It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Let’s start with the worst of times.
My first dreaded experience receiving dental care in Nicaragua was not ideal. Suffering from an infected molar in need of healing and extracting was not ideal either. So, practicing as many “teeth” and “pain” related words in Spanish as I could, I took a taxi to a well-ish reputed dentist in Granada, a city about a two-hour drive away.
Colonial-style homes-turned-businesses line the narrow streets in Granada, their large wooden doors painted in every vibrant color of the rainbow charm the humming city. Perched snugly against Lago Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua), Granada sits expectantly under the shadow of Mombacho, a lusciously green volcano, calm these days. However, its missing top above and a spattering of islands below made from chunks of past explosions that surround its base in the lake are a reminder that tranquility has not always been the theme of this pretty little town.
Cue my arrival at the dentist’s office on the outskirts of this erupted landscape. Cupping the right side of my face with my hand, I exited the taxi and made my way to my appointment.
Crossing the threshold, the walls closed in, shadowing an empty room where the only furniture was a barren, solitary desk flushed against the wooden door, the faded green paint long chipped off. Behind the rickety desk, a young girl took my money, but not my name nor any history, or emergency contacts. She walked me into the small, dimly lit back room of the dental office that might have once been someone’s garage 80 years ago.
I followed along the unswept floors, down a hall hosting forgotten civilizations of dust clumps and hair.
The vinyl upholstery squeaked welcomingly as I sat into the duct-taped chair and leaned back, refusing to look closely at the dentist’s tools in the rusty tray waiting for me on a thin metal table. From outside, I could hear a dog fight start in the street, a brawl that combined with Spanish shouting, and didn’t end for some time. I did not feel all that safe.