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Life Goes on in Tahiti

We’ve been in Tahiti for over two weeks now. Tahiti – sounds exotic, huh? Beautiful women everywhere, tattooed muscled men, white sand beaches, showers of flowers. But we arrived in Papeete with a list of things to do and despite our initial decree to just enjoy this island paradise and not focus on the list so much, we’ve found that a city is a city, no matter how exotic and the list always wins.

Leah talks to Grandpa 4000 miles away

We’ve shopped, we’ve washed the boat and many loads of laundry (albeit at $9 a load in the coin washer everything’s been washed in the sink). We’ve visited the giant Carrefour store (a sort of French Walmart) a number of times bringing back cartloads of crackers, pasta, chocolate, cheese, meats, produce and boxed French wine. Our diesel and water tanks are full, engine oil changed, calls made to family, our few bills paid.

It hasn’t all been work here though; we met up in the park with friends to celebrate an 8th birthday, Leah had a slumber party with another 6-year-old girl on an Australian boat we met here, we took the bus to the Tahiti museum for a field trip one afternoon. The girls were delirious with delight when we treated them to Happy Meals at the downtown McDonald’s and I must admit my strawberry shake tasted like mana from heaven.

After sampling the ordinary delights of Tahiti we were all set to sail to Moorea in the Tahiti-Moorea Rendezvous this past weekend. On Friday I got out a mirror to look at a tooth that had been aching a bit for the past few days. Back in Mexico, I had gotten a long-needed crown (my first) on one of my molars. Apparently this crown was temporary as it had developed a lovely hole right in the bottom surface and I could see my tooth right through it.

We got on the bus and headed downtown from our anchorage near Marina Taina. There was an English-speaking dentist right across from the yacht quay so we went straight to his office. Happily he saw me right away. “I am obliged to remove your crown,” the French dentist said. “Ohay,” I replied with my mouth open, palms sweating. He poked and (after numbing the tooth) drilled around for a bit. “You come back Monday for a root canal,” he stated. Oh boy.

Shopping with Holly, Papeete Marche

Later that night we met another American family on a boat and the dad happened to be a dentist. We talked for a while about my options. “Honestly, since your tooth is on the top and in back and it will just end up coming out eventually you might as well have the thing pulled now and get out of Tahiti,” he opined. As thrilling as having a tooth pulled in Tahiti sounded, that was my gut feeling too as the tooth had given me loads of trouble over the years.

We stayed in Tahiti over the weekend and arrived at the dentist’s office Monday morning. I spoke to him of my desire to have the tooth extracted rather than undergo weeks of expensive visits to try to repair the half-rotten thing. He refused. “That is just stupid to pull out a perfectly good tooth! Crazy! I won’t do it!” I paid my bill for the previous visit and left with my head spinning.

Two hours later, with another dentist’s name in hand we are back on the bus to this office which is near the marina. I am in tears the entire ride. My crownless tooth is killing me now. I don’t want to pay $1000 to a complete asshole for a root canal and another crown that will take two weeks to complete. I want to leave Tahiti; we only have three weeks left on our visas and the rest of the Society Islands to see. But right now, I want to get on one of the planes that take off every few minutes from the airport the bus is passing and go back to the places I know. I want to drive my car to my old dentist’s office in Olympia. The girls hug me, say “feel better, mama.” Living so close together we share so many things, emotions included.

We find the new office easily and this dentist sits me down to examine what is left of my tooth. He is much friendlier with a clean, modern office. After taking a quick x-ray we discuss the options. I tell him that I would really prefer to remove the tooth. “That sounds like a fine solution. You can come back tomorrow to have it done,” he smiles warmly. I make my appointment and we walk to the store for ice-cream before heading back to the boat to cook dinner.

Update 27 June: The tooth came out quickly and without a hitch yesterday. The dentist was excellent (Dr. Dairou), I couldn’t feel a thing and three things were confirmed:

1. The more nervous I am about something the less of a big deal it really turns out to be (see: “Rounding Cape Scott”).

2. Keep trusting my gut: the tooth’s roots were all twisted and wonky and the dentist said a root canal would have been impossible.

3. As Leah suspected, the tooth fairy does not bring money for an a adult tooth. I only got a new toothbrush and a packet of dental floss. Boo.


  1. Joy C says:

    This is just the sort of post that really gives flavor to a journey! (no oral pun intended) Those of us hoping to follow a similar cruise find it most helpful to hear the details of solving everyday problems. I have been following your posts for some time now, and it is always a treat in my day. Cheers!

  2. Bob Hancy says:

    Your posts are like reading a great novel, only you’re actually living the story! I’m sorry about your tooth, but like Joy, we so enjoy reading your new posts and looking at your beautiful pictures! We will be in your wake as we sail from Portland to the San Juans, then to Mexico and over to Tahiti in a few short months. You and your family are inspirations to all of us who want more out of life…write more when you can!

  3. Cliffhanger!!
    Oh no, does this mean my crown is suspect too? Did you know it was temporary? Ahhh!
    [Ed. we got crowns from the same Mexican dentist]
    Miss you guys!

    1. Sara says:

      I’m blaming it on my wonky tooth. Every dentist I’ve seen has seemed to struggle with working on that tooth. Problem solved now! I’m just happy I had trouble in Tahiti and not, say, in the middle of the Pacific. Miss you all too, have a big fat IPA for us. 🙂

  4. Tucker says:

    Oh I hate that guy even more now. Ruby will be relieved that you concur with her assessment of him as “a very mean dentist.”

    The first part of this post (about the work and play ratio getting mixed up in Tahiti) is exactly the post I wanted to (and tried to) write. Nicely put!

  5. Victoria says:

    Wow! 100% of that dentist’s recent American patients think he was an asshole. I think perhaps we should publish his name.

  6. Preston says:

    I hope the tooth is better. That dentist sounds like he was just after the money. I saw you r dentist is in Olympia. Are you from Olympia or Seattle. I live in Tumwater now.