Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Still Have All of My Wisdom!

It all started out innocently enough. Yesterday morning, it was time for my twice-a-year dental cleaning. Not a highlight on the calendar, that's for sure. But no big deal. Some poking and stretching, a little blood, that's all. Or so I thought...

Now, for years, our dentists have been trying to convince me to get my lower, right wisdom tooth pulled. They just don't see the point in letting it hang around, when I don't use it for chewing or anything like that. As for me, my response has always been, "Is it doing any harm back there?" And, so far, the answer has been "no." So it stays.

Then, during the exam that the dentist did after the cleaning, he tells me (and then shows me through that neat little hand-held camera) that the tooth is starting to accumulate some decay. No surprise there. It is way back there, and hard to keep as clean as other, more accessible teeth. So here comes the big question, again: "Why don't you just get it pulled?"

And, like clockwork, my standard kind of response: "Can't you just fill it?" After a reluctant "yes," I get numbed up and ready for some drilling and filling. (I have to say, those needles they use to numb you up are kinda scary looking, and they are uncomfortable, to say the least.)

Here's where things got crazy. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking about China and wondering about getting a tooth pulled there, should anything go wrong in the next year. There are plenty of Western dentists in the big cities, so it's not like I would be getting it pulled on the street, with a big crowd watching the unlucky wàiguórén. But there's the comfort factor. Nothing like coming home to a fluffy couch and king-size bed after oral surgery!

On top of this, the dentist made one more pitch for extraction. It was a perfect storm, because in a weak moment, I took the plunge and said "go for it." Before I knew it, I was in a machine getting a panoramic x-ray, so the dentist could get a 360 degree look at the tooth's root system. And then more needles and numbing up.

"So how long is this going to take, doc?" "Oh, about 10 minutes. If we're still working in 15 minutes, then we're in trouble." Uh-oh...

I thought it was going well, actually. It seemed like the tooth was moving around and on its way out.

But what a price to pay! I mean, there's no magic to getting a tooth pulled. Grab it, get some leverage, and twist it around. Even all numbed up, the pressure was pretty incredible. And he kept going and going...

Not a good sign. It has to be 15 minutes by now!? And, sure enough, I get the bad news. "Well, this tooth just doesn't want to come out." All pain, no gain!

What now? "I can send you to an oral surgeon." But I have other thoughts in my head. "Hey, can't we just go back to our original strategy and fill the thing?"

And so, two hours later, I walk out of there with a nicely filled wisdom tooth that should serve me just fine, at least through the China trip.

In the meantime, it has been a steady diet of Motrin. When my dose ran out overnight, my body let me know...big time! I woke up in agony, I mean agony! My mission today? Keep the Motrin in my system, at all costs!

~Steve

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hold That Kit Kat!

Last night, I had a long phone conversation with some folks at the U.S Embassy in Běijīng. I knew the call was coming, and I knew it was going to address my placement at a Chinese university and, consequently, the city we will call home for the next year.

In advance of the call, I asked Desi, Julie, and Z what city they thought we will be living in and what university I will be assigned to. All three of them readily agreed on both scores.

"Běijīng."

"Réndà." (This is Renmin University, pictured above.)

Now how were they so sure of this? I think it is in part because I study politics, policy, and administration, so being situated in the nation's capital makes sense.

But it is more than this. We have friends who just returned a few months ago from a stint at Réndà. Hearing from them first hand about their time there, their apartment, their daughter's school, and so forth, had the effect, I think, of making Réndà seem very tangible, much more so than anywhere else. As a result, Réndà has become our working assumption, the picture we have been envisioning in our minds.

As for me, I have not been so thoroughly convinced. So I made a bet with the gang. If it is Réndà, then we will go to Hershey Park this summer. I though, get every other city and every other university in China. (With 1.3 billion people, there are a lot of both!) I'm betting on the rest of the field, in other words. And if I win, no Hershey Park. (What a dummy to bet against Hershey Park. If I win, I look like a smarty pants who doesn't want to have fun!)

Fast forward a few hours to the call. Yes, Réndà appears to have been on the list of nine or so schools that at some point have been under active consideration. But it also appears that it is now a long shot for us, with half a dozen schools seeming to be in the current forefront. I'm feeling pretty good about my odds at the moment!

Now, here comes the really fun part, where Desi and the kids try to change the terms of our original bet! Watch...

~Steve