Monday, September 15, 2014
I don't do too many Facebook statuses, yet, here is the one I've made for this very special day:
"Today September 15th marks a year! And I hope the celebratory fortune cookie message I got comes to fruition in the next: “Sie werden häuslichen Frieden, finanzielle Sicherheit und gute Gesundheit genießen.” My first year in Germany has been nothing like what I anticipated. I experienced a great deal of loss, disillusionment and uncertainty in addition to those bright spots of friendship, love and now optimism for the future. ..But I couldn’t have managed get this far without you Manuela and Thorsten .
— in Germany."
And THANK YOU too Spark friends, if you've read previous blogs you know exactly what I am talking about.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
I keep meaning to do an update to that very intense blog entry I did two months ago----and I will I am busy (even when sick) but here are two tidbits for those of you who are wondering:
The boss, who many of you rightly (but sadly) called a 'lunatic' is gone. She came down with a thyroid related condition, which could also explain the insane behaviour, and resigned after being sick for over six weeks. Our new boss is a nice lady who has inherited a difficult situation. Things are easier but still rocky.
When all was said and done we lost two kindergarten teachers, one therapist and our boss---all in the span since I started since February. I feel like a survivor.
Some of you might remember in October of last year the week of my 30th birthday and about a month after I came to Germany I came down with a lung infection. Painful but hardly a surprise this came after suffering in silence for weeks with a sore throat, congestion, insomnia, anxiety and being surrounded by sick children with 'scary' noses day in and day out.
What can be a troublesome cold for most turns into a lung battle royale for me. I call this lovingly 'kinder krank.'
About three weeks ago I felt that familiar congested feeling in my throat. After sleepless Sunday night I went to work thinking I was just tired and could tough it out. That afternoon I was told to go to the doctor because apparently I was even paler than usual and I thought it could be true because I just felt an nondescript awful. Later that night: throat pain, anxiety, congestion----I made an appointment the next day for my 'Haus Artzt' or GP.
My experience with German doctors has not been very impressive. The wait can be hours long, the appointments last less than 15 minutes---it seems that they are little more than a sick note writing service sometimes and as for having a good bedside manner I have been really disappointed. But---I had to go.
'Disappointment' could not exact how angry and ignored I felt leaving that appointment. I waited two hours to basically be shoo-ed away after the doctor listened to my lungs and checked my glands. Did he ask a family history? Take my blood pressure or temperature? Did he ask if I had had respiratory infections or problems before? NO, NO, NO. As if he couldn't be bothered and had no more time for me he wrote me off sick for a week and told me to go take Ibuprofen!
I told him that I was in serious pain, that I had a lung infection less than a year ago, walking pneamonia twice as a teen and was born three months premature. I was told I had a bit of Laryngitis and it would go away.
This was my second time with this doctor and the last. My boyfriend and I made an appointment with a throat, ears and nose specialist the next day. That appointment last thirty so minutes with very thorough checks of my throat, nose and lung condition(s) and wouldn't you know----I was confirmed with a lung infection and prescribed 1000 mg of antibiotics three times a day. I was told because I work at a kindergarten I was not to return for at least a week and that the pain I felt after doing seemingly normal stuff like light cardio workouts, walking and congestion waking up was REAL.
In the span of two weeks three other adults have come down sick. The staff to kinder ratio is low and for those of you have read about my kita that's a desperate situation. I saw this all coming weeks ago and I am not sorry---instead of having the courage to say NO KEEP YOUR CHILD AT HOME to parents who see us as babysitters; children who were clearly not feeling well and contagious were allowed to come in and their siblings too!
I was supposed to come in today but after still having discomfort after working out and in the mornings when I awake I decided to get a final clear from the specialist. This resolve was strengthened when I found out this morning the leader of my room---a person who is also into his fitness and really stubborn---is now out sick. Anyone surprised?
I also have four days, three times a day dosage, of antibiotics left and I am confused if I should take them or not, am I still at risk of illness or not? Is it safe for me to return to the children even though I feel 95% better?
Well, in classic my kindergarten fashion I called them this morning early and said I wanted final clearance from my doctor and they were MAD at me! Upset of course because they physically need me there to babysit the kids and let's face it I have not found caring or empathy to be a strength of most people for the last year I've spent in Germany.
I understand their feelings from a work perspective I do--- but what from a personal health perspective? I feel like I am making the wisest all around choice considering the health of my work environment and my own health history and susceptibility. What the hell good am I going do do the kids if I come back for a day and feel like scheisse a few days later? What if the lung stress I feel after an hour walk is not a lingering last little thing? What if I should stop taking the antibiotics, what if I should lower the dosage?
What would you do if you were me? Am I being too sensitive?
I know this blog probably seems like a rant and it is a little---but I am sure most of you can relate to the frustrations I am letting go of here. Teachers what do you think? Fewer can relate to the fallacies of German work and medical environments. There are good things: I pay a lot in taxes (about 45% of my salary) and much of that is towards national healthcare. I am sure those of you on the more conservative side of things in the USA (I might be a big ole Socialist to you :P ) are rolling your eyes----but at least now I feel like I am getting my money's worth. Seeing a doctor let alone a specialist would be unthinkable for me in the USA, I will say this though I have yet to find a doctor here with even half of of the caring attitude that I was accustomed to in the US. That's regrettable.
I am interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. A bigger update coming within the month, probably on my 1 year Germany Anniversary the second week of September.
Sunday, June 01, 2014
I have been gone for a while, after my work visa came through I began working---like crazy---and haven’t had time for much else.
However, I am finding it harder and harder to cope with my work environment and co-workers and need advice or if nothing else empathy.
I work at a kindergarten which should naturally be a supportive and kind workplace but it is nothing but. I didn’t know this until two months of working there but my organization has had about 29 members of staff leave in the last five years. In the almost five months I have been working there three staff members have left, one of which had a clear personal conflict with the boss and was in tears nearly every day of her last week. I have had the unfortunate experience of walking in on another colleague crying in a staff room.
Quality management has been at our location for around a month but seem to be completely oblivious to what the real problem is: gossip, constant one up-man-ship, the often deliberate withholding or refusal of information/training, harassment, lies and an emotionally unstable supervisor.
I am perhaps in the worst spot. I am relatively new and despite my proactive attitude, submitted work and good repoire with the children and their parents am largely regarded by my all but two colleagues (9 total two foreign and one male) as the ‘dumb American.’ I am constantly being called out for petty things such as using the wrong kind of plate for breakfast, my accent, not being ‘quick enough’ or being ‘too observant.’ If I try to express an idea or opinion at a meeting I am rudely cut off by the boss. During a time when it was thought I had gone outside to work, I even heard a group of colleagues including the boss gossiping about me and how ‘stupid’ they think I am. When my colleagues think I have done something wrong they never confront me about it but rather go straight to the boss. I believe they resent me for being non-German and being in a role that is very hard to fill by a German.
I myself have experienced a tremendous amount of sadness, stress and isolation and do my very best to cry away from work. My boss appears to have severe emotional issues and takes her anger out on everyone but especially me. She seems to have limited social skills and cannot even do “small talk.” She never smiles and looks constantly like she might have a breakdown. She has told me that I have ‘done nothing’ good so far. She makes promises (e.g for classroom supplies) and weeks later takes them back---four weeks ago she had an outburst at me in front of a new colleague when I called her out on this. WhiIe would not describe her as a physically aggressive person she even slapped my hand out of the way a few weeks ago when I was apparently in her way.
I have tried to talk to quality management about the struggles I have observed, felt and the gossip I heard but instead of listening they seem to insist that I refuse to ‘adapt to the German way.’ Every time I tried to explain an idea it was met with the sentence: “This is Deutschland!” I have been told to always ask questions but when I do I am met with “You should already know that!” There seems to be an expectation that I should be a mind reader…and obsessive compulsive.
If this wasn’t enough, we have frequent staff absences and others enwrapped in their own self important meetings---so I am left alone with the children. The environment becomes nothing more than maintenance and of course if there are any behaviour management issues it automatically becomes my fault.
I am sure most people reading this would think I am crazy for wanting to keep my job. The sad thing is I need to financially, I just began at the beginning of the year. I also went through the hell of waiting two months for my work visa and I am not sure if I could deal with this again. I am not sure how much more I can take of this bullying, it’s making me ill with toothaches, some weight gain (I workout a lot) and lack of sleep. I no longer look forward to work despite the lovely kids because no one can be certain about the emotional state the supervisor or colleagues.
Sunday, March 09, 2014
Deciding to stay and find a new job in Germany after such a dreadful end, even with the ‘high’ of the concert was not an easy path to tread. I began to become very worried about my finances. I was also required within three days of receiving my official severance letter to file as unemployed with the Arbeitsamt or employment office and return to the rude majority of the Auslanderbeorde or foreigners office and ask for an extension on my visa to find new work. All of these appointments of course could only be done in German.
There were days, most days, where I felt strong and applied for many jobs and continued to study German as not to lose my fluency. There were other days where I felt deeply sad about what had occurred, especially because I’ll never know why for sure it all ended (I later found out that our region is broke and will not be taking anymore non-EU English speakers and why they tried to screw me out of my housing allowance a day after I arrived saying they paid too much for my flight!) and yes it did bring back the horribly sad memories of what had happened to me in Turkey two years earlier. Who knows maybe my Kindergarten had the same reasons?
Some of you might remember from all my “waiting for my visa” entries back in July, August and September that I made friends with a colleague at another location M or Manuela. We have a lot in common. She was raised in Australia by Bavarian German parents and I knew from the first moment I spoke to her from Skype that she would be one of my closest friends ever. I cannot begin to tell you what sort of blessing Manuela has been .
During the scary application period she called me almost every day to check in, invited me to her home on the weekends and looked for contacts and connections. I applied to no less than 20 Kindergartens and International Schools, mainly in Bavaria where regulations have been relaxed because of huge demands for teachers and the total lack thereof. I got a call from every single place I applied to!
One place in particular, an international school close to where I live in North Rhine Wesphalia was very lucrative. I really hit it off with the director and co-teacher. They asked to check my references, especially my German reference. I had gotten along with colleagues, at least on the surface so stupidly I thought nothing of this. I got an email one day after I submitted my references saying that they could no longer accept my application. Wow, what in the world had I ever done to that Kindergarten? Even to the last appointment I stayed cool and courteous---super sour grapes or unsubstantiated rumours?
I was disheartened and angry but Manuela told me about the Kindergarten her kindergartens cook ‘s wife works for ---an integrated, bilingual Kindergarten for children with and without special needs. Perfect for me as an English and German speaking Special Education teacher! I applied and got a call within a week. I did a days hospitation and they offered me the job. Given my professional experience and goals where I accepted.
Good right? No, this is Germany where one needs approval and paper for everything. I took my new contract back to the Arbeitsamt and they said they would need to make certain that a German or someone from the EU wasn’t on file---someone who could do my job instead. I was told this could take two to four weeks. It was the middle of December, tired of feeling like I was on an emotional pendulum of powerful-happy vs. dejected-sad I of course decided to go through the bureaucratic nonsense for the thousandth time BUT I would go back to the USA for two weeks over Christmas.
Christmas was wonderful and freezing cold! I hadn’t seen snow or ice and came home to the now famous “Polar Vortex.” I was tense over my situation in Germany over the holiday but hugging my sweet Beagle and nieces helped!
I came back to Germany on January 5th and though that everything must be in order with my new visa by now and I could start working again. Ohhhh NEIN! I was told by my agent at the Foreigner’s office that there had been a “technical error” between the work authority and foreigners office getting paperwork going. In reality, someone was probably “sick” for weeks or on six thousand weeks of holiday. I was now going on three months of unemployment and livid!
My American friend Kelly who worked in Russia while I was there and reluctantly went back this year came to Berlin for a three day escape. Manuela, without asking, slipped me 150.00 Euros and said I needed to go see my friend while I waited for my new visa to come through. GOD BLESS HER, Kelly and I had the time of our lives.
The last week of January I got a notice that a three year visa was awarded and I finally began working again this month!
My new Kindergarten is wonderful. It is smaller and far more diverse than the first one. My colleagues are overall nice (here in the Ruhr it is a simple fact that foreigners are not liked )and very accommodating. I get along particularly well with two colleagues: one from Slovakia who has been living in Germany for 12 years and a woman from the Philippines who has been here for 20 years, unlike anyone else I met in this or the previous Kita they know exactly what I have gone through.
The kids and families are sweet. In my Kindergarten there are a lot of Russian children/families and they adore that I used to live in Russia! The kids love it when I speak to them in Russian for fun and one little girl in particular loves to show me what she learned at Russian school on the weekends.
I still like awake at night and wonder/worry. I can do it but it is very hard to live and pay my obligations on my salary, the attitude of many people can get exhausting (for instance when I am in public and speaking English on my cell phone people have told me to be quiet or given me dirty looks, mind you a group of drunk German speaking kids or soccer fans does not get this treatment) and back in December I got myself into more trouble: I started dating a German guy who treats me like a queen. He has asked me to be his girlfriend and the only thing that stops me is my own sense instability over the last few months, homesickness and time to time anger at how foreigners are treated.
That being said, when I made the choice to stay I promised myself I would give it as much as I could and so I will.
Sunday, March 09, 2014
The Saturday after I got the dreadful letter in the Kindergarten office, I was sitting in my apartment trying not to cry so I surfed the web. In a random google search I saw that Thirty Seconds to Mars was in Berlin that Friday and it occurred to me…I wonder if they would be in Cologne anytime soon, I did a quick search and indeed there would be a concert at Laxness Arena TOMORROW. Now for those of you that are ‘Echelon’ (30SM fans) then you know they tour damn near constantly and always sell out huge arenas. I had been meaning to see Thirty Seconds to Mars for a couple of years but something had always been in the way---usually being broke from being a student! Naturally, all the tickets for the Cologne show had been sold out long ago but like with everything else that had occurred recently I decided to go for it.
I quickly checked German Ebay classifieds and about ten or so people were selling their tickets. Now obviously it is risky to purchase tickets secondhand, especially off the web but I would try to be extra careful if anyone offered to sell theirs to me by speaking with them in person, asking for a picture of both sides of the ticket and triple checking all these things once there. I found one woman , a person a bit younger than myself who had an extra ticket----a standing ticket at that so I offered to pay 10.00 Euros above what she had paid (or probably won!) …She agreed to meet me at the concert venue the next day. I couldn’t believe my luck: a standing ticket at a Thirty Seconds to Mars show!!!
After streaming through thousands of people at the arena I found my vendor, the ticket was indeed quite real so I paid and began to stand in the huge standing place only line---where I would stand with the most fanatical of Echelon for five hours! The anticipation was immense! During the wait some organized fans came around with signs for people standing in the front 25 rows or so, that said “Love,” “Lust,” “Faith,” and “+Dreams” which when read together is the new album title, LOL lucky me I got “Dreams”; these Echelon were so organized that they had written instructions about what to do with the signs in both English and German.
The concert was nothing short of exhilarating. Those of you who know Thirty Seconds to Mars well know their shows are very bright, loud and high energy. After standing in line 5+ hours I found the consistent jumping a bit much but my feet that long ago would have given up obliged! I was in the 13th row out of 14,000 thousand in attendance. I’ve always wanted to see Jared Leto’s beautiful blue eyes up close (LOL this is a wish I’ve had since I’ve been about 10 years old and first saw him on ‘My so Called Life, a show that made high school like super cool haha.) and that was accomplished.
Now I hope I don’t come off as overly emotional here. I am a music lover and have always been and I have bands/singers that I love beyond measure because the amount of emotion thought and talent they put into their music. For instance “Neon Ballroom” or “Diorama” by Silverchair will always remain a favourite, even if I am nowhere near the age or experience now as I was then because of how profound the craft in those albums is and there are of course themes/lyrics that speak to you more in certain times in life than others. The Thirty Seconds to Mars concert could not have come at a better time.
Themes of attack, fight, survival, persistence and courage in the face of cowardice are found in most of their songs, particularly on albums like “This is War.” “Savior” in particular spoke to my experience
9s (“This is War”)
I needed that message. I am sure the the choice to stay and fight was already in me but let’s face it most of the events of the week had left me shell shocked and something had to bring the courage out of me.
I arrived in Germany on September 15th and on November 3rd, sometime between 9:00 PM and 1:00 in the morning in Cologne the choice was made, stay and fight for what I had already put so much effort into.
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