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.

Friday, October 01, 2004


Yesterday the English teacher drove me to Bautzen so I could complete my visa application. I now boast a special stamp in my passport identifying me as a legal temporary resident of Germany. Without the visa Americans are only allowed to stay for three months-- with it, I can be here for ten!

After clearing this important burocratic hurdle I celebrated with a trip to a Turkish fast food joint for a Döner Kebab (something like a gyro, only better) and then to the book store, where I purchased a coffee-table book on Sorbian Tracht.

Tracht is the German word for folk-costumes: you know, the colorful local dress that provincial types put on for special occasions-- like Lederhosen, for example. (Interestingly, Lederhosen are only part of the Tracht in Bavaria and Austria-- not all German-speaking people wear them!) The Sorbs don´t wear Lederhosen (although I own a pair-- they were a gift from a family friend), and in fact the men don´t have much Tracht at all. But Lusatia is a veritable haven for women´s Tracht! Within Lusatia, which by itself is only about the size of Delaware, there are around 13 different mini-regions with their own Tracht traditions. And it goes further-- each mini-region has its own specific Trachten for working in summer, working in winter, working during the harvest, brides, bride´s maids, mothers of brides, godmothers (married or unmarried), schoolgirls, going to a dance in your own village, going to a dance in a neighboring village, going shopping, going to church, taking communion (but only if Protestant), confirmation (but only if Catholic), mourning close relatives, mourning not-so-close relatives, etc.

While today most Sorbian women only wear Trachten on special occasions (like weddings), there are still some old ladies who wear it every day. I have yet to meet one though.

Having always had a weakness for folk costumes, I am in heaven! I actually would like to buy a Tracht of my very own, except that it would be prohibitively expense and I´d never get a chance to wear it.

It´s time to let you in on a little secret. When I was about ten, I grew bored with my monolingual suburban upbringing. So I invented my own culture, which was called Glunt. I created a language (which I could actually speak), a cuisine (based around dandelions, of all things), a religion (pagan with Christian overtones), an educational system (including beadwork and folkdancing classes)-- and yes, Trachten. I created my very own everyday Tracht, holiday Tracht, religious Tracht, sleeping Tracht, and even swimming Tracht. While I was never able to actually sew them, in my imagination and on my drawing boards they were very real. I constantly pretended that I was in, or from, Glunt, and I coerced my then-best-friend, an easygoing fundamentalist Christian named Jenny, to play along.

I am disappointed that my Trachten were not nearly as elaborate or interesting as the Sorbian ones. I´ve always thought that I was such an imaginative child! Apparently fashion design was not my forte.

Now, if you´ll excuse me, I have to go put on my grocery-shopping Tracht.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I remember those "Gluntish" days of your childhood! Mom

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


My work must have decided that your blog wasn't so bad after all, they are leting me post. Will miracles never cease. Your cousin must have the same imagination as you, I guess I don't have to wonder where she comes up with some things.


3:01 PM  
Blogger Ada said...

Ah yes, Glunt... How I miss those days...

Judy-- I´m glad that your work decided that my blog wasn´t too sexually explicit after all! It´s also great to know that my little cousin is carrying on the tradition of having a wild imagination!

9:26 AM  

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