The World Writes to Maikot
A letter from Germany
11 March 2012
Guten Tag, liebe Schüler in Maikot,
That was German. It means literally 'Good Day, dear Scholars in Maikot', or in better English, 'Good morning, dear students in Maikot'.
I started in German because I live in Germany, and everybody speaks German here. We all have to learn English at school so that we can talk and write to people in other countries. German is very similar to English, like Nepali is to Hindi.
On this map you can see Germany in relation to England. England is further west than Germany and there is a time difference of one hour. When it is 9 o'clock in Germany, it is only 8 o'clock in England. The time difference between Nepal and Germany is about 5 hours.
Here are some of the German words which are similar to English words:
foot = Fuss
street = Strasse
water = Wasser
money = Geld (cf English gold)
bush = Busch
to swim = schwimmen
to bathe = baden
smith = Schmied
mother = Mutter
father = Vater
brother = Bruder
blue = blau
green = grün
red = rot
brown = braun
white = weiss
nose = Nase
knee = Knie
ten = zehn
eleven = elf
three = drei
four = vier
Who am I?
But, you will be wondering, who is this man from Germany who is writing to us and how does he know that we exist?
Well, I have seen the website of your village and of your school. I have spoken to your Webmaster and now I know how you are all so keen to study and be successful in life.
Many of you walk such long distances to go to school, and I want to encourage you and support you. Your life is not easy, and I want to tell you my own story. Because my life also has been hard, especially when I was your age. But I persisted, I had some help, and if I managed to make it to the top, so can you.
I have also seen the story of Suraj Paneru, who was born in Takukot, went to school in Takukot, and now has an M.Sc. from a Scottish university.
So now let me tell you about my own life.
I am a retired professor of maxillo-facial surgery, i.e. my job was to repair the faces of people who had been smashed up in a car accident or had been born with disfigures faces, especially cleft lips and palate.
To help you understand the work I do (without having to learn long and complicated words), I will show you (below) some pictures of my patients and what they looked like before surgery and after surgery.
Some of my patients were born with their disfigurement, others were disfigured later in life because of an illness or because of an accident.
You can see that doing this kind of work is a very difficult job and requires a lot of training and practice. The patient's life and happiness depend on my being successful.
Overcoming all obstacles
It was not easy for me to acquire these skills.
I was born in Berlin. When I was 3, my parents moved from Berlin to Munich.
Munich is a beautiful city in South Germany. It is full of beautiful churches, old streets and cultural monuments, close to the Alps.
In the background you can see the Alps. The Alps are a big mountain range, similar to your Himalayas, but smaller. You would feel at home there. Perhaps some of you will be able to visit Germany one day.
Don't forget to visit Munich, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Other famous cities in Germany are Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt and Nuremberg.
When I was 4 and my brother was 2½, our mother died of meningitis (an inflammation of the brain). She caught this disease in a hospital where she was working as a medical doctor. She was only 29 years old when she died.
One year later my father married again, and we had a stepmother. I did many naughty things. I did not study hard (like you do), and when I was 15, I left school (rather early) because I was afraid that I might not pass the later exam necessary for university entrance.
I had many problems and was very unhappy because I did not study hard at school and did not get the qualifications which all my class mates obtained. From age 16 to 18, while my mates at secondary school studied academic subjects which get you into a university, I became an apprentice in a factory in Munich where they make railway carriages, a mechanical job. This was necessary because I was not working hard enough and doing well enough at school.
Then my uncle invited me to live with him in Duisburg for a year and a half. That was very good for me!
At that time, Duisburg was an industrial town with coal mines and steel factories. You lucky Takukotians would not be happy in such a place. The town was noisy and dirty. Here are two pictures showing you the environment of Duisburg.
This is the outside of a steel factory.
Inside a steel factory. The red hot iron is passed through rollers which press on it to make it thin.
There were also factories which made chemicals, and all over town you could smell the acid smell of sulphur. You are so lucky that you have clean air in Takukot.
My uncle was a wise man. He knew that it was essential to get me into university, because without university I would have to do a poor menial job for the rest of my life. So he struck a deal with me.
I was 18 by then, but I did not have the qualifications of an 18-year-old. I had to catch up on my school work, and I had to learn a trade with which to earn a living.
My uncle made an agreement with me that he would help and support me, but I was obliged to study very hard and pass all my exams on time.
He got me a job as an apprentice in a steel factory. This is a highly skilled job. I had to get up at 5 in the morning. In winter it was still dark a that time. I would ride on my push bike to the factory, which took 20 minutes. Work started at 6. I would return home at 14.00h. My aunt would give me lunch, I would take some rest and perhaps get some sleep. I was terribly tired after the hard work I had to do.
Then I would prepare for my evening 'job', i.e. I studied academic subjects: German, English, mathematics, science. I studied during the day, doing my homework, and attended classes in the evening. These were the kind of classes and subjects which you study during the day.
It would be nice if adults in Takukot had such a chance as well, if they wanted to learn what their children are learning at school.
I spent six months working as a technical draughtsman in a steel rolling factory (Stahlwalzwerk) in Düsseldorf. A draughtsman makes technical drawings of products which have to be made in a factory. He has to be very neat, very clean and precise. This was a difficult job. In Germany it was a well-paid job.
After three years, I passed the examination at an engineering college in Munich, and I was now 24 and had a degree in civil engineering.
But we have not yet reached the end of my story.
I was determined not to waste more time in my life.I knew that my success depended only on me and how hard I worked. Nobody else could make me successful. Nobody else could rescue me. I had to become successful by my own efforts. I had to rescue myself.
The same applies to each of you.
After only one year I passed the highest school leaving examination, called 'abiturium' in Germany, and called 'A-levels' (advanced levels) in England. The abiturium entitles you to study at a German university.
I was 25 years by now.
I now had the qualifications which other German children get when they are 18/19. Now my academic career could start.
First I studied dentistry and got my degree as a dentist. (A dentist helps people who have a tooth ache and repairs their teeth.)
Then I studied general medicine and qualified as a doctor (Dr) in both subjects (Dr of dental medicine, and Dr of general medicine).
By now I had seen how much fun it is to study at university and that, at university, you can learn absolutely anything.
Learning is fun (and it is useful as well). Remember that for your own careers. Work hard to get the qualifications you need to get into university. As Suraj Paneru says: 'Never give up. Nothing is impossible if you really want it!'
Becoming a surgeon
Now I decided to become a surgeon of the mouth, jaw and face region, specialising in repairing people's faces.
Now I needed many years of practice, working under the guidance of experienced surgeons, in Munich, Erlangen-Nuremberg and Hanover.
After I had completed my training, I got a job in Hanover, a city in North Germany, at the famous Medical University of Hanover (MHH).
My first job was to help my boss to set up and develop a new department there, the Department of Maxillo-Facial Surgery.
Over the years I was promoted until, eventually, I became professor of Maxillo-Facial-Surgery, after having published about 70 papers (= academic articles).
Then I was put in charge of a clinic in a big hospital in Hanover. I held this post for 20 years until my retirement.
After that I did some voluntary work. For example, I went to Nigeria in West Africa and to Hanoi in Vietnam in order operate, free of charge, on patients with disfigured faces.
Before and after pictures
Now I will show some pictures illustrating the work I did. Imagine how sad it would be for the children on whom I operated to live with the deformities with which they were born. I was able to help them to look good again.
This boy was born with a cleft lip and palate. He had his first operation when he was 6 months old. When he was 18 months (when children begin to talk), he had an operation to close his palate. This is done in two steps (two operations). From then on, we check the children once every year, always in the month of their birth.
The important thing about these operations is that we always have to consider that the children are growing. One has to be very careful and gentle when doing these operations since every operation has a negative influence on natural growth.
We can only say whether the operation has been successful when they have stopped growing.
The nose is usually not quite symmetrical. Therefore we operate on the nose only when children have stopped growing, i.e. when they are 16 or 18 years old.
These pictures show the boy as a baby and then as a boy aged 18. He looks completely normal.
11 This man's face was smashed up in a car accident. See on the right how normal he looked after the operation.
12 This little girl was mauled by a dog. I was able to make her look all right again.
This woman had a tumor (growth) of her salivary gland. It started growing slowly. She waited and waited till it had reached this terrible size. It would have been much easier to remove the tumour if she had permitted surgery when it was still small.
The woman waited so long because she was afraid of having an operation. Now she knows that there is no reason to be afraid. And she looks much better.
Nepal also needs surgeons who can 'repair' people faces. You have many road accidents. Nepalis have the same diseases that Germans have. Is there perhaps one girl or boy among you who would, like me, want to become a facial surgeon? You do not have to work in a steel factory first, like I did. Think about it, decide on your goal and pursue it obstinately, like Suraj Paneru, your Dai, did. Imagine how much good you could do in your life, and how many people you could make happy!
I have told you my story so that you can see that not every successful person has had an easy life.
Perhaps you do not have a lot of money, but you are fortunate that you go to a wonderful school like Maikot, that you have great teachers. They have dedicated their lives to helping you and passing on their skills to you. They have decided to stay in Takukot to help you rather than working elsewhere. You must be very grateful to your teachers, work hard and make life easy for them. They will be so happy if you do well. That is their greatest reward.
Please take some inspiration from my story. I had so many problems and obstacles in my life, just as you have. But you can overcome them.
Now you also have friends all over the world. Many Takukotians live in the UK and see you on your website. You already have friends in England, Scotland, Germany, Yemen and Egypt. All these people love you and want you to be successful and happy.
As a sign of my affection, I am sending a digital camera for Maikot School, so that Mr Dhital, your Head Master, can take many pictures of you and put them on the website.
I live in Hanover, a big city in North Germany.
You notice that the country here is very flat. Hanover is flat like a pancake (= omelette). There are no mountains here. Why? Where have they all gone?
A famous professor of sociology at Buxtehude University has done some research on that question.
He discovered that there used to be lots of mountains here, But they got bored because the country here around Hanover was so flat. So they decided to have a nice holiday and went trekking in Nepal. And then they liked Nepal so much that they never came back.
That's why you have so many mountains in Nepal, and we have so few in Germany.
But if you look closely at the Nepali mountains, you will discover that many of them have a label which says 'Made in Germany'. We are very proud of that. That is also the reason why Germans love Nepal so much and especially Takukot.
Here when people see a mole hill, they call it a mountain (but that is only a joke).
This is a mole. It lives underground, makes tunnels, and throws the soil above ground in small heaps. These little heaps are called 'mole hills'.
When people treat a small problem as if it were a big problem, English people say: 'You are making a mountain out of a mole hill,' or, 'Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill'. That is an English idiom. Learn it, and try to use it in your own lives.
Do you have moles in Takukot? I have lots of them in my garden. Do you love moles?
Mole hills are the mountains of Hanover.
Now I'll say Good-bye to you and wish you every success in your lives. Perhaps, if my health is good enough for the long walk up to Maikot, I will visit you one day; otherwise I will send my children or my grandchildren. I have three beautiful daughters, all married by now, and I am sure they would love to visit you.
My wife is a medical doctor, too, and she is also a psycho-therapist. She helps people who have psychological problems. She also sends her love to all of you.
Auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye, God be with you.
Your friend in Germany,
Professor Dr Dr Friedrich Schmid, Hanover