that was not programmed or structured, and still are enjoying one another’s company and still actively communicating and valuing each other’s opinions. It would be very easy for us to get frustrated and check out, and not a single person has.
I’m continuously impressed by my peers, and feel grateful for their support and encouragement when I am frustrated, confused, or just being stubborn about my own hopes or ideas. Liza said at dinner today that she was really going to miss India…and then tacked on that she was really going to miss being all together every day. It melted my heart, thinking how fast the time went, and how much we’ve all gotten to know each other better.
I’ve loved my time in India, I’ve loved learning about India, and I’ve loved being pushed to work on a project with fellow quirky, fun-loving, patient, talented, sassy, opinionated, witty, silly, punny, designers and friends. I’ve loved seeing sass, talent, opinions, and wit come through language barriers with the women we’ve been working with as well. I’ve loved seeing all the different boutique hotels and shops and seeing how people are supporting small local business and women’s groups who are doing great work. Over the last three weeks we’ve built our own little community, and have started bridging our community with the communities we’re working with. It’s a network of ideas, and support, and development, and that feels really nice.
Signing out of blog posts,
Messy Minds, Messy Spaces
Two days left to go, and the big crunch has begun. Although we’ve all been here before during projects back in Toronto, the challenges of working in a “pop-up” style design situation are teaching me some interesting things, and leading me to question some of my habits. Similar to projects back home, our work days in villa are filled with discussions and are animated by an endless flow of sketches and diagrams. We also scour the internet for information, and scratch together prototypes for form and functionality. The major difference that we are still learning to grapple with is the lack of supplies and tools that are normally available.
On one hand it forces resourcefulness, for example today I had to install a button snap into fabric using a screw from a drawer handle as a punch, and a brick as a hammer. Although this was an exciting achievement, it only makes me wonder how much more difficult this style of “pop-up” design would be in an even less developed country than India, or in a more rural setting.
It also makes me wonder about designers who regularly embed themselves in developing contexts, do they have a go to tool-kit for hacking together ideas and prototypes? I find it funny to be thinking about how important these hacking skills might be, because I distinctly remember thinking the complete opposite three months ago in Toronto. I distinctly remember worrying about whether I was too comfortable with ductape, and that I should consider committing to only 3D printing for a semester. Not to say there isn’t value in being well versed with new technologies, but I’m being reminded about different skills for different contexts.
Anywho, as I’m writing this I’m still drawn to think about what our next move should be in the project. We have about one day left, and we are taking a critical look at how to wrap up as best as we can. There are so many things we would like to deliver, but right now it’s clear we have to be selective, because of road blocks we have hit with the material. The deciding criteria really revolves around this: what are the most important things we can finalize to ensure the project can move on after we leave. I’m finding this to be different from projects I’ve done before, because this criteria doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on the flashy portfolio pieces. Instead of renders and mock-ups, we are focusing more on templates and instruction manuals for the women. I wonder if this is a mindset that could translate to my work at OCAD. Perhaps if I focused on making my projects a launching point instead of just mock-finished product, that they might have a different potential. Maybe it would allow me to more easily revisit projects later and push them further, or perhaps they could be a launching point for some other student or designer who finds them online? Who knows, but ok, time to get back to it, 36 hours to go!
(Shown below, a sweet stand-up desk 😉 the Amul pavilion, and some crafty henna hands)
The plan for the day is for the two groups to work on our prototypes. After lots of research and brainstorming the Tara Trust group decided to zone in on making a beach bag for the physical prototype and then showcase the other products through graphics. Megan and I headed for Margao Market with Raksha to source materials. As discussed with our group members Alyssa, Liza and Melih we decided to get linen and burlap for the exterior of the bag and then line the bag with a cotton saree print. We also found colourful rope, coconut buttons and zippers for the bag. The market is becoming a familiar place for us to go to. I love the variety of products; from fabric to fresh fruits and veggies to things you never knew you needed, this market has it all. Everybody from men to women to children alike are working hard and hustling to sell their products. Margao Market has been one of the best forms of inspiration as we start to get a better understanding of the Goan lifestyle.
We then headed back to the guesthouse for a quick lunch as both groups have planned to go to Kiran Niketan to get some sewing done with the women. Because we just got our materials not too long before we left for Kiran Niketan we didn’t have much time to prepare and cut out a pattern for the bag prior to. Thus, when we got there we made quick decisions about the design so that we could start sewing. We decided on an oversized beach bag, cut out the design, and then one of the women started the sewing. We realized after that there are some changes that needed to be made with the design of the bag and so we needed to go back to talk to our group members.
Today the stress was real, as we are fast approaching the deadline. Our group really felt a sense of urgency to make more progress on our product. I am anticipating two long days and nights ahead of us in order to complete our project.
Our group then took some much needed time to relax and refresh our minds. We celebrated Megan’s birthday with balloons, Henna Night and of course, cake and ice cream! Raksha created beautiful, unique henna designs for each of us; some of us got inspired to start doing their own Henna!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEGAN !
Today was the calmest day at the guest house. I woke up really late and when I went downstairs and everybody was already on duty and doing something related to the project. I am responsible for the design of the products so my team and I had to make a decision about the products that we will be introducing to Tara Trust.
I was thinking what we could do for the tourists to buy when they get to Goa or before they leave. Then I thought maybe a summer kit could be useful since Goa is a vacation place for so many people around the world. The kit will be called “GOA Series” and it includes a beach bag, a cover up for females, 5-panel hat, towel/yoga mat and a smaller bag that goes into the beach bag to gather sprays, creams and other things that you would carry when you go to a beach.
Alyssa and T’mikah are working on the patterns that will be displayed on the products and they are trying to choose the patterns carefully because we also want to show the Portuguese influence that exists in Goa.
I did some quick drawings to show what we will be working on but did not make a finalization on them.
After a little bit more brainstorming, we chose to go with these products;
The pattern of the bag is designed by Alyssa and now we are working on the other three products that we will be including and which pattern we will be using on the products.
We also played with the materials that we got to experiment and see how it is going to look like and if it is going to be fast and easy to do. Block printing idea did not work out well because the paint kept staying in between the carves and created a mess on the fabric.
As we moved on, we kept experimenting with the material and made some handles for the beach bag we designed. After trying a bunch of materials, we decided to use; different coloured cotton cords.
And the monsoon begins.
I put my t-shirt out yesterday to get it dry but forgot it out there so it is washed again. Thank you Zeus.
It is the first day of our last week here in Goa. For the Oscars junction group, that means material sourcing and prototyping. With little time left, it is important we stay on schedule.
Our challenge is to make a grocery bag with locally sourced sustainable material that’s is uniquely Goan for Oscars Junction. The bag also has to be easy enough for the women of Kiran Niketan to make it in their homes or in the community center.
Jake and I started off the day by heading into Margo with Sarah and Aaron to do our second round of material shopping. While shopping, I saw a woman in the crowed of people with a reusable bag, I walked over to speak with her. With a sense of pride, she told me that she was born and raised in Goa and that she always brings a reusable bag to shop in order to avoid using plastic bags. It was good to see this kind of thinking locally and that people are willing to talk about the initiative. These are the kinds of shoppers we want to appeal to for the project. After managing the crowds in the hot beaming sun, we were on our way to the car when Aaron spotted someone else with a Jute reusable bag. We spoke to them, they explained they bought if from a well-known grocery store, Star Bazar. The proceeds of the bag go towards children’s education which made their purchase mean more than just buying a regular bag.
When we arrived back at the guest house, the prototyping was already on its way with Maddy and Michael. After lunch, we got to work eminently because we need to have a ready version to show our client Ashford tomorrow. With little time left every moment count for us.
Saturday night I was pretty nervous as to how our project is going. We had an idea that we were really eager about; however, it is not the direction we will be heading towards, so we are back to square one. I was feeling the urge to stay back and get an extra day on the project, but I am very glad we went to the spice farm.
We had breakfast at 9:30 am. I had to miss my favourite part of the day because my stomach wasn’t feeling well. After breakfast we head out to the spice farm. It took us around an hour and fifteen minutes to get there. Once we arrived, we were greeted by the owner: Chinmay Tanshikar. He had a sincere smile and welcomed us with some juice and cashews. We then got on a jeep and headed to Savri waterfalls. It was a little bit of a hike. I can tell you all about the beautiful view and how much I was enjoying it, but I think a picture will do a much better job.
While some people dived into the water right away, others laid down, put their feet in the water and enjoyed the view. It was much needed relaxation time before we are unto the last week of the program. We spent around 2 hours there then we headed back.
Second favourite part of the day. It was lunch time. The spice farm generously offered us lunch. There were so many options, all too delicious.
After lunch, we headed for our spice tour. Chinmay is such a great source of knowledge when it coming to farming. He is the fifth generation to take over the farm. Chinmay explains that taking care of a farm is labour intensive, but it teaches you how to not be selfish and be patient.
- Pepper and salt were used as a form of money (i.e.: you can use them to pay rent)
- The word ‘salary’ comes from the Latin word for salt
- Coconut trees take 25 years to grow
- Chocolate is an anti-depressant (Hence, why girls eat chocolate when they’re sad)
- Glass doesn’t break on mud floors
Looking at Chinmay’s life style today made me think on how technology is separating us from nature. Most of our food is processed food which we have no idea what have been added to, we can’t live without our phones and laptops, we spend most of our time indoors looking at a screen instead of talking to others or simply meditating outside. Chinmay lives in a very humble house that was built over 100 years ago. There is no T.V, no air conditioner. Everything they need comes from nature. They live in a mud house, which absorbs the heat during the day light, then cools off at night which acts as a natural air conditioner in the morning. They use cow poop on floors as it keeps bacteria away. It is amazing to see people really connecting with nature and experience this kind of life.
Towards the end of our tour, Chinmay saw us how to climb a coconut tree. We all tried to do it while some of us failed miserably (me), and others were able to get a bit high.
After our tour we head back to the hotel where we had lunch, and had the evening to work on our projects.
Note: Today’s blog post is a collection. Each section is led by a song I listened to during that part of the day, along with a short poem, and captioned photos. I had much fun making this blog post, and I hope you enjoy it, and get a little sense of how I’m experiencing India.
Playlist of the Day:
- Hot Dog Stand – Begonia (Alexa Dirks)
- Breezeblocks – Alt-J
- This Feeling – Alabama Shakes
“I find myself in this spot from time to time
Can’t tell if it’s dark or not, but I’m not blind
Everything gets to be so hazy
I feel like being alone
But being alone makes me feel so crazy”
WAKE UP! WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP.
I woke up at 6:30am and had my tea.
No one yet, was awake with me.
Maddy arose at 7 and joined my table,
I promise you this is no fable.
Alyssa was next, that beautiful gal,
She joined us too and all was well.
“Do you know where the wild things go?
They go along to take your honey, la, la, la”
GO! GO GO GO.
We all got on the bus, The Traveller, it’s called,
Through jungle, past churches, miles we were hauled.
At last we made it to the beautiful spice farm,
Trekked to a waterfall, and how we fell for its charm.
Splashing and bathing, we spent the morning,
Being nibbled by fish that gave us no warning.
A nice man gave us a tour of all the spices,
Some are used as drugs in some places, which are bad, bad vices.
They fed us a delicious meal which left us satisfied,
Would’ve eaten more, but probably would’ve died.
After all of that, it was time to go,
With all our new spice souvenirs in tow.
(photo by T’mikah)
(caption by Michael Neal)
(photo by T’mikah)
(photo by Melih)
(photo by T’mikah)
(photo by T’mikah)
(photo by Melih)
(photo by T’mikah)
“I just kept hoping, I just kept hoping
The way would become clear
I spent all this time tryna play now
I found my way here
See I’ve been having me a real hard time
But it feels so nice to know I’m gonna be alright”
SLEEP! BEDTIME BEDTIME BEDTIME.
As you might be able to tell,
Sleep would do me well.
For over a week I have been sick,
All along it was carrots that were making me feel ick!
The projects are overwhelming and sometimes I feel lost,
But I’m dedicated to continuing, no matter the cost.
With renewed energy, and a silly blog post,
I’m ready for tomorrow, starting with toast.
Inspiration for the project has come throughout the day,
Which has been helpful to wash some anxieties away.
Colors and patterns whizzing through my mind,
Soon this whole adventure, will all be behind.
I hope in the last week, no new allergies are found,
But friendship and knowledge are sure to abound.
Goodnight my dear readers, I hope all is at peace,
From this ridiculous blog post, you are now released.