Um, did I mention that this dentist is 2000 miles away?
When my husband booked a trip to a dental clinic in Costa Rica, I had a host of good reasons NOT to go with him. I had just returned from a trip to a writer’s conference in Minnesota. My daughter was expecting her first baby any day. I didn’t want to leave our house vacant. And honestly, I was nervous about plopping myself down in a strange country for two whole weeks. What about my to-do list? My deadlines? My phobias of flying, foreigners, and poisonous frogs?
But then again, how often do I get to go to another country and poke around for ideas for Stark Raving Mythopath, my blog about myth and stories. How often? Approximately never. So I threw caution to the wind and my clothes into a suitcase.
Like most storybook adventures, the trip did not get off to a good start. We got within an hour of Costa Rica and had to turn back. At the end of the first day of travel, I had decided to catch a plane home the next morning. But for some strange reason, I got on the other plane, the one headed back to Central America.
Flying into San Jose took my breath away—a ring of wrinkled mountains surrounding the red rooftops of the city. I knew right away we weren’t in Kansas anymore. As we landed, all the passengers cheered and applauded.
Since we were staying at the clinic, we decided I might as well get my teeth looked at too.
So imagine you are sitting in the electric chair—or a dentist’s chair, which is practically the same thing—and a dentist is filling your mouth with machinery—drills, cranes, C-clamps, and a jackhammer. Meanwhile the dentist and his assistant are jabbering away in Spanish. You, of course, do not hablo espanol, so you can only imagine what they are saying:
“White man come in boats. Take our gold. Now we get revenge. Ha ha ha.”
Yes, dental work is still dental work, even in Costa Rica. But here’s the thing. When you finish your session for the day, you are in a tropical paradise, with a mountain view from your room and a host of fun things to do and places to explore.
And we did explore—local markets, the Gold Museum, the rain forest, the mountains, and the Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs. And sometimes I just rested. Or read. Or did some writing.
Of course, we experienced culture shock. Black beans and rice for breakfast? Every single day? And we’re pretty sure we got ripped off a couple of times by clerks and waiters. Who knows how much that “funny money” equals in American dollars? And they don’t need roller coasters in Costa Rica, because riding in a taxi can give you the same rush. Our very first day, the driver explained that traffic rules are optional. Somehow we had already guessed.
All in all, there’s nothing quite like getting away from home when you’re a writer—whether you go across town or across the globe. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I nearly stayed home and missed it. We met wonderful people and saw some amazing sights. I learned to think about the world in a different way, and I believe that will help me think in a new way about my story worlds—and about my own life-story too.
Patty Kyrlach is design editor for Cookies & Milk, a children’s page in several Southwest Ohio newspapers. She also serves as webmaster for the Writing Academy, an international Christian writers group (www.wams.org).
In her blog, Stark Raving Mythopath, Patty writes about myths and stories from all cultures and the mythic grandeur of everyday life. www.mythopath.blogspot.com.
Hope you've enjoyed Patty's post as much as I did. More from this lady later!
Blessings, dear readers!