Zainabu and the Dentist
July 2, 2012 § 4 Comments
The other day I took Zainabu to the dentist. The clinic was a nice, clean place. Zainabu is nine years old. A few days earlier, she came to me and put her head in my lap complaining of pain in her mouth. After some convincing, she opened her mouth to show me. Inside, two of her lower molars were so decayed with cavities they were bleeding from the middle of the tooth. The root, I suppose. They should have been treated a long time ago, but that’s how dental care, and problems in general, are often treated here. Put it off until you can’t put it off anymore. There are so many expenses and so little money they can only pay for the most emergent necessities. Zainabu’s cavities weren’t an emergent necessity until they became intolerable. Besides, they’re just baby teeth and they’re going to fall out soon anyway.
At the dental clinic, the dentist – for some reason – thought I was her mother and was very warm and respectful with me. It felt really nice. Plus, I’ve become particularly attached to Zainabu and would be proud to have a daughter like her. We came with Agnes, one of the older girls from the orphanage, and Matthew, a young man who Dr. Greg is putting through school at the Wildlife Management School. He comes around whenever he has free time to help out. He’s very sweet and very soft spoken. Later in the day he very sweetly and very quietly asked me if I would marry him, explaining that I was very nice, would make a wonderful mother, and he’s always wanted to go to America. I don’t think he expected me to accept, but I guess he figured he’d give it a shot. Alas, the night prior saw me betrothed to Giorgio, a fellow volunteer from Italy. He proposed as a joke over dinner. Dativa, Teacher’s wife, and Skola, Teacher’s sister, were teasing Giorgio that he’s too old to not be married (34). Giorgio, who is very funny, responded by proposing to me. I accepted because I’m also considered too old to not be married and having children already.
Back to the clinic, Zainabu and I went into the treatment room together while Matthew and Agnes waited outside. Dental clinics here don’t use anesthesia, but Zainabu didn’t flinch or cry once. She was so stoic and strong, but I know it must have hurt quite a lot. Her cavities were so exposed and raw that even eating and breathing air was causing her extreme discomfort. Having them poked, scraped, prodded, drilled and filled could not have been pleasant. After the dentist, I took everybody out to lunch for chicken and fries. Chicken and fries is the favorite meal of most Tanzanians. It’s exactly what it sounds like – half a chicken and a big plate of french fries. Delicious.
To get Z’s two cavities filled, it came to a grand total of 77,000 Tanzanian shillings – a little less than fifty dollars.