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Many Firsts [India Trip Blog 2]

I was so tired last night after landing that I can’t even remember getting to the hotel / falling asleep. I woke up at 7, thinking much more clearly than the evening before, and went to eat breakfast. My first Indian food in India!

It was actually only semi-Indian. They did have didli (like rice cakes), sambar (a veggie "sauce" to dip the didli and vaea in), chutneys, steamed bananas and vaea (donuts with rice and lentils and spices inside), but they also had toast, jam, croissants, muffins, omelets, and other less than Indian dishes.

I also went on my first run in India! Cross country pre-season is starting soon, so I need to keep running… My first run in India was also interesting. The hotel we stayed at was close to the airport, so I guess they were slightly used to weird foreigners, but I definitely got a lot of stares running on the side of the road. The roads were so busy! There are people walking on the side of the road, stands selling fruit or other small items, and houses directly boardering the street. Then, there’s also a ton of cars, buses, and MOTERCYCLES! So many motorcycles! [Actually, over 70 percent of the Keralites over 18 own a motorcycle, they told us].

In the list of firsts is my first trip on an Indian road – which wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone was making it out to be! The three hour drive to our hotel was very-well timed, because at this point the only Techers I really knew on the trip were those I had flown with. We’d had two lectures before the trip, and most of the others (as ME majors) already knew each other, but I was still getting to know them.

After a quick shower and lunch buffet at our hotel (The Windsor Castle) we drove to Saintgits. We got of the bus, and standing in front of us were what seemed like 100 students! We shook all the hands, I didn’t remember any of the names, and were ushered into a smaller room. There, the president, a few other important people at Saintgits, the profs, and the 16 students we were working with joined us. They gave us booklets they had made for the trip, with an itinary and room to take notes ect. It was really sweet!

Next, we had a welcome ceremony. I’ve never heard so many thank you’s at once. Everyone was welcoming us, thanking those who made the class possible, and talking about their experiences so far / their hopes for the class.

We had a reception after, with coffee and snacks. The snacks were cutlet, a spicy round dessert patty, and cake. Time to begin learning names! I talked to two profs and a group of students who are helping the 8 ME students we are working with. One of the professors, Amy, worked with the electricy infrastructure particuarly wiht hydraulic power – I wish I’d spoken to her more about this!

Next, the students threw an Ornam celebration for us – in English! They had celebrated in the morning but stopped when a classmate had a family emergency, but wanted to show us this.

There were a bunch of dances and songs. One girl sung for us in English as well, but the rest were traditional dances.

We had a buffet dinner with everyone. I sat with Robbie, Ken, and the directors of Saintgits. We talked about some politics and language – it was really interesting. After the Saintgits team left, Erik gave us a quick economics lesson. We talked about the first welfare theorem.

The first welfare theorem says that, if three conditions hold, then price is marginal cost and peopel are paid as they contribute. These three conditions are:

  1. Perfect Information.

  2. Producers act as price-takers.

  3. No transaction costs.

Small-scale agriculture, for instance, often meets these conditions because there are so many farmers who must accept the market price. In this perfect market, there are no profits, just marginal values. Profits are made by removing these conditions. Microsoft, for instance, doesn’t have perfect information. It is a price-setter and rents out information. Branding is essentially becoming a price setter because of info assymetry. Erik gave us a really interesting example – tire manufacteurers faught for 20 years against legislation that tire safety ratings must be on the product, because as soon as this was the case, the prices for all tires dropped!

Erik also led an interesting discussion on losing a job versus trading jobs. People are always really worried about losing their jobs, especially when a machine or some other technology will be replacing them. Usually, he said, this technology also makes room for new jobs – people just have to shift. One thing we’ve been hearing from the students here though, is that people really don’t like changing the way they work or changing jobs. That might be a social constraint we need to look at when designing products!

Tomorrow, we’ll be starting our market research! I’m really excited!

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