I am a stranger in this land.
There were the "batman" masks...
The number of "dental assistants" under 4 ft. tall...
Oh, and one more thing. The good doctor's broken foot. Playing soccer with the kids after a long day in the dental clinic...not a good idea.
And it's not for lack of trying. When it comes to India - the more I learn about the people, the less I seem to know. It's frustratingly fascinating.
Case in point. I took a rickshaw into town to pick up a few essentials yesterday.
When I passed by a shop selling cookware, my attention was stolen by this weathered, fire aged pot. I walked up to the shop, picked up the pot, and had it almost knocked out of my hand by the shopkeeper. I told him I wanted to buy it. He said something illegible so I knew we weren't going to be having this conversation in English. He pointed to the pot.
"Bad," he seemed to say.
"I know it's bad but I want to buy it." I took it back out of his hands.
"No good." I was getting pretty good at interpreting his sentences.
He pointed to a tiny pinhole in the pot to show me it would no longer hold liquid.
I told him I didn't care.
He took it back from me and showed me a new pot.
I took it back and said I wanted the old pot.
Back and forth we went. His voice got louder and his hand motions got more grand every time it was his turn to talk.
I pulled out my money. "I give you one hundred rupees and you give me the pot."
I put the money in its hand.
Then I pryed the pot from his hands.
"Ok?" I asked.
His friend poked him in the side as if to say, "Take the money you fool."
He shook his head relented.
I thanked him profusely then asked if I could take a picture. You can see that the shopkeeper is still feeling bad about taking advantage of me while his friend is happy to have come across a sucker. (by the way, 100 rupees is less than $2.00)
This was not a simple case of a language barrier. Even if we spoke the same language, he could never understand why this pot would mean anything to me. I see a symbol of so many things that intrigue me about India: the family loyalty, the fight for survival, the feeling of community, the traditions, and the daily toil. He sees a broken vessel. We agree to finish the transaction but both leave feeling misunderstood.
This kind of breakdown happens often here.
We have had Jaxon's friend Ethan with us this week and his father, Slade, arrived this morning (it's been nearly a year since we've seen their family because they have been living in northern India). When he walked into the clinic, the first thing he did was say an enthusiastic hello and reach out for the hug. Rookie mistake. Aaron made this one the last time we were in India too. As Slade had his arms outstretched for the hug, I gave him a token hug back and told him how very very bad this was.
Aaron was doing a procedure on a girl in the dental chair and she nearly jumped out of her seat - paying no attention to the hoses and cords attached to her mouth.
"Yedan!!! (that's how they say Aaron). Your wife!!" She vigorously pointed to me and I know her whole world was crashing down around her, certain of our imminent divorce as she caught me in a scandalous hug with a male friend. In public, no less.
At dinner tonight, Slade mentioned that this was the low point of his day. Half kidding, of course! But these things remind us of how foreign we really are.
|You can see Slade folding his arms at playtime. He's learned it's just safer that way.|
One of the things kids hate the most in the dental clinic this week is getting fluoride treatments. The gel is sticky and gross but we give each of them the same lecture about how amazing these "vitamins" are for their teeth. We only have two rules. No spitting them out in the sink and no brushing them off their teeth until bedtime. We go over and over and over the rules.
My last patient of the day nodded his head in agreement when I gave him the fluoride lecture. He couldn't say anything because his mouth was too full of fluoride and saliva so he just shook his head. Check. We totally understood each other.
I came back to the Elephant House (volunteer headquarters) to freshen up for a few minutes and then headed back out to see the kids for playtime. My last patient of the day was waiting eagerly for me when I got outside.
"Aunty, Aunty! I brushed my teeth! See?" And he opened his mouth good and wide so I could see his work. At least he remembered the part of our conversation where I taught him how to brush his teeth better. He just missed the part about not brushing them until bed tonight.
After playtime, I grabbed a rickshaw back to the junction to visit my new friend with the pots. When he saw me coming, he ran to an old bag he had and started to rummage through it. Out came more weathered pots. He showed me all the bad parts, while smiling and nodding, and proceeded to fill my arms with them. No longer was he trying to sell me anything new. We were understanding each other. But not really. We had just learned how to do the dance and that was enough for now.
We do a lot of dancing here in India.
We see and do and say things so differently. But neither one of us is right or wrong. They show us their way...
And we try to show them ours...
But not really. Because we demonstrate our ideas through their machinery and their world and it ends up making us look rather foolish. And they don't think we know.
Onto the mayhem.
A worm showed up for dental work today.
But these kids weren't having any part of it. "Nope, nope, nope. We not come."
A game of rock, paper, scissors solved that.
The stacks of charts seem to growing instead of shrinking...
The electricity goes out at ALL the wrong times. Repeatedly.
Some of the kids are entirely too relaxed and prefer the clinic over school...
Self explanatory, once more.
There were the "batman" masks...
The heated resistance to our new age dental contraption...
The fears we had to patiently help the kids overcome...