Sunday, May 24, 2015

The cost of stitches in the UAE

I was going through some papers today and found the itemized list of charges for Magdalena's stitches and Sterling's non-stitches from January. I found it interesting and thought you might, too. You can click on the images to make them bigger.

The statement above is for Magdalena's visit. She split her chin at the playground and ended up needing something like eight stitches. Some of the charges listed have discounts applied; I believe that's because we are from AUS - this is a university hospital and we get a similar (30%) discount at the dental hospital, so I'm assuming that's what it is. Our insurance pays the resulting 80% and we pay 20%.

We were charged 210dhs ($57) for the consultation with the doctor. Various supplies (dressings, chuck pads, stitches, needles, etc.) cost a total of 46dhs ($12). Then there were some medicines (acetaminophen, lidocaine, and some antibiotic) for 59dhs ($16).

The biggest charge was for the act of the doctor suturing the wound - it took 20-30 minutes and we were charged 770dhs ($209). Altogether, Magdalena's stitches cost almost $300 and we paid a little over $50.

On to Sterling's visit two days later. He tripped and fell while holding salad tongs and they cut through his eyelid and around his tear duct.
Again we have the consultation fee of 210dhs ($57). Then supplies for a stunning almost-5dhs ($1.36). The dressing/taping of the wound by a nurse (not the doctor) cost 70dhs ($19). After insurance, we paid about $15 total.

So that's what stitches (and near-stitches) will cost you in the UAE, at least in Sharjah at this one hospital. By far the most expensive thing was the doctor stitching up Magdalena's chin. It was interesting to see how cheap the supplies were - I feel like I'm always reading about insanely high prices for things like thermometer covers on US insurance bills. As you can see here, a thermometer probe cover will run you about 13 cents!

Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22nd, outsourced

Photos of the plastic surgery scene in South Korea.

I haven't watched the documentary yet, but the horrifying story of an ill-fated excursion of schoolchildren to Mt. Hood in the 80s was one I heard a lot during my childhood.

I saw this all over the place and it warmed my heart every time - that photo of a professor holding the fussy baby of one of his students. Awww.

Yet another installment in the our-adjunct-faculty-system-is-broken series of articles. I found this one particularly interesting. [HT Ashi]

Hottest heads of state: young US presidents edition. [HT Liz]

Oh my gosh, I read number one on this list of things that will break any mom's sanity and I totally agreed already. Also: "Clean outfit worn for only 12 minutes and placed in the hamper on actual dirty clothes."

Good books from the last five years. I've read a few of these and agree for the most part. However, I thought The Lifeboat was awful. [HT Kathy]

At Afghan weddings, his side, her side, and 600 strangers. This article will be my new conversation topic with every Afghan I meet from now on. [HT Kristi]

A sportsball player let his toddler daughter join in a press conference. Adorable.

In the morbidly funny category, we have an honest-to-goodness job application to join Al Qaeda. Come for the article; stay for the comments! I laughed so hard I cried. [HT Blair]

Thursday, May 21, 2015


They say ISIS has entered the ancient town of Palmyra (Tadmor) in Syria. The Roman ruins there are extensive and dramatic - a well-preserved town and temple down below, a brooding citadel above, and a chain of crumbling watchtowers [edited - they're tombs] stretching into the desert. It's in the middle of nowhere now, but it was once a hub of trade and battle. If you've heard of the warrior queen Zenobia from the third century, Palmyra was her kingdom.

Here are some photos of Palmyra from happier days when we were there in 2004 and 2005.

Our sweet ride from Damascus to Palmyra - a "Happy Jerney" bus. It's about a five-hour drive through some seriously empty desert.

Empty, except for the Bagdad Cafe. There are some pit toilets out back and Ugarit Cola and Jexy for sale in a small indoor space.

The view from the citadel, looking down at the ruins of the city. I told you they were extensive! The cardo maximus at Palmyra is glorious to behold.


Sunset at the citadel.

From the ruins, looking up at the citadel.

The cardo maximus.

Amphitheater. (Photo credit my dad.)

Ruins/citadel by day. (Photo credit my dad.)

Bedu woman in Palmyra (photo credit my dad).

I love the activity of this photo - these guys peddled horse and camel rides to tourists, and I think in this photo they were just messing around racing each other. (Photo credit my dad.)

I hope the people and treasures in Palmyra are keeping safe tonight.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Steven and Kristi

Abra (water taxi) selfie in Bur Dubai this morning.

My brother Steven and his wife Kristi came to visit us for a week. They left this afternoon and now we are lonely and sad.

Highlights of their stay included:

1. Lots of discussions about candy, such as candy discoveries they made at the store, the relative merits of various Twix and Kit-Kat varieties, and how Skittles do not even taste the same anymore.

2. In-depth analysis of the songs of Evita. I think Jeremy hated us all a little bit that night at dinner when we three kept bursting into song in fits and starts, highlighting sections of the musical we liked the most.

3. Me coming down with a cold about an hour after Steven did. So whatever he was suffering, I knew that's what I was in for in an hour. It was eerie.

4. Wanting to play Settlers of Catan together one night, but then we were sick and also a few months ago I moved the box somewhere Sterling couldn't reach it...and then last night I could not find it. I'm sure it will turn up when we move.

5. Eating the American goodies they brought us. Kristi went to the store in NYC and bought us Gushers, mint Oreos, Goldfish crackers, and other delicacies. They have all already been consumed.

6. Watching Sterling bond with them. He took a shine to them the moment they walked in the door - it was as if he knew they were his people. Even though he never was able to pronounce their names - he called them "guys." I'm sure he means it as a compliment.

The best part was that when we said goodbye, we all knew it was only for about two more months! It had been almost two years since I saw them last, so it's nice to say goodbye for only a short time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Trains in Finland

I spent a lot of time on trains and buses while I was in Finland:

Helsinki airport - Turku (two separate buses)
Turku - Vaasa (three separate trains; more on that later)
Vaasa - Helsinki (two separate trains)

Since I had several appointments to keep in a short amount of time, these train rides were scheduled with little margin for error. I was especially worried about the trains from Vaasa to Helsinki - if I missed a connection, or if the train was delayed, I would have missed my flight home.

Luckily, everything ran spectacularly on time except for one train ride. And happily, it was the one train ride where I had a time cushion (Turku to Vaasa). The only thing that suffered from the two-hour eventual delay was some kick-back time in a hotel room by myself in Vaasa. Here is the story of the delay - it was a crazy experience taken up by a notch due to the fact that I don't speak Finnish.

First train: Turku - Tampere. Fifteen minutes in, the train came to a stop and the conductor made a lengthy announcement in Finnish over the intercom. I did not understand a word of what he said (except for "Tampere"), but when he said it, all my fellow passengers groaned collectively so I knew it was bad news. A nice young woman took me under her wing and explained that the track was broken, so we'd have to get off at an earlier stop and take a bus the rest of the way to the Tampere train station.

At that stop, I hustled off the train with 120+ of my Finnish co-passengers and we sorted ourselves into two buses: one for those with connections in Tampere, and one for those finishing their journey there. I and 59 others had connections - the reason I know the number is because we filled the bus to the exact seat. To this day I don't know if this was some kind of spectacular planning on the part of the Finnish railway authorities, but it certainly struck me as being providentially efficient that the bus fit us perfectly. There were lots of announcements and negotiations and discussion, all in Finnish throughout all of this - I just smiled and nodded and ran when they did, and sat down on a bus when they did.

Once we pulled up in Tampere, those of us trying to catch a connection to Seinäjoki ran to the terminal, found the track number, and then ran to catch the train. Personally, I was in heels, lugging a rolly suitcase. (Side note: heels while out and about are so impractical in Finland - aside from the obvious cold temperatures and unsuitability for walking long distances, the heels got stuck in the holes of all the scrape-your-boots-off grates outside building entrances! It was awful! Here in the UAE we are very spoiled to wear pretty much whatever we want without regard for weather. Anyway.)

The original train had left more than an hour previous, but we made this later train. Phew!

My original helper was getting off in Seinäjoki, so I found a new friend to follow to Vaasa, still from that first train in Turku. She didn't speak English, so we mostly just made eye contact and smiled at each other. Of course we had long missed the original connection, but there was (thankfully) a later train that we both got on. I think it had even waited a few minutes for us.

Finally, around 9 o'clock that night, we arrived in Vaasa, I got to my hotel room and took off those awful high heels. I decided to take it all as an adventure rather than an inconvenience, even as I sincerely hoped that was all the train-delay I'd experience in Finland. I really really didn't want to miss my flight the next day.

That next day in Vaasa, by the way, I dressed up but wore flats as I walked the 2km to my appointment. Around the corner from the building, I changed into my heels. Win.

In general, the trains in Finland were fantastic. The longer-distance regional trains all had Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi! It was like living in the future! I even video-chatted with Jeremy and the kids while riding one. The smaller city-to-city trains were a little more rustic - more like what I remember trains in Russia being (but the nice trains in Russia), with no Wi-Fi. So instead I sat back and read O Pioneers as the fields flew by my window.

And then once I transferred to a train with Wi-Fi that last morning on the way to Helsinki, I logged into my email and saw a job offer and knew that whether I accepted it or not, I had just entered Tomorrow, When Our World Changed territory. In a train, in Seinäjoki.


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