Travel in India with type 1 diabetes – the homestay adventure

In late July 2011, exactly 7 months after Amy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we backpacked around India for four weeks, in a trip we called Monsoon Meandering.

This is post 12 in the series about that trip and its planning and how type 1 diabetes played a part.
This post is all about our biggest worry and adventure, two nights staying with a local family in a small village near Orchha.

An adventure awaits

We departed Gwalior by car and headed toward our destination, Orchha, which is a very small town on the River Betwa.
Our accomodation for the next two nights was to be in two of the homestays run by Friends of Orchha. Jane and Amy staying with one family, Emilia and me with another.

What’s a homestay?

A homestay is where a family opens up part of its house to paying guests, to give them a little income and to provide the guests with a completely different experience to staying in a hotel.
To read more about ‘our’ homestay take a look at either the Friends of Orchha website or our many homestay articles on Monsoon Meandering blog.
Homestays usually have rooms for only two people and whilst Friends of Orchha said we could all fit in one I decided that I’d rather split us up and share income between two different families. The cost per room for two people was only Rs500 (£7) per night, so having two rooms only cost Rs1000 (£14) per night, an absolute bargain.

The worries and the reality

You are staying in someone else’s home, one without running water and possibly without electricity too – our places did have one electrical socket each but who needed electricity?
You will be eating food prepared by them in what looks initially to be unhygenic surroundings – we couldn’t have been more wrong about hygenic, they kept their homes as immaculate as possible, the food couldn’t have been fresher, nor the plates/trays shinier.
You’ve got used to hotels with tiled or marble floors, here’s it’s earth – so your feet got a little dusty, then you washed them, simple.
There’s no shower, just a bucket of cold water – there were wet-style rooms specifically for your bucket bath and how environmentally friendly it felt to do it that way.
There’s no flushing toilet, it’s a composting Indian style toilet – Jane’s place did have a flushing WC, but what a waste of water it seemed in the end.
How will we communicate? We don’t speak Hindi, they speak only a couple of words of English – it’s funny how easy it is to adapt and we had a brilliant time without speaking, just playing and laughing all the time.

So what was it like?

Here’s a video featuring one of the homestays run by our host Malti. The room you see is the only room they have for the family, to live in, to eat in, to sleep in. It’s rather humbling to see how happy they are. Our host Malti is cooking us a wonderful breakfast of pakoras and bananas.

Amy’s diabetes management

One area of concern for us was just how we would manage Amy’s diabetes in a place without the hygiene standards we’ve become used to.
Would Amy eat anything?
What it be so awful Amy’s stress levels played havoc with her blood glucose levels?
Could we keep the insulin cool enough?
The simple answer is that managing the diabetes was no more trouble than an easy few days in England.
This was probably one of Amy’s most rewarding experiences and she instantly became part of the community as soon as we arrived, playing games she didn’t understand with village boys she’d never met and couldn’t talk to.
Amy didn’t eat loads of food in the homestay but we made up for that buy letting her have a bigger lunch whilst out sightseeing. Her levels were good, probably partially as a result of being so happy.

A luxury experience in budget surroundings

On the whole the experience was fantastic, I really couldn’t have hoped for more. Seeing how happy the villagers were with next to nothing, compared to us westerners who have everything yet are often not happy with it. We all had such fun with the villagers and Amy’s diabetes management went very well.

Here’s a short video of the lane outside one of the homestays with Amy playing with the kids and later playing ‘teacher’ with them.

A couple of anecdotes

Frog for dinner madame?

Dinner on the second night was at Jane’s homestay and we sat outside whilst the host, Kusum, cooked us dinner over the wood fired stove. We sat on the floor and were handed our meals and watched the lightning in the distance fork in the sky.
Emilia’s plate was hot, she put it on the floor, taking a piece of roti and dipping it in the food.
They I saw it, the small frog. It jumped on her plate just as she was about to take another piece of roti.
“Emilia, wow, did you see that lightning” gave me just enough time to remote the frog from her plate and she was none the wiser.

Don’t scream in the shower

The wet-room where Emilia and I had to shower was just outside of our room, which was hot inside. I went outside to do a little blogging on my netbook whilst Emilia prepared herself for her first ever bucket bath, with cold water.
Shortly after going into the shower room some neighbourhood kids saw my laptop and came over to stare in awe at the pictures I showed them of England and other places they asked about.
I waited for Emilia’s first scream when the cold water hit and I hoped she had heard the kids outside before she came out.
Luckily she’d heard what was going on and got fully dressed in the shower room and only came out when they’d left.
Unluckily for her the kids stayed with me for about 20 minutes.

Next up – summary of problems

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