Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Peru Recap for June

I'm back from my trip and, while I'm still working on recovering from my flight, I'm alive! It was a pretty busy week that involved lots of public transit, lots of naps on said public transit, and some interesting tidbits!

  • I met an interesting couple on the flight down to Peru that are from Cardiff-by-the-Sea (it's a small world). He is an English teacher in Oceanside and for some reason reminded me of my dad. Might of had something to do with the gray goatee, the bald head :o), and they laid-back surfer attitude. They were on their way to Cusco and didn't really seem to know what they were doing, so I gave them the lowdown and recommended a few places to eat. He was also interested in possibly having dental work done somewhere in Latin America so we traded emails and I gave him my assessment of Peruvian dental care. I heard back from him the other day that they totally loved Jack's (Who doesn't? Or so I've heard...) and had a good time in Cusco, despite it being really cold. Anyway, they cashed out of their house in SD at the peak of the real estate bubble and purchased some property in Costa Rica and are planning on retiring there. Sounds like a good idea to me!
  • Ryan got married - religiously! They had their wedding in a nice church followed by a reception in a tent (similar to our's, but different shape, etc.) at an Air Force club. I had a great time hanging out with Ryan's old buddies, all of whom I had met one time or another throughout the years, and of course his wonderful family. Erika and I had a lot of fun at the wedding and danced our shoes off (shocking!) and enjoyed some of the tasty beverages that were served up.
  • Surgery! Erika's mom made it through her plastic surgery with flying colors and, despite not being allowed to leave the hospital yet, she is doing great. We spent a few hours at the hospital every day and hopefully she will be home and recovering soon!
  • Shopping! Erika and I went to a jacket market in downtown Lima and scored some sweet long baby Alpaca wool jackets for the winter! We paid a total of about $100 for both of them. Unfortunately, due to my size being unusual for Peru, I had to take my jacket to the tailor to get the arms extended and to make it fit my body better. It's worth the extra $15 to make sure I'm warm for the winter.
  • Concerts! I had my first experience at a major concert (~30,000 in attendance) in Peru. We saw a Dominican bachata band that we like (Aventura) play a great show, even if I didn't understand anything the singer was saying. Just like rappers singing about life in the hood, the lead singer ("Romeo", which totally fit his character) sang about things that might be considered "typical" for Dominican men like cheating on your girlfriend/wife, how to be a gentleman when you tell your girlfriend/wife you cheated on her, and how to tell your best friend that you are cheating with his girlfriend/wife :o) . But he was quite a showman and we had a great time, even if our feet were about to explode after standing up for about 5 hours by the end of the show.
  • Concerts :o( Despite the show being great, I had my first experience at someone trying to rob me! I was standing in line waiting to get into the venue (with thousands of others, it was not very well organized) when I suddenly felt a super hard jerk on my arm backwards. Someone was trying to steal my flippin' watch! I turned around, dealt a swift capoeira Armada com martelo kick to the guy's mandible (maybe it was more like this), leveling him and stepped on his neck until the police rushed over and arrested him. And then I woke up from my stooper and turned around, shocked, looked at the guy (who of course pointed to someone else) and ran to catch up to Erika and tell her what happened, massaging my wrist the whole time. Of course there were no police in the area, despite the mass of people. I was freaked out and worried about my wedding ring, her wedding/engagement ring and watch, etc. Of course, she wasn't as concerned since this is not an unusual event in Peru (she's had three watches stolen and her wallet stolen twice) and said "I told you to be careful". Needless to say, I gave her my watch to protect it and was glad that she was the one handling all the money during the trip.
  • Michael Jackson :o( RIP. I always wanted to see him make a comeback and it's sad to know that he went out the way he did and hard to believe that he isn't around anymore. I honored his passing by buying a $2 illegal DVD of one of his concerts. Aventura tried to honor him by singing Billy Jean during the concert, but it was horrendous and they got half way through the first chorus before stopping. How do you not know the words of that chorus??
J. Riley, I need more sleep if I want to shake the persistent cough and runny nose that I have. Ohhh...late night flights, when will you cease to torment me with this on every trip?

Monday, June 29, 2009

You know how you feel

You know how you feel when your flight was delayed, it's 3:00am, and the pilot just woke you up? Yea, that's how i feel.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pizza Hut

Last night, much to my chagrin, we ate at a Pizza Hut in Peru, which is decorated to be an "elegant" restaurant here, albeit with the same greasy pies as we have in the United States. It's neighbor, KFC, was even much fancier than what we have in the States. The pizza was okay, but I was impressed with the fact that they brought out aji (hot sauce) as a condiment for the pizza. After complaining about the perfection of the machine made pizza, I told Erika it was not bad for a Pizza Hut. She said "It's because Peru has better produce/topping quality than in the US". Ha! I won the bet after confirming that the produce/toppings/cheese, etc. are all from the US.

J. Riley, the hot pepper was a little different, too. A bit more regional, thank god...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dental Tourism - La Cuenta Por Favor (Check Please)!

After much pondering and reflection on just what the hell to do about my teeth while I'm down here in Peru, I decided that I would utilize one of my remaining appointments to at least get the tooth that needed the onlay checked out, because my conclusion on that tooth wasn't totally confirmed yet. I know that my dentist in NY had said that the area around the existing (metal) filling on that tooth was turning gray. That sounded like a legitimate reason to have something fixed, because there was obviously something wrong.

So, I checked into my dentist here in Peru to talk about that tooth. He explained that over time, metal (almagam) fillings will eventually turn the area adjacent to it gray, since the filling itself is gray and, after reviewing the tooth again, could find no reason to have it fixed because the filling and the tooth were perfectly fine as is. Again, he didn't want to do work on me - that's a good sign!

So, five minutes after sitting down, I said "Great, that's all I needed to hear" and was basically ready to get up and leave. But he hadn't given me the "Thanks for coming in, maybe I'll see you again" look, message, etc. In fact, I heard a dental DRILL start and the assistant was suddenly standing next to me. And drilling on the aforementioned "root canal" tooth commenced. Okay, I'm not sure what the hell is happening here, but he had already started drilling so I just let it continue. I was thinking, what if he misunderstood and is starting the process to create the crown! And I'm leaving in a few days! Ack! It won't be done! What the hell have I gotten myself into! (De ja vu?). Then there was a pause and I could ask, unusually optimisticly, "Umm, are you just opening up the restoration to observe and confirm your earlier assessment?" Luckily, he was! He had told me during the first meeting that he was 80% sure that the tooth was fine, and that the only way to confirm it 100% was to open it up and take a look inside.

So I was totally cool with the fact he wanted to give me his 100% assessment, though it would have been nice to have a heads up! I guess that's a trade off when dealing with someone who's English is his second language. But I trust the guy, so I was cool with that. After probing him with questions after his drilling, he confirmed his earlier assessment that the four walls of the tooth are in great condition and no crown was needed!

So, he started the restoration (filling) for the tooth again and my mind was just thinking and analyzing the situation. First, I noticed that the tools (tooth picky things) were dark, not shiny stainless steel. Oh my god, they are RUSTY! Wait, can one of those tools be sanitized and still be rusty? I couldn't really think of a reason why not, and he was only touching tooth, afterall, not my gums. But I was mildly freaked out and kept trying to catch the angle of it to confirm the initial visual assessment. I just couldn't focus my eyes that close and figure it out. Finally, I did catch it and realized it was just dark colored - maybe tempered steel or something like that. NOT rusty.

As he continued the work and as I continued to analyze my situation, I noticed that he was pretty much usuing the same tools that my high-end orthodontist uses to zap the teeth with the infrared gun (or whatever it is) to harden the layers of the restoration. Big point for him on that. At two points of the restoration, he was talking on the cell phone that his assistant held to his ear without missing a beat in my mouth. This restoration was too easy for him! After all, his specialty is bite disorders, oral rehabilitation, and the mandible (lower jaw bone).

So after becoming comfortable with the restore, zap, restore, zap process of each layer, my mind drifted to the fact that I had only brought $40 with me that day and he accepts cash only. Crap! Would he let me come back later after visiting the bank? Crap! I didn't bring my insurance form! Maybe I could go to the bank and then print out the form at some nearby internet cafe. Yea, I'm pretty sure he would be cool with that.

Soon enough, he was finished. Previously, my tooth edge was sort of like a crater, where the outside edge was almost sharp and the restoration was more or less recessed a bit inside the tooth, which felt weird to me. And the tooth, due to the fact it was flat and didn't have the "cusp" (point to match the lower tooth). This guy not only restored it to the point it was before he drilled, he added the point to it to match my lower tooth! So now the tooth feels like a normal tooth, not an unusually flat, recessed tooth. Wow, sweet job!

So I was all done, now just to settle the bill. I asked him what the total was for this and he said $35. Holy scheisse! $35 to assess a tooth, drill out another, assess that tooth, and create an awesome restoration? I was amazing stoked and 100% sold on getting all future work done with this guy. It cost me over $200 (after insurance paid) to get a small restoration done a few weeks ago at my NY dentist. And, as I mentioned, insurance will pay for half of this bill, making the total cost $17.50 :o)

So as we walked around town, I thought about my NY dentist, in particular about whether their assessment jived with what this doctor told me and, as a result, whether or not I wanted to continue to get my teeth cleaned there. And I realized that their assessment wasn't necessarily wrong, they are just more aggressive about fixing the teeth and want to fix everything to the highest level to make sure there are no problems in the future. A crown would have definitely fixed my root canal pre-molar, no additional assessment or question necessary. An onlay would have gotten rid of the metal filling on my back tooth so that no discoloration would result. They weren't wrong, per se, but it would have been nice if they gave me the whole story rather than holding back alternatives and options. But in the future, I'm getting all serious work done here, and the doctor and my bank account are happy to hear that.

J. Riley, Erika's friend thought I paid too much for restoration :o) . I'll gladly "overpay" for the best dentist!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dental Tourism

I arrived in Peru last week with grand expections: we could kill three birds with one stone by fitting in my friends' Ryan and Lili's wedding, Erika's mom's surgery, and of course the completing the latest chapter in my storied dental history all in the course of a week or four. Although I'm only five days into it, it looks like I might have introduced another bird to the story.

I had a dentist appointment on Wednesday night to attend right after I got off of my flight in order to ascertain the possibilities of getting my crown and onlay started by a highly respected dentist in Lima. It is a little bit unfair to expect that I could arrive at 10:00pm at night and have a dentist who doesn't even know what I (or my X-rays) look like to come to a quick conclusion on what needs to be done and, at the same time, for me to determine if it is indeed a dentist that I would trust with doing this work on . But I was pretty impressed already by the fact that he was willing to wait around until that hour to see me, even though he had a 3:15am flight the next day to Northern Peru to participate in a meeting or teach a course at the esteemed university there.

To preface this appointment, there were some reasons (other than financial, the primary reason) that I was exploring this option. I've started to question the integrity of my dentist after they told me that I needed to have a crown done because I had a tooth that had a root canal - two years ago. This same dentist is the one that told me that I needed the root canal done in the first place and was actually the dentist that had put the restoration on that tooth after the root canal. Why would it take them two years to tell me that I suddenly need a crown on a tooth that has been in the same condition since that time? Their excuse was that "teeth that have had root canals can be brittle and can break if you bite something hard". So why didn't they tell me that two years ago? I queried the other dentist in the office who usually does the work on my teeth and her synopsis was "Well, it's not really required since there is not impact with the tooth on the bottom, it's just recommended." Differing opinions in the same office make me want to get another opinion.

So the dentist in Lima spent a lot of time reviewing my x-rays that I brought along and poked around my mouth a little bit checking out the teeth that needed to be worked on. He was a younger guy than I had pictured and he was pretty quiet for most of the time, studying the various pictures of my jaw. But after about fifteen minutes, he sat in front of me and gave me his opinion of the situation. He said that the four walls of the tooth that had the root canal were healthy and strong and that very little of the tooth had been removed when the root canal was done, so he was 80% sure that nothing else was needed on that tooth. He could tell 100% by removing the restoration that covered that tooth, but he basically confirmed what my initial opinion was - that it wasn't needed. He said that having a root canal alone does not make a tooth brittle. What makes the tooth brittle is when a tooth has a lot of decay - or something along those lines. But he was very clear that a root canal alone does not require a tooth to have a crown and that my tooth was healthy and strong.

The second tooth he didn't talk to me much about, but just said that there was nothing that needed to be done other than the restoration that had already been performed. I was confused about that because I was supposed to get an onlay done on that tooth. Was he looking at the right tooth? What about the "gray" area around the existing (metal) filling that my dentist mentioned? He said that anything that needed to be done about that filling would be cosmetic only, but that there was no other problem. After the appointment, I was reading through my dentist's notes and they mentioned the tooth number, so I will go back to the dentist in Lima on Tuesday to just make sure I'm on the same page as he is.

So this was not the results I was expecting, but is that a bad thing? The dentist in Lima himself mentioned that he is used to seeing people with serious issues (if you've been to Peru and seen people's teeth, you'll understand), so does that mean he is accustomed to only looking for serious problems, wheras my dentist in NY is looking for little problems and fixing them before they become bigger problems? It seems like there are more questions now than there were before, so I will likely go back to NY and get a second opinion there as well before deciding what to do...

J. Riley, sigh.....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Home Alone Part....n

I've lost count.

Erika has taken off down to Peru to help her mom out with some stuff, so I'm home alone again. This is giving me time to work on all sorts of nerdy stuff on Linux and doing some self-realization with the help of an excellent, easy to read book called A New Earth.

I've been doing all sorts of work on my - I mean Stefan's - new server. I was working on it enough to have a to-do list of about 25 things and after getting the most useful stuff done, which was amazingly easy, I hit a road-block in terms of my motivation (and the fact that I don't have Stefan's firewall's password). With Erika gone and our laptop with her, I've attacked the latest laptop that we're importing to Peru (that goes with me) with a vengeance by deciding to run Linux on it, instead of slow Windows. The great part about this is that I can actually run a fully-functional version of Linux without actually installing it on the hard-drive, using just one CD. I'm sure the majority of my readers are eagerly waiting for instructions on how to run Linux on THEIR computers without installing it, but I'll resist the urge to preach to everyone about the ease-of-use, performance, the security, and the power of running such a wonderful Operating System by just burning one CD and booting off of it - unless you email me.

After listening to his podcast, I decided that I should borrow the book by Eckhart Tolle called "A New Earth". After reading the first ten pages, I decided this is a book that I must own, so I went online and purchased one for $5 on half.com. Great investment. I don't even know where to start with this book, but suffice it to say that I've learned so much about myself and my thoughts and things that need to change in the first ten pages that I'm sold....

J. Riley, working from home today due to suspicious cough and headache. No other flu signs, I think it's just a common cold. Hope they let me off the plane in Lima next week!