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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist

I spent a week in Kampala trying to deal with a hole in my tooth as well as a potential cavity in another tooth. Little did I know this adventure would provide me with yet another ridiculous story to tell.

*Disclaimer: I am going to go ahead and say “that’s what she said” in anticipation of all the dirty minds out in cyberspace.*

So I came into Kampala on Monday, as instructed, in hopes of seeing a dentist on Tuesday or Wednesday. Little did I know May 1st is a national holiday here in Uganda. When I was told this, I was rather confused and asked “what holiday is it, May Day?” I got some good laughs for this, but in all honesty I was serious. I soon found out it is the Ugandan Labor Day. I guess you really do learn something every day…

I get an appointment for Thursday and everything goes fairly smoothly. Big props to the Ugandan dentist fixing my cavity, he decided it was not too deep so he wouldn’t give me any novacane. Initially I was a little nervous, but he assessed the situation correctly and all went well. In regards to my potential cavity, it ended up being a sensitive and possible exposed root. He didn’t really seem to know what to do besides give me desensitizing cream, which makes me nervous that I’d have to return after a few weeks to reapply the cream, which was completely topical. I was glad I didn’t have to suffer through any mouth injections during this time though. 

The hilarious part was when they were filling my tooth and cleaning my teeth. Apparently the assistant to the dentist is used as a utensil tray because he stood next to me for over an hour just holding things for the dentist, whether it be the sucker in between uses, the scraper, or any other dental tool. Also, at one point both men had tools in my mouth, three different instruments in my mouth all at the same time (see disclaimer). Please keep in mind I have a small mouth, which was already tired from the other procedures and probably wasn’t open to its full capacity. On top of that, you add three instruments which are being pushed and prodded in my mouth? Talk about discomfort…I kind of wish I had a picture because from my point of view it looked absolutely ridiculous, two men coming at me with three different instruments trying to shove them all in my mouth and do something to benefit my dental health…yeah.

In other news, my site had a party to celebrate the graduation of the candidate class, also known as Set 5 (each semester a new set of students enters into the program and they go through the program together, as a “set”, taking all their classes together, so they are numbered by their set). One thing I love about my site is that the school throws party for everything and anything. Another thing I don’t love as much is the delay in the start of programs. The party was supposed to start at noon and only last about an hour but it didn’t actually start until 6 pm and went on until 8 pm (which in the grand scheme of life isn’t much, it’s only two hours, but the fact that it started so late bothered me…I had started supper before the party and was interrupted…it was just annoying). Anyhow, the party went fairly smoothly (besides the power going out in the middle and everything turning into chaos for about 20 minutes). I have to say, my favorite part wasn’t the awkward side conversations between the director and principal tutor who were sitting in the front of the room. It wasn’t the entrance of Mr. and Mrs. Set 5 (Mrs. Set 5 is actually an amazing girl who I absolutely LOVE and will miss). It wasn’t when one of the staff members shook a bottle of soda and sprayed it on Mr. and Mrs. Set 5, acting as if it was champagne. It wasn’t even the ridiculous massive game of musical chairs, which ended up being a mix between musical chairs and a conga line. It had to be when the MC (another student who I will miss) decided to attribute all the success of the students and their passing of exams and inevitably the program not to their hard work and dedication, but to the will of Jesus Christ. Now, I’m not knocking religion or Jesus or attributing anything to God’s divine power, but sometimes it just rubs me the wrong way when someone takes absolutely no personal responsibility, whether it’s for the successes or failures in life. It just seems that the students really have been working hard and studying a great deal and deserve a little credit too.

After the last of the students left, the school became quite lonely. Lucky for me, my life got a little more interesting thanks to the work of CHIPS and Worldwide Logistics (both are courier companies similar to DHL). I received a call one morning informing me that I had a 21 kg (about 46 lbs.) package waiting for me in Kampala. I was ecstatic until the woman on the line went on to say I was being charged 507,000 USH (equivalent to $202.80). I was completely taken aback, not really sure what to do. The woman on the phone informed me that I had to come to the Worldwide Logistics office in Kampala to pay the fine and retrieve my package. I told her I lived in Rakai and wouldn’t be able to get into Kampala for a few days (pending permission given by Peace Corps, arranging travel and accommodation, etc.). The woman on the phone told me this was fine (pause for breath of relief) but they would have to charge me a holding fee for every day the package was in the possession of the office until I would pick it up. I didn’t even get a chance to find out how much this “holding fee” was, I instantly demanded the fee be nullified because of my circumstances. The woman on the phone was very defensive and kept saying it was procedure and she couldn’t do anything about it. I finally calmed down and just said okay I’d be there within the next couple of days. After I hung up, the woman e-mailed me with the breakdown of the fees I was being charged (which wasn’t on any official receipt or bill but just typed out in an e-mail). I immediately called the Peace Corps office to request permission to go to Kampala to deal with the matter and to my surprise I was approved and told I would receive help. I was told that Peace Corps had an agreement with the Ugandan Government which exempted PCVs from getting taxed. AWESOME! 

Or so I thought. 

Well, I went in the next day only to find out nothing could be done that day, the paperwork and the processing of the package would take three business days. I went back to my site only to get a call a few days later telling me I needed to bring my Peace Corps Passport to Kampala to give to the office that way we would be able to get the package from the airport (apparently it was stuck at the airport at customs). So, I hop on another bus to Kampala hoping to return with a 21 kg package (I didn’t really think about how I would get it back, I just wanted to get it…first things first, right?). So I get to Kampala and wait for my ride to the Peace Corps office. Apparently they forgot about me because I waited for 3 hours before someone came, and even then I think it was by accident. I later found out it was a complete miscommunication so I let it go fairly swiftly. I was just happy to be making progress towards getting my package.

Or so I thought (do you see a trend yet?). 

So I go to the Peace Corps office, get whatever agreement and letter Worldwide Logistics needed (which took a while because the person who initially had it was out sick so new people in the office had to find the paperwork). I then went to the Worldwide Logistics office, met the woman I had been speaking with on the phone and gave her my Peace Corps Passport, thinking we’d be going to Entebbe Airport that day to get my package. I guess the joke is on me because when I gave it to her she told me she had to take it along with the paperwork to Entebbe and then they would release the package which would take two days at least (even though a taxi ride to Entebbe Airport takes an hour, maybe). So I sit there, riding the fine line between starting to scream or starting to cry, when the woman tells me to “calm down, in Uganda things go slowly”. That made me laugh a little. I gave her my passport with her word that the package would be in the Worldwide Logistics office by Friday when Peace Corps administration could come and pick it up allowing me to pick it up from the PC office at a later date. Again, I went back to site that evening with nothing physical to show for my trip but still mildly happy that some progress was made.

Or so I thought.

On Monday, having not heard anything since the last Wednesday (when I was in Kampala) about the package, I called the Peace Corps office to get an update. I find out that Worldwide Logistics needs MORE paperwork, including something that needs to go through higher security levels in order to get the package from Entebbe. Yeah, the package is STILL IN ENTEBBE AIRPORT AT CUSTOMS. At this point even the Peace Corps staff helping me are frustrated because every time they call to make progress, there seems to be something else needed. Why all this wasn’t explained THE FIRST TIME is beyond me and anyone that has been helping me. 

Seriously, all this for a bunch of my old clothes from home and some Indian snacks…I wish the people at the airport would realize what was in the box, then they’d know not to waste any more time trying to get money or whatever else out of me for something that isn’t really that big of a deal.

So now it’s just a waiting game…when in the world is Aditi going to get her package?


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