Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bitter Tooth

Its Dawn, the Muezzin’s sing song calls to prayer hums in the distance, birds tweet and call noisily as the sun slowly brings light to the morning....

I’m thinking of Nigeria, we will be going back soon. Funny , I didn’t write, I’m thinking of home…., I guess I really haven’t accepted Nigeria as home, for me home is where I can flourish, till I start thriving, even in a very small way, I will continue searching, using all the resources available to me. Something tells me I may not have to search far. Who knows I may find that ‘wetin I dey look for for Sokoto, dey for my Shokoto”

I try to gauge my feeling towards returning, and all that I sense is a mix of eagerness to get back to my routine most especially working out and completing my Novel (s), and a reluctance to leave, I’ll miss the inexpensive cost of living here.

This holiday has really reinvigorated my spirit; I was becoming bitter and resentful of my reality. Sadly it’s the reality of many Young Nigerians, yet knowing that millions of men and women are struggling with the same challenges i am facing doesn’t seem to make the reality any less painful.

I read in a paper here that a team of African medical practitioners, (Nigeria included) are in Srilanka now, researching the health care system, with the intention of improving the ones in their Countries……what took them so long! .

I recall an incident that happened a day before we left Abuja, I had a dental appointment in the Julius Berger Company Clinic, the first in the eight years I’ve been living here. I guess with all the excitement of traveling I mixed up the date with the time, and arrived exactly one hour late. I rushed in panting, completely unaware that I was late, I was heaving and sighing, telling myself ‘just in time’. A plump short haired German lady was passing by, wearing the white plastic shoes doctors here wear, our conversation went like this

“Please where is the dentist office in these premises?”

She shakes her head and replies, “No dentist here”

I ask her surprised
“You mean there is no dentist here?”
“Not for everybody…no”
“But I have an appointment” I pass her the small slip of Paper, written name, date and time in German,

“You are one hour late” she shrugs; I can see she is delighted I’ve made a mistake.

I stare at the time written 3pm, 4 -07-07, she showed me her watch emphasizing my lateness, I stare at it, with an obvious look of surprise, I had fallen asleep while I waited for 4pm, so I was still a bit dazed from the hurried awakening.

“Sorry I cannot help you, next time don’t come so late” dragging herself and her German accent away from me.

“okay can I make another appointment then” I asked resigned ,

“let me see,” she walks briskly towards the reception, holding the piece of paper

I tag along behind her, clutching the skinny wrist of my seven year old to keep up with her pace

A babble of German conversation ensures, and she repeats
“you are late, now the doctor is with another patient”

I reply calmly wondering why so much fuss over a routine dental checkup. Granted I haven’t had one in years, and the fear of getting HIV from unsterilized dental equipment has kept me away from dentists in Nigeria

“ yes I know, I just want to make another appointment”

Both ladies march towards the dentist office, meeting the doctor on her way out, she walks out holding a file, I occupy myself with the sight of the faded Batik gown she wore under her green plastic apron, she looked more like a missionary.

“no……. not possible to see her now, she is busy” the short haired doctor spat, not even trying to hide her irritation
“Can I just make another appointment for next time”, beginning to sound like a broken record, I
started thinking it was a bad idea to have come here.

The three ladies mutter to each other and the secretary asks me to sit and wait, they all move away, back to their jobs, except my short haired friend who returns to remind me
“it is written here clearly…… the time and date……its in German but it is easy to understand… time you read it well”.

She saunters away arrogantly, and I look on, my mind is blank for a moment ….but only for a moment, till a surge of “I don’t have to take this crap from them” feeling roused within me, with the sleepy daze completely out of my eyes I walked out, none of them where in sight so no one saw me leave.

I try to remain calm, except for my kid who keeps asking “mama ……….are you angry……..Are you angry?
“NO, I’m not angry, I’ve just changed my mind, let’s go”

“But you look like you are angry, are you angry……. are you really angry”

His persistence further irritating me

“if you are not angry then why did you squeeze that paper and throw it there”

I reflect on the piece of paper stating my appointment, and i regret throwing it on their spotless floor . But that was the least I could do to show my protest.

I fumed, as thoughts of the exorbitant fees for medical treatment in private clinics, and the hectic waiting in government run hospitals crossed my mind.
“I don’t blame them, if our big men didn’t come here to scrounge for medical treatment, they would have some respect”

I remember waiting in the lobby once with IBB; yes the “Maradona” himself.

Instead of feeling privileged that I’m rubbing shoulders with Nigeria’s high and mighty, I’m disgusted that the health care system here is in such a state that we have to depend on expatriate company clinics.

I just needed a routine dental check up, not heaps of attitude bordering on insults.
I did the check up in Srilanka, it cost me N1000, for the check up, two tooth x-rays and a polish, I have no cavities and my fillings are intact. Which is more than I can say for the way I was feeling.

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