28 August 2013

My Worst Congo Fear. Came True.

The question we get the most is, "Aren't you scared living in Congo?" Well no, not really. Sure there are bugs, and diseases and an election every now and then, but we have a plan for these things. (Kill them. Don't get malaria. Have an exit strategy.)

Then there's the medical question. In my mind, most minor emergencies and illnesses are do-able here. There are doctors and a hospital. And when thinking of the proverbial appendicitis, I think we'd be okay. At least I've heard of someone who had an appendectomy here and was fine.

Here's what I do worry about: facial injuries and broken teeth. Why? Because I just don't think someone here is going to stitch up my little girls' faces with extra care so they don't have nasty scars. There's no guy they can call in from "plastics" to do it right. (I mean Tina Fey has been mildly successful, but I can't count on my children being funny enough to compensate.)

On broken teeth, the last place you want to go here is the dentist and lord only knows about Congolese cosmetic dentistry, which I assume is non-existent. There are no small, delicate solutions for anything. Example: Remember that gigantic plaster cast Adam got practically to his elbow for a tiny hand injury?!

Yes. Gardez vos dents. As if they are tiny sheep in a meadow.

So on Saturday night when Adam told me I wasn't "being enthusiastic enough" during the family jumping-on-the-bed game, I went full-in and Charlotte jumped smack into my face. Chipping my front tooth. My *expletive* front tooth as I've called it since then. And I yelled at him and I cried because what are you supposed to do about an *expletive* front tooth in the *expletive* Congo!? In *expletive* August when we won't have access to Western world dentistry for months and months? In between sobs I told him, "Don't you even begin to think this is just some thing that will resolve itself and I can blog about later. This is forever."

Honestly, it's the type of chip that is barely noticeable and I showed it to everyone so they'd reassure me. But it was there. And if we lived in the US I would have had immediate confidence that it could be fixed. And I would have cried and cursed about one-millionth less than I did here in Kinshasa. In *expletive* Congo. In *expletive* August.

So yesterday I pulled myself together and made an appointment to see the dentist. Remember the guy Eli went to last year? The Greek dentist who I just assumed can't get a license in Europe, so practices here for desperate souls in Congo.

I thought he would take one look, say it's not that bad and tell me to just wait until I had access to the most state-of-the-art technology. Because it's my *expletive* front tooth. How can I possibly express to someone, when we're both speaking in our second languages, how important this is?

But before I knew it, he was drilling away my front tooth. I didn't even get a chance to give my prepared speech on the American cultural importance of nice teeth. I had four Congolese "helper" faces and his Greek face starting down at me. I wanted to scream "Arrêt! I have no idea what you're doing. I don't want this!" But he had a drill in my mouth. I told myself it was okay. I can always just get a fake tooth in the States next year. I was sure when he was done, my teeth would be different sizes and one would have black filling right in front. I counted the months I would have to live in Congo with the monstrosity he would leave in my mouth.

One giant panic attack later, it was over and they showed me my fixed tooth. And it was totally fine. They all laughed at me as I relaxed my shoulders and dropped my scowl. I couldn't even tell my tooth had ever been broken. Then he told me he had used porcelain from the United States. Why!? Why Greek man, wait until afterward to tell me that you're not using counterfeit Chinese carcinogenic filler and that you actually know what you're doing!? But it looks great. I'm happy again. When I left, I didn't have enough money to pay, so he said it was his "treat."

No problem, excellent Greek dentist. I'll come back soon to pay you. Happily.

My real mouth - post dentist.

I mean really, if one can get excellent cosmetic dentistry in the Heart of Darkness, what's left? (But for the sake of our faces, I'm strictly enforcing our new no-bed-jumping rule because I'm still sure there's no "guy from plastics.")


  1. When we lived in Nicaragua, I always said that if we got sick, we'd go to the vet. He seemed more educated.

    Also, we're waiting to get back to the states to fix my son's front tooth. His friend shot him in the face with a BB gun. Joy.

    1. Oh yeah! You just had this happen too. I should have learned! Broken front teeth are kind of charming on boys, not so much on grown women.

  2. Surely it was elephant ivory, you fool.

    1. Oh man that would be awesome! I mean not awesome. Who knew it was really the world's dentists funding the ivory trade?

  3. Oh - so sorry for the trauma! Hooray for the fix!!

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  5. LOL. I attended high school in Kin & had braces done by a dentist/orthodontist who rejoiced in the name of Cleopatra Caravella. Really. The results probably wouldn't satisfy an American orthodontist, but I survived!

  6. Awesome anecdote here. This shows us that distance and location shouldn't be allowed to impede in our access to proper dental treatments, especially at times when we need it. What applies in U.S. and Congo should apply elsewhere. There is simply no excuse.

    Jason Dew @ Metro Dental Associates


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