The road to wisdom

There is a dental clinic in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, called Dente Feliz. Literally Happy Tooth. Maputo, which used to be called Lourenço Marques, is a typical Portuguese city, with wide tree-lined avenues, and even a house built by Gustave Eiffel. Only it’s in Africa. Full of colour, music, and tropical flavours. You can see it on TV, but you can’t get the heat, or the fragance – you need to be there.

In 2003, 100 bucks would get you 2.3 million meticais (and change)

Luckily, I didn’t frequent the Happy Tooth the few times I went to Maputo, but I did frequent the Costa do Sol seafood restaurant which overlooks Maputo Bay, and the Africa Bar, known locally as AB (pronounced abbey). Perhaps it was those various excesses that led to the removal on Sunday of a wisdom tooth, which results in some downtime today; although I was expecting it to bleed more profusely than the Greek economy, so far, I haven’t needed intervention by the European Commission. As for any subject, there is endless stuff on the web about wisdom teeth. My favourite so far is an article in a Shanghai paper, with diet suggestions at various stages:

‘”Reinforcing kidney energy while the gum is still inflamed is useless; on the contrary, reinforcing foods usually accelerate blood circulation and may aggravate the inflammation and gum bleeding,” Li says. For inflammation, Dr Li recommends “cold” (yin energy) food that dispels pathogenic heat. This includes chrysanthemum tea, cucumber and celery. After the inflammation and pain are gone, eat kidney-reinforcing foods like gouqi (wolfberries), pigeon and walnuts.’

So next time you’re in town, do cityhall a favour and grab a pigeon for the road. Well, I was very surprised with the service I got: I found the place on the internet, checked for horror stories and the like, and decided to wing it. The young lady who treated me came into Lisbon just for me from about 40 miles away, and always had a smile on her face. I did too, up to a certain point. As far as I can tell, she did everything right, and a quick look at US costs puts extraction at between $ 150-350. Mine was at the low end of that, including all the nice drugs you get that make your tongue feel like a giant avocado, the commute, and the emergency Sunday service. Wow!

It reassured me, although somewhat painfully, that Portugal is a very different country from the days of my pre-revolutionary youth. Some things work, some don’t, but there is always a solution in the confusion. In this country it’s known as the art of “desenrasca”, another word, which like Fado, has no translation. Densenrascar (the verb) is the difference between just making things happen or failing dismally. A combination of fixit, luck, adrenalin, and the shared stakeholder understanding of last minute urgency. Markets take note.

As an added bonus, as of yesterday I entered a program called Wisdom Weight Watchers, which aims to help me lose a few pounds through a judicious combination of pureed soup and alcohol interdiction. There are still two of these pesky teeth left, and my doctor suggested I get rid of those in due course. I thought she was just trigger happy, but apparently as you age the little sods fuse to the bone, determined to go with you to the grave. So, food for thought, if you excuse the (double) pun. And since I will spend the whole of next week in northern Italy, that’s ideal. A regular Italian meal, as you peruse the menu while crunching grissini (my jaw hurts just thinking of that) will lure you in gently with antipasti, followed by a primo piatto, usually pasta or risotto, a secondo piatto, meat or fish, dessert and perhaps cheese. It is difficult to put that away without a few glasses of Italian red, an espresso to counteract the effect, and of course a grappa as a dual digestive and sleeping draught. Incidentally, wisdomweightwatchers.com is available, if you feel that orthodontics and obesity form a compelling business venture.

The current state of play is that I yesterday lost one third of my remaining wisdom, which probably explains the mental wanderings in this post – either that or the nice pills I get to take. But nevertheless a few words of toothless wisdom about the economy, to wrap up: the financial markets have been pounding Spain and Portugal, carried away after pounding Greece to the consistency of well chewed moussaka (sounds like my dinner).  The Spanish can take care of themselves, but I leave a couple of historical notes for your consideration:

Julius Caesar had a parting thought about Lusitania, well nigh two thousand years ago: “who are these people who will not be governed and will not govern themselves?” This was said with some irritation, but I suspect with a hint of admiration. Over the period of the Punic Wars, Viriato was only one of many.

Before the Romans, Phoenicians and Greeks. Since them, Portugal has waved goodbye to Visigoths, Moors, Crusaders, and Spain (on several occasions). And in between it opened up the West to globalisation. Not even Napoleon managed to stay for long. I wonder if a few short sports will fare any better. Even if you wear a funny hat, if you can’t pronounce “desenrasca”, do yourself a favour: don’t bet the ranch.

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One Response to “The road to wisdom”

  1. Pike Says:

    I love how Word Press has suggested greek related posts. Very amusing.

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