Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Dentist and the Swimming Pool

Sometimes living in Taiwan feels like living on the bottom of the ocean, sometimes it feels like living in a circus, and sometimes, it's just like living at home.

Take for example, the swimming pool.

James and I got a hankering for a swim two weeks ago and found several locations on the internet to check out. It turned out that our first choice was, TADA!, a vacant lot that used to be a swimming pool (the internet isn't as up to date as we think sometimes.) But another location, the SPA as the sign calls it, was open and awesome. I mean, really cool. $3 a visit gets unlimited swim time, sauna time, play time, shower time, hot pool time, and general people watching time, if you really want. You can even bring your white water kayak to practice flipping over in the pool, as we saw a man, in the pool, in a silver helmet, doing. I say, let's do it!

Lap swimming at a pool in Taiwan is a fashion parade. Wow-wow-wee-woo-woo: floral tankinis and swim caps are a must! It makes me feel just a bit more waiguoren when all I brought to Taiwan is a mismatched bikini (but had to buy the swim cap), but people don't seem to mind seeing my over-pale belly parading around.

Especially not the kiddies. We happened to finish a post-work stress relief dip right as an enormous group of school children pulled up. They couldn't believe there were white people at the pool. They couldn't believe it so much that they made a mouth gaping semi-circle around me in the changing room, clearly not aware that I understand much more Chinese than my face lets on. I love the swimming pool.

And the dentist?

I know when I hear field trip, I think "Please, let's go to the dentist." I bet it's what my 3 year olds were thinking, too. The poor things never saw it coming. All they knew was that we were taking the bus somewhere, and they love the bus.

I had heard stories about the dentist. Another English teacher went to get a check-up and a cleaning and ended up getting a "teeth scraping" - something that sounds on par with getting my arm hairs individually tweezed. I knew that something simple like toothpaste was a bit sketchy. A parent of a student gave me two tubes of toothpaste as a gift, which was great, except it was menthol toothpaste. Ah, just like brushing your teeth with bug spray and eucalyptus.

Plus, I just can't figure this out: Why is dental care so cheap and abundant, and yet children have the most disgusting, rotten teeth I have ever seen? Plus, it's standard to brush at least 3 times a day. The hypothesis is lack of flouride in the water, but really, maybe parents are just giving kids durian fruit candy or something to suck on while they sleep.

Some of my kids have teeth that make your toe hair curl. Beautiful, angelic faces, but blackened, holey, disfigured little gnashers. I love to make them laugh, I love to see them smile, but sometimes I can't help but think, if only you could talk, smile and laugh with your mouth closed! Seriously, very gnarly.

Back to the dentist: All the young students piled into the office to wait their turn. My job was to life the terrified toddlers into the dentist chair, where they were quickly poked and it was decided how many and where there were cavities (so the kiddies could come back with Mommy and Daddy another day to get them filled..or it might be necessary.)

Some of my students were so brave and happy to play "big boy" or "big girl" for 30 seconds while getting orally violated. But some were not. Five of them did not want anything do with it. One look at the bright light and the scary hook about to go into their mouths and they screamed. I don't blame them. I hate the dentist. And to be honest, I may have giggled a little, because they were so cute, so helpless, and so right: dentists are masochists and we should be scared.

Sometimes, Taiwan is like home. Babies hate the dentist and pre-teens are fascinated with nearly naked adults.


  1. Great blog and great post Caitlin. So true on both counts.

    Have a great time finishing your contract and say hi to James for Emily and I.

    All the best,


  2. Absolutely - I've been browsing yours (what a legacy!) Blogs really are a great way to see the whole world - since we simply can't do it all ourselves!

  3. Dear Caitlin,
    My 12-year old son is going to Taiwan for a baseball camp, and I had a packing question: I was wondering whether boys are required to wear bathing caps in public pools. Also, are American-style surfer shorts allowed as bathing suits? I know that in France boys have to wear speedo-style suits in order to be admitted to public pools.

  4. Hello Deborah!

    The concise answer: Yes, bathing caps are required and standard. He will look crazy without one ;D. However, swim suits can be of any design - board shorts are generally fine. I've never heard of anyone being "thrown out" of a pool for not wearing a Speedo, and my boyfriend wears them to do lap swimming all the time.

    I hope he has a great time! Let me know if you have any more questions.


  5. Thank you so much! This is really helpful!