From westernmost Germany to northernmost Oz,
Dr. Ulrich Orda and his family are staying
Dr. Ulrich (Uli) Orda, a GP, is also an EMT Specialist and Accident & Emergency Medicine Consultant who hails from Germany. Krefeld, to be precise.
Located in the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state of Germany, Krefeld is the westernmost, most populous state of Germany. Ironically, it's also the most economically powerful, yet the declining economy in Germany was Dr. Orda's impetus for taking an assignment in Australia. "My income has declined over the past ten years, leaving our net income halved," says Dr. Orda. With four children - and no economic change in sight - Dr. Orda and his wife, Sabine, decided to find a place with a better future for their four children. "It would have become extremely difficult to pay fees and costs for university," Dr. Orda adds.
Dr. Orda started looking for a permanent position, but wanted somewhere to start. He took a position in Australia through Global Medical, with a 3-year commitment, but after working just 10 weeks, it became foreseeable that the assignment would become permanent. "We stored most of our furniture in Germany and moved some personal items to Australia when we left. We rented our home, opting to take less rent for reliable tenants, which turned out to be a good decision because they look after our house very carefully," says Dr. Orda. "When it became apparent that we would stay longer than three years, the remaining container was transported to Australia, too."
With his eldest son, Jens, planning to study in Germany, Dr. Orda says making the decision to move wasn't easy. "It was a bit harder for my wife and children to make the decision to leave Germany. I was working 90 to 100 hours-per-week, so I had fewer social contacts. We still miss our German friends - it's hard to replace friendships going for more than 30 years - but we're more settled now."
In fact, after a year and a half, the Orda children - Tobias (17), Luckas (15), and Kathrin (11) - are planning their lives in Australia. "They don't want to go back," says Dr. Orda. "We ended up buying a nice house with a tropical garden and pool, and extended it to five bedrooms. The community is lovely and there are a lot of friendly, open-minded people, especially with the children's sports clubs. The many nations that gathered here means our son celebrated his birthday with his 14 basketball mates representing nine nations!"
Compared to Germany, the cost of living in Australia is similar," says Dr. Orda. "Housing is more expensive, but cars (including fuel and insurance) are much cheaper. For daily needs, fresh veggies and fruit are more expensive, but meat, especially beef, is half the price!" Another great discovery: the opportunities in the area, especially for the kids. "We're 960 kilometres from the urban centres, but after travelling to the coast we realized we had everything we need right here," Dr. Orda says.
"The profile of the facility I came to was 100 percent congruent with the position I had to fill," says Dr. Orda. "Global matched me with the right job offers and helped me with the paperwork. I gave things up in my home country, but my start was smooth and safe." The work hours are very comfortable, too. "I now work about half of the hours I was working in Germany for twice as much income!"
German hospitals don't generally have an Emergency Department - the Emergency Physicians go out on site with a "fast responder car" to treat Category 1 and 2 patients. "That was different," says Dr. Orda. "I needed a few weeks to adapt to the new situation, but in the end working here is very interesting."
When he's not working, the family hits the road for some travel and adventure. "My work schedule allowed little time for travel in Germany, so within our first 18 months in Australia we traveled more than the ten years before!" says Dr. Orda. And that didn't include a five-week trip home to Germany.
"In December 2008, we went to Sydney by car to see as much as possible of the amazing landscape of outback Australia. We visited two cousins of mine in Fishing Point (Lake Macquarrie) and Sydney before driving up the coast to Rainbow Beach (next to Fraser Island), reports Dr. Orda. "We stayed for the Christmas days, having a maximum of 20 people on a 10 kilometre beach in main season! Then we went to the Gold Coast for a week (to Brisbane), where we enjoyed a wonderful New Years Eve and fireworks at South Banks."
In 2009 the family traveled to Kakadu National Park and Darwin. "Katharine Gorge by boat and helicopter are one of the most impressive views we've ever had," Dr. Orda says. "But the most memorable experiences are around Mount Isa: Sunset at Lake Moondarra; going for a swim at Three Steps after the big rain in March; travelling through Riversleigh with great views from the top of the hill; camping at Adels Grove; going for a swim with a "freshie" (fresh water crocodile); canoeing through Lawn Hill gorge with a swim at the end of the trip; and camping at East Leichhardt dam with friends and no civilization at all." The kids' favorites would be a ride through the bush either by horse or dirt bike. The boys are even doing a school-based apprenticeship at a station, mustering cattle and doing yard work.
Their fondest memory so far? "The magnificent views of the Australian outback, the hot sun, and the warm winds - you become addicted to them," says Dr. Orda. Then there's "the great people we got to know here, and much, much more." And last, but not least, a special work experience, too. In fact, the Orda's wouldn't think of leaving Australia now. Says Dr. Orda, "It would have been the greatest experience that I never want to miss."