A Scary Place

I went to the hospital on Friday. No, I wasn't sick; I went get my teeth cleaned. In Tongan, the dentist is at the hospital as is the morgue.

It was my first trip to a Tongan Hospital and one I won't soon forget. The Price Ngu hospital is just a couple of blocks from my house, but stepping inside is like stepping back in time. The two tone color walls greet you as you enter the open air lobby. The walls are emerald green at the bottom and what once was white above it. Behind the peeling green paint, you can see the blue that was probably the color the last time the halls were painted. And bigger cracks in the wall show that before it was green and before it was blue, this hospital had mauve colored walls.

As I walked down the turquoise floor, I could look back and see my footprints along with those who had been there before me, in the dust that covered the floor. Against the wall sit dirty white plastic lawn chairs more gray than white with specs of missing plastic.

A Nurse wearing a long pink dress with a white nurse's hat on her head points us down the hall toward the dental room. We (I'm with my friend Justin) pass empty exam rooms looking more like something from the movie "One Flew over the Coo coo's Nest" than a hospital. We walk past a rusting table with wheels that probably is used as a stretcher but should probably be in a medical museum instead. There is a giant water hose reel hanging on the wall next to the electrical box whose cover is slightly ajar. That has to be a safety hazard.

But perhaps not, looking above, there are wires hanging where there once were lights. Finally we enter the dental room where a ceiling fan circles overhead keeping a slight breeze in the room and drawing in a bit of air from the open windows. The dental equipment is modern, as in 1980's modern. The rolling tables are covered with clean linen. Probably not just for sanitary reason, but to also disguise the rust that shows on the bottom steel.

We both know the dentist we are going to see. She is a volunteer with Japan's version of the Peace Corps. We are very happy to have a Japanese dentist to clean our teeth. There is a sterilizer in the room for the dental tools and the dentist wears a mask and gloves as she cleans. As she leans me back in the chair, she tells me that the suction isn't working so that I'll have to sit up and spit when needed. I lay back and look at the ceiling. There are black specs on it. I wonder if it is mold or just some dark spots. I don't know and won't know.

The cleaning was a bit different than in the US. She has me rinse with a stain which will show the plague and tartar in my month. I remember doing this many years ago when I was very young, but not since. She proclaims that I have a clean month even though it has been six months since my last cleaning. Out comes the polishers and before long I'm on my way, back down the scary hall to the safety of the outdoors.

***Other News***

Saturday I joined five other people on a camping trip on the Northern side of Vava’u. We went to a place called Utula'aina Point which is near the village of Holonga. Holonga is one of the three villages that hosted my group during our training last year. It was only the second time I had been to the village and the first time to go out to the Point. We didn’t decide to go until late in the afternoon and got there just as it was starting to get dark.

Amazingly, our taxi was able to drive us right to the spot where we camped. Because of the easy access, I assumed we would see lots of signs that people had been here before, but we did not. We decided to make our fire up on the point and to camp just below. There is not enough room for one tent, much less three tents up on the point and it would be a scary place to camp, because it is a cliff straight down to the water.

We started gathering wood as darkness started to set in and then put up the tents. There was no moon and the stars were amazing. We cooked dinner then carefully make our way down to the tents to call it a night. The next morning, we were all up at sunrise.

While we had seen a little of the view at night, it was spectacular to watch the sun come up and illuminate the cliffs and the beach below. After a breakfast of oatmeal and marshmallows, we broke camp making sure to leave no traces, other than the ashed from our fire, of our visit. We then hiked down to the beach for a morning swim before heading back to our homes.

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