In return for our blood, sweat, and tears, Peace Corps gives all volunteers a precious gift to commemorate one year of service: a physical exam. So after a week of learning about gender-based violence and HIV prevention on the sunny Mombasa coast in a PEPFAR-funded seminar, we all retired to Nairobi to be poked with needles and pee in cups. Oh, the price we pay for a few day’s break and a Diet Coke with ice in it.

It was on the second day of this that I found myself undergoing the rare pleasure of having not one but two people mashing their hands into my mouth while a dental hygienist called out cryptic numbers for her assistant to record. “Upper left, seven occlusal,” she said in an unconcerned monotone. “Upper right, one PV. Lower right, four Fischer seal.” Afterwards, as I wiped drool off my chin and tried to contract my face into something approximating normal dimensions, I inquired: What was all that about?

“We need to keep a complete record of everything going on in your mouth. Fillings, veneers, sealants. That sort of thing.”

“Ah, fun. Why?”

“Just in case.”

My brow furrowed slightly. “Just in case what?”

“Oh, you know,” she said breezily, snapping off a latex glove and tossing it into a bin. “In case you’re eaten by a lion during your service and we need to identify your bodily remains. These things happen.” She smiled warmly and offered me her card. “Don’t forget to keep up that flossing!”

She was kidding, of course.


I think.