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Thursday, 19 October 2006

Hold the Fries: Moving to Wales - Page 2

Written by Katherine H. Breen
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I come from America, land of the free and home of the super-sized. We super-size, oversize, and jumbo-size everything from fast-food meals to roadways. One of the first tasks I faced living in Wales as an expatriate was learning to drive on roads the width of American bike paths.


“Ummm, Mom…” his forced whisper had done little to mask the panic in his eyes, “I left my top retainer on the tray at McDonald’s!” His announcement had coincided with the wheels being sucked into the belly of the plane and my breath being sucked out of my lungs in disbelief.

“We are moving 3,000 miles away from your dentist. Where do you think I can find a new retainer?” I hissed over the heads of passengers dutifully ignoring the safety procedure demonstration.

After a yearlong process, David’s braces had been removed from his teeth the day before our move from the States to Wales. Sun streamed through the cabin and onto his teeth, perfectly white and situated in exquisite American straightness. As they gleamed at me, I could see the teeth plotting their escape route back to their more comfortable origins. The search for a new retainer was an immediate concern and could not wait the anticipated 10-day delay during which I was to “acclimate” to the roads.

We arrived at Crickhowell, Wales, late in the morning and by 5 that night, I remembered to call a dentist. The simple fact that Dr. Nigel Jones himself answered the phone at such an hour was the first clue that I had, in fact, left America. My dentists in the US never answered phones--ever. And about twenty years ago, they stopped cleaning teeth or checking them for cavities. Teams of specialists inhabited my mouth for about an hour doing all those sundry tasks pertaining to teeth. “My Dentist” came in for the last twenty seconds while I was swishing flouride around in my mouth to ask, “Do you have any questions? No, well then see you in six months.” I would spit and he was gone.

Dr. Nigel Jones of “Smiles Better” in the neighboring town Abergavenny began by demonstrating the difference between Welsh dentistry and American dentistry. The first tool he used for the visit was the phone, “No, Mrs. Breen, I understand your concern about driving and parking. Tell you what,” he had a spry English accent, “I’ll stay late and wait for you to arrive. That way, traffic will be calm and you will have no problem parking. See you when you get here.” There had to be a catch…perhaps when I got the bill there would be an American-sized reconciling.

I had my son gather the empty retainer case, brush his teeth and we were out the door and onto the roads of Wales weeks before I was scheduled to make my debut. Between the two market towns of Crickhowell and Abergavenny lie about five miles of A-road driving. In the British motorway system there are A roads (well marked two-way traffic), B roads (no dividing marks, can funnel, without notice, into single lanes with lay-bys) and M roads (large carriage ways with up to three lanes traveling in either direction).

“Other side Mom, remember?” I had tried to get into the passenger side of our new CRV. I couldn’t enter the car properly, and I was not sure I could drive it once behind the wheel, but we left the safety of Glanusk Estate’s farm lane and headed through town.


(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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