Sep 23

When it come to writing about places to which I have traveled, I have almost always chosen to write about the people I encounter and what it is like to be *me* when I travel. This is perhaps remarkably egocentric, yet I don’t see an honest way out of it. People can have wildly different experiences from a trip that is supposed to be more or less the same for anyone. I imagine that most people have very similar trips to DisneyWorld, for example. Yet my first visit there was on a belated honeymoon, nearly a quarter of a century ago; and my strongest recollection of the trip is a fabulously nonsensical fight I had with my then-wife over a game of miniature golf. This is not Disney’s fault; for all that they try to homogenize the American Vacation Experience, not everyone leaves with the intended memories.

Anyway —  I tried to make Beauty from Afar as much a book about compelling personal stories as it is a general guide to traveling overseas for cosmetic surgery, dentistry and medical care. So Chapter 1 starts out at a breakfast table at Las Cumbres Inn in Costa Rica, with patients sharing experiences, before I head in to Prisma Dental for a long second day with my mouth open.

Chapter 1 | Medical Tourism: Here, There and Everywhere

We’re up to Page 23 of the actual book, out of 220.

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Sep 23

Chapter 1 Page 1  | Medical Tourism: Here, There and Everywhere

More than 100,000 United States residents leave the country for
cosmetic procedures every year. Where do they go? Wherever they like …

It is April, 2004, and I am having breakfast with a few new friends at Las Cumbres Inn outside San Jose, Costa Rica. Sandy, perhaps 45, a Californian, is nearly recovered from her nips and tucks, and is contemplating having her teeth bleached. “Might as well do it while I’m here,” she mutters, knowing she’ll be heading home in a few days.

Vicki, also forty-something, and a self-described vagabond, wears dark glasses to cover the swelling from the work done on her still-healing eyes. She is a U.S. citizen who has lived frugally but comfortably in a Costa Rican village for most of the past 11 years. She is thinking she is going to need to get a job again, soon.

Nina looks like she had been in a car wreck. She has had a face-lift, a neck lift, a “medium chemical peel,” and perhaps some other “work” that does not fix in my memory. She shows me the estimate she had gotten from a cosmetic surgeon in New York City for the major procedures she wanted. It came to $22,420: $18,000 for the face and neck lift, $2,100 for an operating room fee, $1,320 for post-operative nursing care, and $1,000 for anesthesia. Her entire bill in Costa Rica will come to $5,700, she says. On this morning, she wonders if she will ever again look anything like she had looked before, let alone better or younger. We assure her that she will, and later, we are proven right.

Me? I tell Sandy about my dentists, Josef Cordero, D.D.S., and Telma Rubinstein, D.D.S., childhood sweethearts who went to college and dental school together, got married, and have spent more than 20 years building an international practice. Sandy decides to go with me in the van that day to see if they can squeeze her in for a teeth bleaching.

They can. We all feel pretty smart, in the way people do who have a shared secret.

***

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