Sunday, March 30, 2008

Barefoot College




Barefoot College is a small community based NGO right outside the small village of Tilonia in Rajasthan. I had called expressing an interest in visiting, but had not received that much response about my visit. But, it was enough when I was told there was a place to stay. I had originally learned about Barefoot Architects through a book, and they had done a lot of pretty solid work without the typical expert help. So, I was interested in how people worked on their own and how they got things done. I guess Barefoot is most known for its solar panels and cookers as well as its rainwater harvesting tanks. They have done some pioneering work in making this village and others like it much more sustainable. So much of India still lives in villages, as someone put it, “As the villages go, so go the cities.” Getting things right in the villages could make a huge difference in the strain being put on the cities. Maybe.

Anyway, I took a local train. People found me quite interesting, and I found them quite interesting. The women’s attire here is quite extraordinary, as are the earrings, noserings, bracelets, etc. They have the most vibrant colors, and set against the dull background of the desert is quite an astonishing sight. Deep beauty and strength. Fortunately, someone spoke English and after politely but firmly convincing him that I wouldn’t come home with him, he helped me get off at the right spot, and I wandered 30 minutes down the road in the middle of the desert until I found Barefoot. And there, like an Oasis were two other travelers from Philadelphia, and 6 architects from Ahmedebad. Interesting.

I couldn’t really dig up much architecture there, but they were definitely doing good work. Toys out of trash. Newspaper bags. Weaving and looms. Wooden toys. Solor cookers. Training women and men. No formal education. Bringing people from other communities from around the world to train them to be barefoot solar engineers. Ground up. Bottom up. That is where it starts. Check out the website on the sidebar for tons more info that I can provide here. Did kick it with an engineer. So much of what concerns people are not academic theories and opinions about new movements and such, but getting things done, making people have quality, sustainable, affordable, good light and wind, and homes they can be proud of. Yes, there are certainly some experts involved, but it is all about the people. Need about three more weeks here. Maybe I will return and become a barefoot engineer. I met an architecture student from Mozambique who is doing just that.

Best Moment:

Playing cricket with the local village kids, and adding a little extra swagger to my batting stance. Boy, they got a kick out of that. While cricket is, of course huge here, it is even bigger now as India just beat Australia in a huge upset that has made the country extra cricket crazy. I still don’t understand it. And that white suncscreen…

2 comments:

David Lyles said...

Hey Luke! Bryan forwarded your email of 27 Jan, and I've spent most of the morning here so far catching up on your travels. I found your postings from Lhasa and Tibet particularly interesting in light of the developments there soon after your departure. Glad you got that opportunity to be there -- and your timing was just about perfect.

And, between your photos, wikipedia and my world atlas, I've added to my geographical education. More photos, please!

May the wind be at your back . . .

G-Dub said...

LP -

glad to see it's all going well so far. i'll comment on some of your specific entries when time permits, but keep posting. i know most people here are reading it...