Ada Abroad: Living and Working in Germany

An online journal recording two years spent as a Fulbright/Pedagogical Exchange Service Teaching Assistant at secondary schools in Germany. (2003-2004 I was in a village near Bautzen; 2004-2005 I will be in Nordrhein-Westfalen.)

Location: Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

I'm an American living in Germany, working as a foreign language assistant at a secondary school. Future plans: getting my Ph.D. (probably in Germanic Linguistics), becoming a professor, living an ethical and meaningful life.

Monday, October 25, 2004


(Note: I haven´t posted for a while because I´ve been indisposed-- I broke my ankle. To read about my accident, scroll down to Hals- und Beinbruch !)

Wessi (West German) and American prejudices to the contrary, hospitals in Saxony are very good. Nationally, they rank just behind Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg in quality of care: pretty impressive, considering that those are the two richest Bundesländer (federal states)!

While American hospitals release people far sooner than they should (so that insurance companies can save money), German hospitals keep patients around much longer than necessary (in order to make money off the insurance companies). (I think that German hospitals are smarter.) After my bike accident I was in the hospital for 11 days. Originally the doctors had planned to hold me a full two weeks, but then somebody decided it would be best to free up my bed for incoming accident victims.

I had never been in a hospital overnight before. I had never had surgery before, discounting the removal of my wisdom teeth, which was an ambulatory procedure performed in a small clinic.

I had no idea what to expect.

The first surprise was that Germans no longer believe in putting casts on broken bones. Despite both of my fractured ankle-bones, I remained cast-free. Instead, they always kept my leg in some kind of dressing and ordered me not to put any weight on it, but to move it as much as possible. Every day a physical therapist came and did some leg- and ankle-strengthening exercises with me (to prevent thrombosis and muscular atrophy), massaged my leg (using a special technique developed to prevent swelling), and taught me practical skills like how to climb stairs on crutches (very carefully).

Surprise number two was that the food at this particular hospital wasn’t bad. The breakfast and dinner menu wasn’t fixed: you could order whatever you wanted from a long list of possibilities. At lunch there were always three entrees to choose from, including a vegetarian option that was generally the safest bet.

One thing that came as no surprise is that hospitals are boring. Especially when you’re not allowed out of bed except for physical therapy or to use the bathroom. I read. I slept a lot. (Heavy painkillers will do that to you.) I assembled paper folk-costume dolls that the Sorbian teacher brought me. I talked to my roommate. I received visitors. Thanks to you great people back in the States, I also received phone calls.

And that was about it.

My hospital stay wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience, but it wasn’t horrible. My only real complaint is with a certain night-nurse with the face of a boxer who’d lost too many fights and the disposition of Nurse Ratchett from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (My father informs me that every hospital has at least one nurse like this.) When the pain kept me awake one night, said nurse yelled at me for not being asleep, and then for asking for something to deaden the pain, when everyone knows that such medications gnaw at the lining of one’s stomach.

Whatever. I never developed any ulcers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sooooo glad you're back on track, albeit slowly. Hopefully you'll get over your Heimweh and throw yourself... ok, that's the wrong terminology. IMMERSE yourself in your teaching and your students. I know they missed you, but not as much as I do! Talk to you soon!
mfG Kim

3:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would write about the few stitches in my nose from sighting in my rifle. After reading your experience it would be rather boring.


4:28 AM  
Blogger Ada said...

You know, I´m actually over the Heimweh-- at least pretty much. Talking to you (Kim) on the phone helped. I realized that I´d been walking around with an overly rosy picture of what things would be like if I were at home. And that I would kick myself for the rest of my life if I gave up the Fulbright. Teaching again is great! The kids did miss me--the cute little ones at least.

Well, Rick, if you really want to tell us about your stitches, I can give you the info to start a website for yourself!

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


We're happy to see that you survived your ordeal. What an experience which I would have probably passed on. Your cousin Elyse asked about you all of the time as did the rest of us. I can't top Rick nose incident.

Judy, Scott, and ELyse

6:45 PM  
Blogger Ada said...

Hi Judy

Well, I can´t say I recommend breaking your ankle in a foreign country, but in a way I´m glad it happened here because at least I have good health insurance. When I get home I´ll be without coverage until I´m a student again, which of course scares me...

Let Elyse know that I´m doing well now!


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