Tuesday, February 22, 2011

First Haitian Medical Procedure: Check

Friday night I'm eating soup. Hot and sour SOUP, of all things, not Jolly Ranchers. I feel something weird in my mouth.

That's my crown.

Yep, it is supposed to stay permanently cemented to its place on my molar, but alas, I drove home past the Place Boyer tent city with it in my pocket. I wanted to do nothing; Ben made me email my dentist back in Texas.

Very long story short, it turns out you have to get crowns re-cemented prontissimo, and it turns out one of our Quisqueya board members' wives is a dentist. I made an appointment for this afternoon and tried to figure out how I would get downtown to her office. "Downtown" Port-au-Prince is not a particularly secure area; US embassy employees are forbidden to go there. It is nearly impossible for me to imagine finding one dentist's office in a place where many streets don't have names and all businesses and homes are covered up behind large cement walls topped with either "democracy wire" (razor wire, as it is known locally), or the homemade equivalent (broken bottle pieces stuck in cement).

We arranged with Miquette's brother Dan to drive Ben and I, and it only took us 5 or 6 phone calls plus 3 or 4 stops to ask a marchan (lady street vendor) for directions to find the place.

Doctora Diaz, a Dominican dentist, was amazing. In less than five minutes I heard her speak English, Spanish, and Kreyol to various people in her office. The waiting room magazines- all in French. The intake forms- partially in English, part in Spanish. Haiti is so much more multicultural than my little corner of Texas.

Ben and I get really excited when we have the opportunity to speak Spanish anywhere. I think it's because we speak about 15% Spanish, whereas we speak about 1% Kreyol. It feels like an accomplishment, next to the awful I'm-a-failure feeling of sucking all the time at Kreyol.

Doctora Diaz re-cemented my crown  in the flashiest of flashes, and sent me on my way. It only took us an hour to wind our way through the hills of PAP back to Quisqueya again.

Things I saw and heard on the adventure:
  • Doctora Diaz said they have to mop four times a day in her office lobby. It's the dry season here, and especially with all the unpaved roads and ubiquitous piles of busted-up concrete, it's a dust bowl.
  • Dozens of schoolkids walking home. Haitian private school uniforms all involve some sort of plaid.
  • An elementary-age girl studying a textbook, still in her school uniform. Literally sitting on top of a pile of bent rebar, which I can almost guarantee has been removed from a kraze'd building for reselling.
  • Several twenty-something young men, sleeping in the middle of the afternoon on a pile of tires.
  • A business I had never seen before: House of Pain Gym
  • Dozens and dozens of roadside shops: folding table covered in random grocery store items like condensed milk, V8, diapers
  • Many people in line at "banks", which are brightly-painted little roadside kiosks for gambling
  • The neighborhood around the clinic appears to have been much harder hit than where we are, a little further uphill. House after house after building after church after school is half-fallen, cracked and perilously tilting. The hills are covered in what my students call bidonvilles, stadium-style homes, one roof on another's floor like a great swarm of drab concrete dominoes. The only nongray color is blue- blue for the UN tarps, the Samaritan's Purse tarps, the World Vision tarps, and so on.


  1. Quite an adventure for one of life's 'simple pleasures'. I won't whine the next time I need to visit the dentist. Be safe.

  2. Wow. Really- such an adventure to get your crown fixed. So many sights to take in.



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