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  • By now you know that I am chickenshit, I am mostly afraid of a thousand things, mainly illnesses and for a very long time in my life I feared dentists like the devil. About 10 years ago I could calm that finally down - with the help of a great dentist in Merida, Yucatan. Don´t worry: other fears have quickly taken up the space of that one.

    Remembering our time in Africa, I also remember the most extraordinary dentist I have ever met.

    We did not just come to South Africa because of the whales. My husband had an infected tooth. The dentist in Swakopmund told him that he needed a difficult root operation which just a man in Cape Town was able to do. So we drive from Hermanus to Cape Town to look this man up. “ Dieser Mann ist eine Koryphäe - This man is a genius” had told us the dentist in Swakopmund.

    We put the doctor’s address into our GPS and leave Hermanus, about 2 hours away from the big city. We arrive in a suburb of Cape Town with huge private homes. Huge electrified fences protect each of them. The practice of our genius is in a tiny part of a huge villa. We press the door bell and a very young girl – his daughter??? - opens us. She is very pale and very shy, but asks us to sit down in the waiting room. That is barely bigger than a normal size bathroom. We press ourselves past another patient and sit down on an extremely uncomfortable seat. The girl finds our names on a list of reservations, crosses them out and asks us to please wait. She starts concentrating with her both hands on the many pimples in her face.

    We wait. The cushion we sit on is much too big for the seat underneath and just does not find a comfortable way to fit in or underneath us. I change my sitting continually, but cannot settle in. The fat cushion lifts me so far up the floor that my feet hang helpless in the air.

    “Can I use your toilet?” I ask the girl. She leaves her pimples, gets up and guides me to the toilet. First we enter a huge room with a giant desk in its center. An equally giant man is sitting at the desk studying something I cannot recognize. The man breathes heavily. His hair is long and white and surrounds his head as if it was an aura. Is this the genius?

    The girl opens a door at the other end of the room and asks me through. Immediately I find myself in a completely changed world: in a garage filled from bottom to top with cars, motor cycles, bicycles and other garden – vehicles! It is quite a challenge to follow the girl through this to the toilet. Without her help I would have never found it. When I leave the toilet, though, the girl is gone and trying to find my way back is a difficult task. I open a wrong door and find what seems to be an arsenal of worn out vacuum cleaners. A woman knocks me on my shoulder and signs me the way to the right door. When I reenter the room with the enormous desk I see the huge man bowed over what seems to be a dentist chair with a patient in it in an adjacent room. The door is open; it could be impossibly closed, as the man, the chair and the patient could not fit into the room anymore.

    Finally it is our turn. The man with his white-hair-aura greets us cordially. He has a deep voice. He sounds and looks like Santa Claus I suddenly discover. He shakes and presses our hands for a long time: ours disappear in his.

    My husband tells him about his problem.

    Santa Claus nods,” Yes, I can do that operation. But to be sure he needs an x- ray of my husband’s jaw. His x –ray-machine stands right beside the huge desk. A woman with a white uniform enters from the garage door, puts something into my husband’s mouth. She just wants to start the x –raying, when the door opens up again and an enormous dog enters the room. He runs right toward my husband and starts licking his hands and what not. My husband is not crazy about other people’s dogs and here he did not expect one at all. He resists the dog’s efforts. The woman and the doc shout Afrikaans words to the dog until the dog turns around towards the garage door, tail bet5ween his hind legs. But before the door can close behind him a tiny dog seizes his opportunity to come rushing in. Now they shout at this one. Once the little one is back in the garage and the door finally well closed, the woman presses the button to start the x – ray. Santa pulls me under the door frame to his waiting room. I hear the sound of the x – ray, we practically stand in front of it and nothing protects us from its nasty side – effects.

    The doc studies the x –ray image and is full of enthusiasm: my husband has the perfect bone for any operation!

    I discover photographs of Namibian landscapes on the walls of his practice. We tell him that we have come to photograph Namibia and stay for a years. He grows even more enthusiastic,” I have my own plane,” he explains,” I fly with any weather, day or night. For many years I flew regularly to Namibia to operate on patients, but now the border formalities have become too complicated and I am older, I do not want that hassle anymore. Now the patients have to come here.

    He looks at my husband and adds,” I can operate you the day after tomorrow. But I do not have any open space anymore. Come in the morning, bring a book. Any free moment between two patients I cut your root away!”

    We say good – bye. The genius carefully watches his huge hands and comments,” You photograph. But I am an artist, too: I rearrange human jaws!”

    Once we find ourselves in the car again my husband says,” I like the guy, I am sure he knows what he does, but I do not want to be operated on in such a chaos!”

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    Art by Kiki

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