Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 19 – Alona Beach

How much did you pay for your last tooth filling? For me, I think it was about $250, but I didn’t actually pay a dime – my work benefits paid for it through the group insurance. It took about 15 minutes, making it an average cost of about a thousand bucks per hour. Seems high to me. The only guy I know personally who makes more than that per hour is Bruno Mars.

Today I went to the dentist. A couple of days ago I was eating a nice piece of chicken at dinnertime and a piece of filling broke off my front tooth. You see, I have these things called “peg laterals” which are basically small teeth located on either side of my front top incisors. When I was a kid – maybe 13 years old – my cousin Colin Bowerman (the greatest dentist that ever lived – you can read all about him in my book “The Found Vagabond”) did some bonding on them to make them larger. And that dental job lasted for about 25 years. One day, a piece of the bonding chipped off and I had to get it redone. Now I don’t know what happened to dental technology during that time, but ever since then the damn fillings chip off every few years and I have to get them redone. I’m thinking it’s similar to the “planned obsolescence” for any sort of electronic device these days where stuff just breaks a day after the warranty period expires and you have to buy a new one because nobody knows how to repair them, and they are built in such a way that they can’t be repaired anyway. So that seems to be what they are doing with teeth, and since Colin is retired I have no choice other than looking like a hillbilly, or getting the teeth patched up.

I am always looking to try new things in new countries and one thing I’ve never tried is having dental work done (or plastic surgery… maybe next trip when my jowls are sure to be sagging more), so I found a dentist and booked an appointment for Saturday at 11:30 am, which was today. I arrived at 11:15, filled out my new patient information card, and then kicked back and watched World War Z, which was playing on the television in the reception area. Right when Brad Pit was escaping from the zombies by jumping in a helicopter, I was called in and the dentist invited me to sit in the big chair. The room looked just like every other dental office I’ve been into in Canada and the youngish dentist spoke perfect English, was professional, and made me feel very comfortable. But he didn’t waste any time goofing around - I briefly explained the problem and he immediately went to work.

15 minutes later I was done and my tooth was fixed and looked beautiful. How much did it cost? Well, the receptionist told me the price in pesos, and I thought I misheard her. So I asked her to repeat it. Yes, it was definitely 700 pesos, which she asked for in cash, and I paid her. The converted amount in Canadian was 17 dollars. 17 bucks for a filling. At home, I don’t think dentists will even let you sit in the waiting room and read their magazines, or use the toilet, or sign a passport application for 17 bucks. Except for Colin, of course.

Earlier in the day, I had gone for a very early morning snorkel at the nearby Momo Beach, and since it was high tide it was much better than the day before. In fact, I found some coral banks just a short ways offshore, full of fish. I can’t think of a better way to start the day than an ocean swim.

We checked out of the Veraneante and had a final chat with the wonderful girl at reception, and also played with her pug Woo Woo. He took a liking to me so I thought I’d do a little roughhousing with him. When we were kids my grandparents had pugs – Benji and Jasper, and my uncle Michael used to torture them. One trick he had was to roll up a drying towel into a whip and flick the end of it at the dogs, taunting them. When they got mad enough they would bite the towel and clamp on and he would swing them around in 360’s until they let go and went cascading across the room. I didn’t have a towel handy to do that one, but I did remember the other routine he had, called “Spin the Pug”. So I called little Woo Woo over, put one hand on his head, the other hand on his ass, and gave him a mighty spin. He did one full rotation, and didn’t know what the hell was going on, so I grabbed him again and got nearly two rotations out of him this time, thanks to the nice slick tile floor. When Michael did this to my Grandma’s pugs they would get all riled up and start barking and having loads of fun, but this little sucker obviously wasn’t used to all the exercise, because he just fell over for a second, panting, and looking at me with his extra buggy, bulging, drippy eyes, and then got up and staggered away choking, wheezing, and gasping for air. I thought for sure he was going to barf, or maybe die, but he held it together and wobbled back to safety behind the reception desk, where we crawled into a cupboard and that’s the last we saw of Woo Woo. I’m not sure if his momma appreciated my pug trick much, because she locked the little reception gate to make sure I couldn’t get near him again. Good thing I didn’t try the towel trick.

After my dentist appointment I hitched a ride with some kid on a scooter and he drove me to Alona Beach, where Ana and the kids had already checked into the new place, Bohol Divers Resort, and were walking up for coffee when I met them. We went to Dunkin Doughnuts for morning coffee and a doughnut (the kids said the doughnuts were superior to the Tim Hortons versions, but Ana said the coffee just didn’t compare), and I read the local paper that I had bought at a mini-mart. Yesterday, the police in Manila had executed 70 suspected drug dealers, and this sort of thing has been a regular occurrence since their new president Rodrigo Duterte came to power. No arrest, no trial, no evidence – just a bullet to the head. Most Filipinos seems to feel this has been a good thing, as the drug problem in the country was completely out of control before Duterte came along. Yes, no doubt some innocent people have also been killed in the crossfire, but many here feel it is an acceptable price to pay for law and order in a country of over 100 million people.

We went for a nice long swim at the hotel pool and then walked to the Thai restaurant next door for lunch. Now I’m going to piss some people off here and expose my ignorance when I say that I know there are many types of non-standard genders, such as non-confirming, transgender, gender-neutral, non-binary, bi-gender, but to be honest I really don’t understand the difference, and have never put in the effort to learn, so I use the term “he-she”. This is something Ana and I started doing during our last trip to Thailand when the kids were asking why the men sometimes looked like women, and it seemed like the best way to describe it. Our restaurant server, Gina, was a he-she and was probably the best server we’ve had on the trip. And we’ve seen many other he-shes in all of the countries we have visited this trip, with the strange exception of Vietnam. We did not see any there, and I have no idea why. Is it maybe something to do with the communism?

The four of us took a long walk down to the end of the beach and the kids found some crabs for us to race, but they were not the regular type of hermit crab – these ones were larger and covered in algae. We set up the standard crab racing circle, dumped them in and stood back to watch the action. No movement. One of them eventually moved a little, and then stopped. So we then put them into a small water pool, which sort of brought them to life, but they just didn’t get it, so Stella went out scouring the beach for regular racing hermit crabs and found four, although only two of them wanted to race. Perhaps the crabs round these parts aren’t used to racing?

The beach was full of activity, and we sat there in the sand for a very long time admiring the view, but eventually decided it was time to wander over to the Bob Marley reggae bar for cocktails. Here, Stella invented a new game for kids. There was a big board with an expansive list of cocktails, and beneath the name of each cocktail was listed the various types of liquors used to make the drink. So the game was I would select a cocktail and Stella would have to try and find each bottle of booze used to make the cocktail, which were all lined up on shelves behind the bar. See, kids can have fun in bars too!

We enjoyed a long, leisurely dinner on the second floor of a Greek restaurant, overlooking the beach and the steady stream of people passing by. Thus far, the Filipino food has not been particularly inspiring, probably because it just reminds us too much of the food at home, as it is quite similar. They seem to love their fried chicken; you see advertisements of all types nearly everywhere you look, all flogging fried chicken. I would be very scared to be a chicken in this country.

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