Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Turtle at the Dentist Office in Singapore

My second day after arriving in Singapore I started teaching graphic design at the Nanyang art school almost next door to the building Lisa and Bruce lived in. Every semester they have a guest teacher from England come and the one they had invited couldn't make it so I went and applied and got the job. My students were only a few years younger than me and at first were confused that I was more or less a peer. They mostly copied from books and magazines. I got the idea to take them on location to learn to draw from real life--a shocking turn of events but the school complied and on the second day we were in a hired bus and going around the island--to the bird park, botanic garden and tea house where men bring their prize song birds and hang them from hooks to listen to them sing while sipping tea and then we went to Chinatown, not the disney version that exists today but the real one with cramped lanes and rows of shophouse where one could see wooden gods being carved, a maker of Chinese opera masks, snakes in cages and a dim-lit Buddhist temple that smoked with giant coils of incense. The students were mind boggled and excited to try and draw from life and I was getting to sight see. On the third day we were back in the class room working on the previous days sketches when my back molar begab to tingle. By lunch it was throbbing pain and a student told me to put clove oil on it. It numbed the tooth for a moment but by the end of the day I knew I was in serious trouble. I staggered back to Lisa's. We found a dentist on Orchard Road and I wrote the address on a scrap of paper and took a taxi (Lisa didn't have a car). The cabbie dropped me off in the vicinity of the dental office as he didn't really know exactly where it was and I was wandering the steet in tears the pain was so bad when an Indian man asked me if I needed help. By now I was sobbing and could hardly speak so I showed him the scrap of paper and he took my arm and led me to the office biluding. I wished I could have thanked him, but the second I opened the door I collapsed and the dental assistant dragged me into a dental chair and immediately gave me an injection. Once I was numb the tooth was opened and the infection drained out. It seems I'd had some not so great work done on the tooth in San Francisco where I had a root canal. It hadn't been cleaned propberly before being sealed and the hot climate of Singapore had caused it to swell and put pressure on the sealed tooth cap. The Singapore dentist worked on me while I dozed off in a cloud of pain killer and when I came to I thought I was hallucinating. In the chair next to me was a large sea turtle! Do turtles have cavities, I wondered? It turns out it's shell had been been cracked by a boat propeller and someone had found it on a beach and brought to the dentist. When I left it looked like the operation to glue the shell was working and I'd like to think somewhere in the South China Sea a turtle is swimming around with a shell held together with dental bonding glue. I went back to teaching and was invited to several students homes to eat home cooked Indian, Malay and Chinese dishes. Meanwhile what about the job at FEP (Far Eastern Publishing Company)? A week had passed and I only had one more week on my tourist visa...then I'd have to take a bus across the causeway that connects Singapore to the Malaysian Peninsula  at the city of Johore Bahru. Woud I get another stamp to stay two more weeks in Singapore?

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