A trip to Dubai for medical care and a shopping spree31 december 2013, 13:18
When Nazarbayev University's founders began planning the institution four years ago, their mandate was simple yet daunting: do what it takes to make the university world class.
That mandate came right from the top.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev was an early backer of the idea of a new kind of university that could blaze educational trails in Kazakhstan.
When those promoting the Western-style university suggested that it be named for him, he had an important caveat: He would agree only if they guaranteed it would be world class.
Kazakhstan's Prsident Nursultan Nazarbayev. Photo courtesy of dknews.kz
A key to building an internationally renowned university is offering excellent pay and benefits to attract a talented faculty from around the globe. And a good health-care package is a crucial part of that.
When professors in other countries consider leaving their homelands to teach thousands of miles away, a major consideration is whether they think they'll get good health care if they need it.
I just learned from firsthand experience that Nazarbayev University's founders did a masterful job of putting together a health-care package.
I had surgery in Dubai over the holidays for an old sports injury I'd aggravated in recent months.
I couldn't have had better care. The surgeons at the Mediclinic Hospital, Dr. Syed Ateeque Hussein Naqvi and Dr. Khalid Hameed, are Pakistani natives with British Medical Board certification. They did a great job on the surgery and in post-op.
The rest of the hospital's medical team, most of whom are Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos, were equally as professional – and very pleasant. They even laughed at my stupid American jokes.
Quality is always the top consideration in health care, of course – and Mediclinic Hospital provided it.
A patient's second-biggest consideration is cost. Thanks to Nazarbayev University's terrific health-care plan, the cost to me was: absolutely zero.
The package consists of a combination of two world-class care providers – Singapore-based International SOS and London-based BUPA health insurance.
Photo courtesy of powa-sava.com
When my old weight-lifting injury worsened a few weeks ago, I went to Dr. Chintan Trivedi at the International SOS clinic in Astana for an initial diagnosis.
He decided I needed surgery, and the International SOS team in Astana and Dubai worked together to line it up at Mediclinic Hospital and with BUPA to insure that the care was covered. After the surgery Dr. Firas Ayash of International SOS's Dubai operation called me several times to check on my recovery.
I saw the final tab for the surgery and post-op before leaving Dubai. It was a fraction of what it would have been in the States.
Because Stateside patients almost always have to pay part of the cost of surgery, no matter how good their health insurance, I would have been out thousands of dollars if I'd had the operation in the States.
Given the quality and the reasonable cost of health care in Dubai, it's no wonder it's become a top medical-tourism destination.
Dr. Hameed sent me away on the best note of all: Not only was the surgery a success, he said, but I could begin weight-lifting again in a few weeks. Yes!
* * * * *
The last time I was in Dubai, four years ago, I didn't have time to shop.
I was on a team of three professors whom the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication sent to Dubai to decide whether to re-accredit the journalism programs at American University Emirates and American University Sharjah.
It was a busy trip, so I had no chance to visit Dubai's famous shopping malls.
This time I had three days to shop while recuperating from my surgery.
The place where I stayed, the Dunes Hotel Apartments in the Al Basrah district, is right across from the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai's second-largest. I felt like the proverbial kid in the candy store as I walked the mall, which is far larger than most American shopping centers I've been to.
Mall of Emirates. Photo courtesy of visit-the-world.com
I quickly realized why many well-heeled Kazakhs like visiting Dubai. The array of fashion at the Mall of the Emirates was amazing. It included all the big names – Gucci and Versace, for example – plus the less pricey but cutting-edge mainstays, such as Zara and Mango.
The selection is even better at the Dubai Mall, the country's largest.
If you've shopped in Dubai, you know that prices are higher than in the States – 10 to 20 percent is a guesstimate.
But they're far less than in Kazakhstan, where prices for everything from clothes to electronics are 2 ½ times higher than in America.
Photo courtesy of astro.temple.edu
The pricetags in Dubai brought back a question I've asked myself many times in my seven years in Kazakhstan: Why are prices in the country so high?
I know it's landlocked, so it costs more to ship things in.
But what can that shipping premium really be? Twenty percent? Thirty percent?
It can't be so high that it doubles or triples the retail price of the same products on the shelves of American stores.
In the entire time I've been in Kazakhstan, I've never had a satifactory answer to the question of why prices are so high here.
If any of you know, or have a good guess, please send it to me as a comment to this column.
* * * *
I'm one of those strange guys who loves shopping for clothes – and that's why my three days prowling the Mall of the Emirates were so much fun.
It wasn't always that way.
When I arrived in Tokyo as a young journalist years ago, I was a sweatshirt-and-jeans kind of guy.
Then a talent scout spotted me on the street and asked me to be in a television drama.
It led to my doing a lot of modeling and acting in Japan – runway work, photo shoots, television commercials, TV dramas, movies, even live stage.
It also changed my outlook on fashion.
The runway jobs, photo shoots and TV commercials often involved donning cutting-edge clothes. And I learned – to the horror of my sweatshirt-and-jeans buddies back in the States – that fashion was cool.
Photo courtesy of highsnobiety.com
Especially tailor-made suits and tuxedos.
I also learned that a lot of women like men who dress up.
I've carried a love of fashion with me ever since.
I usually don't shop for myself these days, though.
I've developed a knack for knowing the kind of clothes that look good on whoever I'm with at the moment.
So I shopped for clothes for someone tall, thin and leggy while in Dubai.
One outfit in particular is sure to please – a long, slinky, black party dress that will show off her figure.
Most guys I know would rather be horsewhipped then shop for clothes. And there's absolutely NO WAY they'd shop for women's clothes.
I'm glad I made the transformation.
It makes prowling a shopping mall a lot more pleasant.
Especially one with the massive selection of the Mall of the Emirates.
Thanks for the shopping fix, Dubai. I guess I'm good for another year.