Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Dentist in a 3rd World Country

I had not been to the dentist in about 6 months and thought, now is as good a time as any. Besides I can check out what it’s like to go to the dentist in Central America. So I checked around Antigua and found the cleanest looking place. I walked in to find white tile, a clean look and feel and most importantly in a country that never seemed to smell quite right…it smelled like a dentist’s office. “this is it,” I thought. I waited around and out came a girl in scrubs (another good sign). She asked if I would like to see the dentist that day. Wow – one would never hear this in America. I told her tomorrow was good for me and then had my pick of times to come in. I inquired about the price…it was $20 for a cleaning! Holy cow! That is amazing. I couldn’t believe it.
All around I was a little disappointed. The cleaning was so similar to the experience in the US. The good news was my teeth were clean, but I thought this would be some amazing cultural experience.
It turns out my real experience was in talking about it with other people. My Spanish teacher, Patricia, for example explained that she had never been to the dentist (she is 45) because it is “muy carro” or very expensive. What I thought? $20 is expensive for the dentist? This is crazy.
It turns out that the average person in Guatemala – like my English Teacher earns the equivalent of $160/month. Spending one eighth of your income on the dentist is not important when it turns out feeding your family is about equal to the cost to feed a family in the US. Patricia explained that for example for birthdays cake is not common in Guatemala. Perhaps instead of having beans everyday you may have meat for the family on your birthday. I was further surprised to find that this great lady didn’t have a washing machine. She washed her clothes by hand in her small pueblo (she lived outside Antigua in one of the surrounding cities because it is cheaper).
Other interesting things that I found out. Public school in Guatemala is not that great as you can guess and private school, though inexpensive by our standards ($60/month) is out of reach of the average Guatemalan family as it is about ½ of their income. If you’re interested in supporting a child to be able to go to private school, I suggest that you do so through this website or perhaps you would like to donate to Patricia’s two children’s education. If you would like to, here is her address:
Patricia del Pinal de Valle
3ra Calle 3-70
Zona 1 Ciudad Vieja
Sacate Pequez
Guatemala, Centraoamerica
+503 7831 5255

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