Monica met me at the gate last week, her arms full of the delectable homemade peanut butter which she sells, which our family could possibly keep in business single-handedly. My kids always get excited for her carmel-colored little plastic jars. Monica has a radiant, nearly ever-present smile, ironic considering the tremendous road she has walked in her life.
When I asked her there at the gate about her daughter, who is usually away at boarding school, her smile turned downward. Her daughter had a toothache--a bad one. The tooth needed to be removed. She was in pain 24/7, and couldn't eat anything. Her daughter is only sixteen or so, so I was sorry to hear this.
This is very common here. There are many gaps in wide Ugandan smiles, a good handful missing even the front tooth. Dental care is costly when you can't always afford to eat, and Ugandans like a lot of sugar in their tea. In fact last week, since our family still in the tooth-losing phase--the good kind--at our house, J. was delighted to report that one of the guards had lost a tooth in front. Definitely not as fun when you are an adult.
Monica was concerned about the cost of removing the tooth. But apparently, she needn't be. On Friday when I checked up with her, she happily recounted that her daughter was able to find a dentist who usually worked on prisoners, so was thrilled to help a schoolgirl in uniform for only 3000 Ugandan shillings. That's about $1.25. She even got a shot of Novocaine to go with the deal, though from the sounds of it, she might have needed an antibiotic and a stitch, too.
A dollar twenty-five. Shoot. I wondered, are we overpaying in the U.S.?
And then I wondered, do you want your tooth pulled by the guy who treats prisoners and is happy to do it for $1.25?