Tuesday, February 4
The phone rings. It’s Ricardo from the Ja-Bal Dental Clinic in Los Algodones.
“Hello, Susie? I want to make sure you know how to find Ja-Bal.”
Ricardo instructs me to sit on a bench located about 50 meters from the border entrance to the street. I’m to wait there and he will find me.
“I’ll have on a navy blue jacket. Do you know what you’ll be wearing?”
It’s around 8 a.m. and I haven’t picked out my clothing.
I see my hat hanging on the hook on the wall and blurt out, “I’ll be wearing a funny-looking hat, like a cowboy. That will make me easy to find.” Gee, I wanted to look normal today. Oh well, I guess I’m wearing The Hat.
Ricardo continues with instructions.
“People will tell you to go to their dental office. Tell them no, that you have an appointment. Don’t go with them.”
Then he adds before saying goodbye . . .
“And remember we’re on Arizona time.”
Ack! Arizona time? It’s an hour later than I thought! That means it’s already 9 0’clock! My appointment is for 10 o’clock!
I shift into high gear.
In a few minutes the crew and I are in the Perfect Tow Vehicle, bouncing across the desert to Les’s camp. Good thing I set up the pen at Les’s yesterday. Les comes outside immediately with a good morning and an admonishment.
I explain the time confusion.
I drop Bridget and Spike in the pen with a quick “You be good,” give Les a few last-minute instructions and a thank you, and, ignoring Bridget’s barks and howls, I hop into the PTV. Soon I’m zipping eastward on the interstate at 70 mph heading for the road to the border.
Following the stream of vehicles, I pay $6 at the entrance booth and park in the lot. Making a mental note of the PTV’s location (Section B), I sprint toward the walkway and join the people flowing into Los Algodones. There are no security checks.
I walk into a different world.
Oh, the energy! The streets bustle with cars, bicycles, dogs, pedestrians, carts, hawkers and shoppers. Several young men call out to me.
“You want dental? Come with me!” “Good prices for glasses! I show you!”
Ricardo appears, smiling, and offers a handshake.
We greet each other and he escorts me toward the clinic, a little over two blocks away.
A man sells bundles of asparagus from a cart.
“Take a picture of ME!” he calls, with a big grin and a wave for the camera.
Ricardo helpfully explains the lay-out of the streets as we walk along. He points to a big cooler (in above photo). “See over there? You can buy fresh shrimp.”
Signs for dental and optical services try to grab the attention of shoppers at the many booths.
Cars park on the sidewalk. Ricardo steps out into the street. He notices my momentary hesitation. “It’s all right. We walk in the streets in Mexico.”
The booths are crammed with unusual merchandise.
After living with desert colors of brown, tan, grey, and drab green, the vivid colors dazzle me.
Stray dogs attract my attention. These two hang around the taco cart.
“Gosh, Ricardo. I don’t want my teeth worked on. I want to shop!” He smiles. This is so much fun! I want to take pictures and eat lots of food and browse through all the booths.
Ricardo senses that I’m distracted and not paying attention to where we are going. He points out landmarks to make sure I don’t become lost after my appointment.
“I’ll look for the huge tequila bottle,” I reassure him, pointing to a cardboard display at the corner.
We arrive at Ja-Bal Dental Clinic.
Ja-Bal has a few separate locations in Los Algodones.
That’s why Ricardo fetched me at the entrance to the town. It’s better than trying to give directions to someone who is unfamiliar with the streets, and providing a personal escort avoids the prospect of searching for a lost customer.
Ja-Bal provides both dental and vision services.
Stepping into the clinic, one leaves the hurley-burly of the street . .
. . . and enters a very clean and professional clinic, much like any dental office in the United States or Canada.
To be continued . . .
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