dentist

Tag: dentist

Back to Syria?

26 April 2011

The stories I have heard from my friends in Syria sound uncomfortably similar to what I have been witnessing in the Yemen, right down to the plain-clothed security men firing from the roof tops into crowds of innocent people.

Last night I drank Arak with my friend in Syria over Skype – he told me he has offered his chest to the cause and will go again to the city of Homs to protest after Friday prayers.

He bitches with me about the mutual friends we have in Syria who have done nothing for the cause. One friend who likes to be known as a journalist whose home-town was witness to a great massacre a couple of days ago has said nothing or written nothing – but I am not sure you can blame people for this, in Syria it is difficult to comprehend the amount of fear that is instilled in people there, to me this highlights the bravery and determination of the brothers and sisters who do offer themselves on the front line.

But something has definitely changed – only a few months ago people were too afraid to gather in even the smallest groups to complain about something, whereas now, people feel emboldened enough to gather in their hundreds and thousands to protest against the government. Fear has somehow lost its grip.

What about the comments I read that the Syrian revolution is spearheaded by the feared Muslim brothers who are waiting to take over and bring Sharia law to Syria? “Bullshit” my friend says, “Of course they are there but the people behind this revolution are ordinary folk sick of corruption lies and bullshit from this government, no jobs no money or hope has been a life for the majority. That is what it is about”.

With the help of technology and the internet the Syrian government has nowhere to hide from its crimes… “They behave worse than Israelis” a friend says, another friend interrupts, adding that “They always behaved this way in Beirut”. Is it the heavy handed government reaction to the protests that is finally turning the people against this once popular president, making the protests even bigger than they would have been had has Assad treated them with respect, or is the genie out of the bottle in Syria?

Personally I feel a sense of excitement and trepidation for the whole region, but I do have admit there is a nagging fear for the future of Syria, and wonder if the only hope they had for reform in the supposed gentle image of Basher has now been dashed following the slaughter of 100 demonstrators in one day and whether this pivotal nation in the middle east is about to shed more blood than we have seen across the whole Arab spring so far.

We are told that the dangers caused by Syria collapsing (Israel especially is fearful) don’t bear thinking about, but now as the people of Syria face a crucial week I fear (on a humanitarian level) we must contemplate the worst.

I am in the process of trying to get back in to Syria in order to finish my film about the revolution there. Luckily I had applied for a visa weeks ago after my front tooth fell out as a result, I believe, of the stress I was under following the massacre I witnessed in Change Square.

In London I discovered it would cost £450 to replace the tooth but knew that £300 would get me to Syria and that £80 would see me right with dentist Rima and I’d still have money left over for a few nights in a cut-price Damascus hotel (part of their new failing 12 billion dollar tourist industry) – So if all goes well I will be off to catch up on the Syrian revolution for myself next Thursday.

Wish me luck. Xx

Sent from my iPhone (26/04/2011)

Needle and the damage nearly done

16 September 2010

Dentist Rima was waiting for me again; veiled as ever “Ramadan is nearly over, it will be Eid next week and we need to get your bridge ordered before then”.

Before I knew it I was back in the chair with a needle entering the roof of my mouth then another to the back followed by 2 more monsters to the gum. “I must prepare the tooth for the bridge fitting”, I murmur some pathetic remark about needles in the roof of the mouth being painful but she ignores me and starts drilling away at the numbed gum around my tooth in preparation to fit the bridge.

My mouth fills with my blood gushing out of my disintegrating gum and I nearly throw-up on dentist Rima, she pulls back just in time and I manage to spit the blood into the nearby sink.

“What is it?” she asks, bemused at my behaviour. “I can’t stand the taste of blood” I tell her pathetically, “Or the smell of my tooth being ground-away”, “I haven’t even removed the excess gum yet” she says impatiently, I really didn’t need to know that I think to myself before deciding to shut up and let her get on with it.

A family arrive. A veiled woman and her 3 lovely children sit around me watching, obviously fascinated by all the blood and the foreigner in the dentist chair looking awkward and scared. This isn’t a sight for kids I think, I remember back to the time I fainted with fear at the dentists as a child, I saw the needle and hit the deck. Maybe these are hardened Arabic kids, they watch as dentist Rima drills away tearing back the gum from around my tooth, I stop her again to spit out more large mouthfuls of deep red blood to the absolute delight of my attentive audience.

Another family arrive with yet more kids and the audience builds, Rima pushes my head back and continues to drill around the tooth, despite the anaesthetic I feel sharp jolts of pain in my gum but still she drills on and on and on, I continue to spit out mouthfuls of blood and wonder if this will ever end. I try taking my mind off it by thinking about the week just gone, it has been a hard slow week trying to make my film but at least my dental bill is only £100 as opposed to the £850 I was quoted in London.

Finally, I swill my mouth out for the last time, “I must see you on Wednesday” dentist Rima demands, “Eid will begin on Thursday so we should fit the bridge on Wednesday”. Coughing and spluttering I make my way down the hot dusty street to find a cab, I climb in nursing my wounds like an injured soldier, the young driver looks at me and smiles. As he drives I notice a deep scar to his neck and arm and point to them, he shows me other deep one into his belly, speaking no English he indicates that it happened in prison and he smiles at me again, suddenly my mouth feels less swollen. We drive in silence and I stare straight ahead into the glare of the busy Syrian highway.

Safe in my dentists chair

31 August 2010

My trip to Beirut gave me a chance to think about Syria again and remind myself just exactly what it is that I find so fascinating about the place, a chance to stand back and peer in from its more glamorous neighbour Lebanon, where the Paris-like prices nearly killed me, but god I loved the sea!

I missed my appointment on Sunday with dentist Rima and couldn’t call to tell her from Beirut because I’d left her number at the hotel By the time I called on Tuesday she was in a panic, ‘”Where are you? What has happened! are you OK?” In one of my loneliest moments in this arid desert land it seemed that the brave ‘McAllister of Arabia’ had found himself an Arabic mother in his veiled dentist Rima.

I was back in her chair the following morning. “No needles today Sean, it all seems to be healing up well. Did you enjoy Lebanon?” She asked. “Yes I did” I replied, and, with dentist Rima poking around in my mouth I continued “It was great to begin to understand how people see the conflict in the region, I met many who loved Hezbollah and others that didn’t, some who felt that Syria was having a proxy war with Israel on Lebanon’s land by funding Hezbollah, and others who believed that if Israel really wanted peace they could have it tomorrow, but for some reason they don’t want it.”

Loyal and fierce in her patriotism dentist Rima sighs as if she’s heard this a thousand times, “It is all connected to Israel Sean, until the issue surrounding Israel is resolved there will never be peace in the Middle East.”

In the countryside of Syria I have spoken to many of the older generation who refuse point blank to accept the land of Israel. “The Jews can live there but the land has to be called Palestine” said one, another says “No Jews, only Arabs in our Palestine”. I suggest that realistically speaking Israel with the backing of America is going nowhere so isn’t it better to do a deal for peace, maybe get the Golan Heights back and divide Israel in 2 parts?

No compromise I am constantly told by the older generation; the ones that lived through the creation of Israel and the following displacement of million of Palestinians, they seem as uncompromising as do the current Israeli government, no wonder any peace deal seems so far away. I am told that the crusaders occupied this land for 200 years and were eventually kicked out, that Israel is still young only 60 years old, that there is plenty of time for the Jews to be kicked out, that as the American economy collapses in the recession it won’t be able to continue propping it up.

Dentist Rima like many here puts much of this in the hands of god, “One day we will get the land back” she says, “Oh and the good news is root canal is healed”. If it wasn’t for my veiled Arabic mother what would I do?

The dentists chair and the veil

25 August 2010

Whilst dentist Rima was checking my teeth I was quizzing her about the recent news that the Syrian government had banned the veil at Damascus University. “Is it an attempt to appeal to the west?” I ask her provocatively; knowing she is religious and partly veiled herself, “If it is to appeal to the West” she says, “It is wrong, Obama is as bad as Bush as far as we are concerned. What has he ever said or done about Gaza?”

I watch nervously and wince bravely as dentist Rima roughly plucks out a temporary filling from my problem tooth and then pokes a large needle deep into the empty canal.

For a moment it amuses me that this British boy had decided to have this necessary (and painful) dental work done in a country labelled by his own government as ‘Beyond the Axis of Evil’, a rogue state and a state sponsor of terrorism.

But before I know it Rima is coming at me again, this time with a needle for my gum, she jabs hard directly into the abscess itself, straight through my gum, as the syringe forces the medicine into the abscess a crippling pain freezes the side of my face, I cannot (however much I try) hide the tears in my eyes – I’d heard that dentists were good and cheap here but dear God I’m now wondering if this was the right move.

I try to distract myself by looking at the pictures of the Koran on her wall, and then the other religious items on her desk. Out of the corner of my eye I see more veiled women enter the room – they sit and turn to face me, entertained by my childlike performance, they murmur in Arabic to each other… I imagine them asking each other if my crying is for real or not. I realise I am surrounded, this is now a woman’s world, a veiled world, and I feel very out of place.

This grown man from the north of England, England the warrior nation, empire creator, freedom bringer, is now squirming like a child in the dentist’s chair to the obvious amusement of a gaggle of women hidden behind their veils. “It really hurts” I say pathetically, “Don’t worry Sean, it will pass soon” dentist Rima says with a smile.

“The veil is the woman’s right, in the Koran we can choose to show our face or not, it is up to us”. “Will this patient remove her veil for treatment?” I ask looking at a woman in black, “Of course” dentist Rima says laughing, “Just as soon as you leave the room”.

As the pain subsides and the tears dry I push my luck by suggesting that in this male dominated society it must be the man who decides what the woman does and what she wears… “Not in Syria” dentist Rima insists, “Here it up to the women, our personal choice, in the West you are misled by your understanding of the veil, we are not at all like Saudi Arabia. Syria is a far more tolerant society and we are not an Islamic state, here it is secular. A lot of what you read in the west is wrong, here women are respected, we don’t need shelters for beaten women like you do in England and America”.

“We are like Iraqi’s” dentist Rima continues, “We are a well educated nation with culture and history. Saddam provided all this to his nation but the Americans don’t like educated Arabs so they got rid of him. But they will never remove our president he has the complete backing of his people and after the war in Iraq he is stronger than ever”.

As I sit in this dentists chair in Syria I think to myself how funny it is, the strange, muddled, ideas we have of each other’s societies, how we misunderstand each other, sometimes deliberately, but often at our peril, whilst firmly, and without fuss, dentist Rima seals the root canal with yet another temporary filling.