Fanfiction "The Flying Doctors"
Magdaīs Diary, prologue
Where do I belong?
The Tale of an Immigrant
as told by Dr. Magdalena Heller
The lovestory that definitely was there,
but that we hardly got to see
Itīs half past three in the morning. The morning of my 30th birthday. Iīve been awake for quite some time. For my thoughts keep running around. Circling around one single question: "Is this really life?"
I am thirty now. Thirty years old. And what have I done those thirty years? Studied. Worked, worked, worked... How is this going to continue? Work, work, work, till I drop dead one day? What am I living for?
When I look around in my life, my whole life seems to exist of work. Great work, no doubt about it. But itīs consuming me. Long, irregular shifts. Ongoing promotionresearch. And why? To climb up even higher in the ranks? What for? Why do I have to get more and better and higher all the time? What do I gain by that? Higher wages, yes. But I donīt even spend all of my wages now, so why should I have even more? To be able to retire at the age of 45 perhaps?
Or is it because of the status? To show off how much I can do? An even more expensive car, a more expensive apartment, even more to brag about and to make others jealous. What do I gain by that? What do they gain by that?
Itīs as if Iīve had a real eye-opener all of a sudden. Is this really the life I want to live? A life that confines itself within the walls of the Academic Hospital? A life in which my colleagues are the closest thing to friends, even though every single one of them is my competitor at the same time? Competitors on the long way to the top. And to give them a set-down, my work swallows me so thoroughly, that there is no time left for a private life. With friends I choose myself, just because I like them. Friends with whom I can be myself, without having to fear for loss of status. Friends to have a good time with or to share a hobby with. Why donīt I have something like that? More than enough choirs around in this city, to name but one example. But the job always comes first, so I would be able to attend the rehearsals but rarely, so what use would joining a choir be... My only diversion are my books (but reading is something you do alone, too) and sometimes going to the theatre. By myself, too. And even though I may have long gotten used to drink something by myself both during the interval and afterwards, I canīt deny that it would be nice for a change to have someone with whom I could talk the play over with. To enjoy it together.
Now that Iīm thinking of it... As a matter of fact I had always assumed that - at the now reached age of thirty - I would long be married. Or at least have a longterm relationship. That dream simply existed next to the dream of becoming a doctor. But are those two incompatible with each other? One could say I have given my life to the medical science. But where is my own life? Havenīt I had the time to build a relationship, or didnīt I feel like it? I just never occupied myself with finding someone to have a relationship with: after that swooning teenagercrush on Dieter Holm when I was sixteen, I canīt name any man in my life that has meant more to me than just a friend. Or not even that: a colleague, a studymate, an acquaintance. I do hope to find something like my true love one day. Getting married, having a few children... All very traditional, thatīs true, but that wish has always been in my mind. Already since I was a little girl.
But where on earth am I to find someone like that? Among my colleagues? Not very likely. Apart from the fact that most of them are married (yeah, where did they find the time to find a spouse? Am I doing something wrong here?), none of them has ever set my heart racing. Not to mention the question what kind of a marriage that would be: two such extremely busy doctors together...
Another opportunity are my patients. But usually they have other things on their mind when I meet them. And neither from them do I recall ever having felt any kind of special attraction.
So what do we have left? Yeah, right, my private life. That hardly existing private life. That private life of which I spend most of it by myself. So unless I happen to meet a nice guy during high mass or in the theatre or on vacation...
Now that I read all this, I suddenly realize how lonely my life is. I have virtually no social contacts apart from my work. I know my neighbourīs faces and the matching names on the name-boards with their respective doors, but we never exchange more than a formal greeting on the stairs. In church I know a couple of people, but since I hardly got the time to participate in activities other than high mass, I have never managed to establish social contacts there, either. And because of my busy work - and perhaps just as well because of theirs... or perhaps they are already married, with a couple of kids? - I have lost contact with my childhood friends, too. Years ago.
And in the social circles of my work I still feel I am the outsider: an upstart labourerīs daughter who just happened to be an excellent student, among colleagues who - without a single exception - have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth. A completely different world. Hockey, tennis and golf versus football. Fancy dinners in first class restaurants versus a collective barbecue party in the street. The Mediterranean versus the Boden Lake, or at most the isle of Borkum. An environment in which the entire family is well-educated, or parents who left school at the age of fourteen to help their parents to make a living. And where one is the first familymember to attend university in the entire collective family-memory on both fatherīs side and motherīs side.
Donīt take me wrong: Iīm not complaining about my lower descent. Absolutely not. Just like I donīt feel ashamed about it. Iīve had a wonderful, carefree childhood, on which I can look back with joy, and for which I am grateful to my parents. But the social circles Iīve grown up in are so different from the ones my colleagues grew up in, that I simply have a different way of looking at the world. One could say I have a different world to refer to. Itīs notable in discourses on several subjects, in hobbies... Not that I havenīt acquired some development in these things. During oneīs studies, one sure does pick up some new interesting pastimes. But my love for classical ballet for example, for opera and operette and things like that... those are not things I have been spoon-fed with. And still: these hobbies and interests exist next to my preference for the German folkmusic that sort of belongs to the labourerīs classes. And for which my colleagues canīt find the least bit of appreciation.
In these things Iīm hanging between two different worlds. I donīt belong to either of them. In the social world of my work, I am and will always be the outsider. I am being accepted and respected for my knowledge and abilities, but Iīll never really be one of them.
On the other hand: I have totally outgrown the world of my childhood, of my family. Their world is not mine anymore, and as far as they are concerned, my world could just as well be situated on the moon. Just as far from their habitat. We donīt have a connection anymore. No subjects to talk about. There, too, am I the outsider. Perhaps Iīve always been the outsider there. When I was a child, for a while I was convinced that I was actually a princess. But my father the king had decided that I had to grow up in an ordinary family, because he was afraid that Iīd get too conceited if I knew I was a princess. Well, there sure seemed to exist some proof for it. So different I was from Martin and Lori. They had to struggle through primary school and a lower tradeschool. In the meantime, I taught myself how to read at the age of five, passed happily through primary school and the highest level of secondary school, where my first place in the class was more customary than exceptional. And all that with a single goal in mind: to become a doctor. And while Martin and Lori loved to play outside after school, I preferred to stay inside and enjoy reading a book. Martin simply lived for football, and I wanted to take lessons in ballet and playing the violin, and join a choir - not really common activities in our neighbourhood at the time. Lori wanted all that, too, thatīs true, but she always wanted to do whatever I did when she was a little girl, so...
Oh well, that princess-stuff was plain nonsense of course. One only needs to take one look at my mother and me, and there can be no doubt that we must be very closely related. But still, it is some example about how I felt an outsider even then, as a child. I was different. I love them, and they love me. But we have grown so far apart. They are excessively proud of me, of everything Iīve accomplished. But there is no connection anymore. Perhaps if I were married and had children? At least weīd have something in common to talk about. Lori isnīt even twenty-six yet, and she already has three kids. Martin has two... And after all: Mom has raised three children, too. It could be an opening, a possibility. But I doubt whether it will open up soon...
Maybe I should take charge myself. For really, it canīt go on like this. Life has to contain more than just work, work, work. But I am the one who will have to make the changes. It is true: actually I donīt even long all that much for company in my scanty private life. Thatīs just for resting up and gathering new energy for the next shift. But I would wish that my work wouldnīt consume me the way it does. So that I would have the time and the longing and the need for friends and activities outside my work. For a life outside the hospital. To have a place among friends where I can feel at home, and where I can have a connection with people based on common interests. A choir, folkdancing, drama - that ought to be possible, ought it not? Making friends because we like one another, and who knows - perhaps finding a partner. To experience being in love myself. For even though it doesnīt bother me all that much at the moment that Iīm still single, I wouldnīt want to stay single for the rest of my life. And it doesnīt strike me as very wise to leave the dealing with that problem until after my retirement - no matter how early that may befall me, thanks to this road to financial independence I have taken for several years now... Say I could retire at the age of 45; it would be virtually impossible to make that dream about becoming a mother come true then. Is that what I want?
Perhaps I should simply take radical measures and quit my job. Leaving the stress of the ever hurried big city, and take on a job in a small village hospital in the country instead.
I donīt know. But something has to change for sure.
One year. One year since I left Munich and started my new job in the little regional hospital in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. And what has changed?
As a matter of fact: very little. My working hours are hardly less than in the Academic Hospital in Munich. The pay is a little less, but I still donīt use up the money I make in one month. The outbidding in status symbols perhaps is even worse here than it was in Munich. There is a little more team-spirit, thatīs true, but still your colleagues and your direct subordinates are in fact your competitors just as well.
As for the private side it looks a tiny little bit better, though not half as much as I had hoped and expected. It is true that I feel a lot better and happier here in Garmisch than I have ever been in Munich. More relaxed. More cheerful. With nature next door, and the ski-run in the backyard. But when looking more closely, I realize that my life has hardly changed. Yes, I am singing in a choir here, and with much pleasure, too. But I have to miss out on too many rehearsals and even concerts because of my work, so I donīt really feel like being "part of the group". I canīt say I have made some real friends there, either. Acquaintances, yes. Not friends.
Here, too, I only know the faces and the matching name-boards of my neighbours. It is true that there are a few shops where I come so frequently that the staff recognizes me and says hello when I come in (that was a real exception to happen in Munich). But could that be called social contact? No way. In church, too, itīs pretty much the same as it was in Munich: I know faces, but hardly any names. Well, okay, at least the priest knows who I am; thatīs a big step forward.
But is this what I was looking for? Hardly. Perhaps it comes automatically with the level of my job, but I am not happy with it. My life still exists of work, work, work. And I want to change that. Perhaps I should take a sabbatical. Make a trip around the world or something like that. On the other hand: doctors are needed wherever you go. As a matter of fact: who ever said that I have to stay in Germany? For example: if I would go and work as a missionary doctor in Africa, I would be able to combine my work with adventure, with seeing something of the world. Getting to know other cultures. Okay, okay, I might be picturing this a bit too rosy, but at least Iīd get out of that all dominating hospital-world. To go to a world where they have probably never even heard of the word īstatusī.
Or perhaps trying the opposite: sign on as a shipīs surgeon on a fancy cruise-ship. Iīd probably only get to treat luxury ailments, but it would mean getting out of that hospital-world for real. And meeting thousands of people, and see half the world! If it were for a year or so, I wouldnīt turn down a job like that!
Perhaps I should try and get some information. Both on the cruise-ships and on Africa. For I still have exactly the same feelings on this matter as I had a year ago: something has got to change, for this is not the life I want to live. It must be possible to practise the medical profession, and still have a reasonably normal private life next to it. Should it not?
This is it! The ultimate possibility of uniting all I could wish for!
I have been home for two days now because of a violent cold, that I would rather not contaminate my patients with. Nor my colleagues for that matter. And with a barking cough like this, one doesnīt sleep very well either. So this afternoon I was too seedy and too tired to even read. So I turned on the tv. The ZDF-program about a home for lost animals caught my interest, and it was followed by an episode of The Flying Doctors.
I had heard of that program before, but I had never seen it. A few weeks ago, I even had a patient who - upon having watched one or another episode from that series - had convinced himself that he was suffering from Huntingtonīs career. Seems like a dangerous series to me... But since I didnīt have the spirit to think about something better to do, I decided to watch the show. So next time at least I would have some idea what my patients are talking about...
But those flying doctors... oh boy, if only half of the situation they pictured on tv is true, it would mean sort of a "dream come true" for me! They have their office in a little town somewhere in rural Australia. A town so small that everyone knows everyone. They have a (as it seems rather small) hospital there, too. And a small team of a couple of doctors and one nurse are covering an enormously extensive area. The population is very sparsed, so they go out by plane to have a clinic at peopleīs homes. And whenever an accident happens, they get notified over the radio, and the local office organizes that the plane will take one of the doctors to the location of the calamity. And since it is quite normal that it could take several hours to fly back to the hospital, the doctor has to do whatever he can - in the plane! Makes for a change with a yelling ambulance...
It seems ever so exciting to me! To do your medical job in such primitive circumstances. Adventure, seeing something of the world on the job... It reminds me a bit of working in the African wild land. Still, a significant advantage that Australia holds over Africa is its ordinary, familiar, and safe western culture. For no matter how adventurous Africa may be, now that I know a little more about the life and the work there, I am really starting to doubt whether I would be able to fit in there. Whether I would be able to adapt to the circumstances there. And Australia does have a certain magical sound to it... Imagine going to live at the other side of the world...
It was a really thrilling episode by the way. The two village-fools had set fire to their (already broken) car, with the intention of getting it insured afterwards, and then claim the compensation for their burnt down car. However, Sam, the pilot of the doctorīs airplane, saw the car burning on his way home from a clinic in the country. Of course they had to go and check it out; there might have been an accident, and perhaps there were people who needed their help.
But when they had landed and carefully walked towards the vehicle, the car exploded. They dived to the ground all three of them, but Sam wasnīt very lucky in his fall and he broke a couple of ribs. And while Sam had more and more trouble breathing, and in the end even had to be respirated by hand, they had to wait half the night before help came in, together with another pilot to fly the plane home. Thrilling at times, but luckily it ended well. Imagine that: such adventures in your job... Over here, our adventures are limited to a drunk wrecking the place, or a baby being born in a taxi...
I think Iīll try and get some information about opportunities in working for these flying doctors in Australia. I might have to patch up my English a bit, but Australia... It sounds more attractive than the African jungle and those exotic ocean-liners put together! If only I could get a job there...
I made it! They want me! They donīt know where yet, but Mr. Taylor from the RFDS-headoffice in Sydney has promised to send a letter of recommendation to the Immigration Board today, to request a prompt decision about my working-permit. So if things go well, I shall be leaving for the other side of the world within a few months! To A U S T R A L I A !!!
Now there is nothing left that can stop me... I passed my English exam, my job at the Flying Doctor Service has been confirmed (even though I still donīt know where exactly I am going to work), and now I have even been granted the necessary working-permit. For now itīs just a temporary one, valid for one year, starting the 1st of October 1990. That is what Mr. Taylor and I had agreed upon; the 1st of September appeared to be on too short a notice. There is so much to be organized! Mr. Taylor expects me in Australia by the end of September, so Iīll have about two months to get ready.
Tomorrow Iīm going to give my notice to dr. Felzer. I suppose it might come as a shock, but well, heīs got two months to find a replacement. I canīt wait to see the look on everyoneīs faces! The 1st of October is the first date I can quit by, so Iīll use my days-off (I hadnīt used up all that many so far) to get out by the end of September. Iīll need them for the trip and the last preparations.
Iīll have to give notice about my apartment, too, this week. And then Iīll have to try and sell my furniture. Or give it away. A bit hard to take that with me. And of course Iīll have to decide on what to take with me and what to leave here. That will be a big job, too!
Oh my, I just love it... I feel like doing something very silly, just out of plain joy. Finally I am going to have a life! Iīm going towards adventures, going to meet new people, another culture, another way of living... I can hardly wait!
Mom wonīt be too pleased with it, Iīm afraid. She has known for ages that Iīm working on it, but she fears that we are going to loose all contact when Iīll be living so far away. But I think she neednīt worry. And besides: we only meet a couple of times a year here in Germany, too. And how far is it to Immenstadt: 150 kilometers? So distance has little to do with that, I think.
But right now nothing can spoil my high spirits. I am going to emigrate to Australia, and living a whole new life! A real life, with adventure and excitement and a proper private life!
I would wish it was October already...
Note: The Flying Doctors episode Magda is describing (12/3-1989) is ep. 37: Fifty-Two Hours Straight.
To the next chapter: 159
To the cast: credits
Why this diary: preface
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