Zimbelican Adventures (2): Lost in Translation


Ich bin in der Übersetzung verloren… Ja, I often find myself lost in translation…

sex and the city

GIRL POWER: Ive employed the ladies from Sex & The City to help me out with my German. Completely dubbed, with English subtitles, makes for fascinating learning skills. PIC: online


No, it’s not what you think. Haha… German is a sehr schwierig (very difficult) language, so difficult that I bought the entire Season 1 and 2 of Sex & The City to help me out (besides my official classes, of course). Shortly afterwards, I realised my vocabulary will be very limited. Oops (or Hoopla! as you say in German). It really was the ONLY series they had in the shop. And it was my favourite series ten years ago, so it helped a lot with feeling all nostalgic in a new town.


bus transport

LETS DO THE BUS-STOP: Public transport is amazing in Germany. You can be at any mall, train station, neighbouring village or big town in just a couple of minutes. Just take the right bus-line. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

I’ve finally figured out the public transport system. Hurra! Busline 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 all go in similar directions and eventually back to the student apartments. So, when I had a late night class and none were immediately available, I did a crazy thing and took Busline 1. IDIOT!

I found myself stranded in the countryside on the coldest spring day, in the rain (nogal!). The bus driver shook his head at me and drove me to his final destination, where he swapped seats with a new driver.

The new driver grunted at me, whispered something in German, then Turkish and took me to where I had originally got on. I was patient now and waited for the right busline, which eventually came 45 minutes later.

Cold and wet, it was an amazing feeling to be home again. I may decide to do such future excursions on a sunny day. At least then I’ll be able to see my experiences.


Yes, I had a traumatic experience at the post. No, it didn’t come from the sharp edges of envelopes or the messy desks filled with people’s unwanted letters and bills. It came from the DHL owner. I tried posting 24 postcards (for those who had been kind enough to send me their addresses) and a present. The cost came to 19, 77 Euros. I knew I had the exact amount and started digging in my purse. I couldn’t find the darn 2 cents to make up that 7… He soon lost his temper and shouted at me. In future: somehow calculate what each little stamp and gram will amount to… Really now 😉

internet cafe

GERMAN ENGINEERING: You can wait for your washing, while chatting online. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets


I fell in love with a specific restaurant’s freshly pressed orange juice. I still don’t understand why they keep giving me the wrong one. I’ve given up in trying to explain, but the synthetic one has really left a sour taste in my mouth. Arghhh, and asthma attacks at night.

Rule here is: once it’s placed on your table, you can’t send it back. Keep your eyes and oranges peeled…


Do not invade people’s personal space. In South Africa, it may be good manners to help a little granny across the road, but here I would advise you not to. I was at the Internet Café, when the granny next to me couldn’t find the print button. The owner showed her once, but she soon forgot.

I put my hand on her mouse to show her the difference between right-click and left-click and she scratched it quite viciously!

I was in shock. She then printed her stuff and walked away. Not even a ‘Vielen Dank’ or an apology.

German sunset

TASTE OF AFRICA: The beautiful sunsets of Tübingen remind me of home and make every day worthwhile... PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets


Despite these unpleasant few incidents, I have managed to find English classes which more or less fit into journalism. The one on War Photography I’m enjoying very much. We have to write response papers, do a presentation and do a written or oral exam (depending on what your major is). It feels great to know lots of background info on the topic and inform the class about the amazing foursome from South Africa known as the Bang Bang Club. Can’t wait for the movie this April! Sigh…

The other class is called Technological Utopias and asks us to see the pros and cons of living as part of the Technocratic Generation. I was thinking of doing another class on Shakespeare’s poetry and one on racism, just to fill up my time. But, a better idea would be to work for the local newspaper and finish my children’s stories. Yes, it has taken me nearly 12 years to tell the stories I used to tell my brother before he would go to sleep. Nothing leaked about the subject matter just yet 😉

Oh, and not forgetting these Zimbelican stories too… Time to check out the clubbing scene and blog about that, now that all the admin is finally done! PROST!

Zimbelican Adventures: Herzlich Willkommen in Tübingen!



FAR FAR AWAY: Tübingen is a beautiful student town 20 minutes from Stuttgart, filled with miniature castles, canals and dozens of bakeries. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

Why Zimbelican? Well, Tintin was already taken… I’m a Zimbabwean Belgian South African. Confused? Yeah, so is my passport. My Belgian parents had me in Zimbabwe (it was paradise in the 1980s), but I’ve lived in South Africa since 1991. And now, I’m back in Europe on a German scholarship…

Tintin would be proud 😉

Tübingen is a beautiful, quaint little town 20 minutes out of Stuttgart, in the BadenWürttemberg province. It’s a real student town, a lot like Stellenbosch through its dozens of coffee and clothing shops, except the apartment buildings are blue, orange or yellow. And the main town is set up in Medieval architecture. It feels like I’m walking in a scene from Joan of Arc as I buy airtime. Absurd feeling.

YUMMY: Around Nonnenhaus, you can find a selection of restaurants and shops amongst Medieval architecture. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

On our way to buy groceries, my mom and I met people from China, Gabon, Spain and the Netherlands… My mom was kind enough to join me for the first week of my “big move” overseas.
It’s really like being thrown in the deep-end. I have a few German words to keep me afloat, but once I’m asked to say something, I hesitate. Maybe after a few glasses of Gluhwein, I’ll be speaking fluently.

Not that they’ll be serving Gluhwein this time… It’s spring, which means it’s the equivalent to South Africa’s winter: a mild 10-20 degrees with birds chirping and beautiful cherry blossoms.

Tubingen kitchen

WHATS COOKING? Sharing a kitchen with international students has its highlights: a different countrys delicacies every night? PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

My room is half the size it was in Stellies, about 3X5 metres and I have to share a bathroom and toilet with the others on my floor. They seem friendly enough. A guy from Yemen and a Taiwanese girl were cooking up a storm in the kitchen as I arrived.

Well, the BIG QUESTION: why am I here of all places? My essay on values for the “Projekt Wertewelten (Global Values)” held by various academics, researchers and government members from this region was chosen amongst ten of the best worldwide. Here is their site: http://www.wertewelten.net/schreibwettbewerb.html I wrote about the value of life in Zimbabwe, where I was born.
For those who haven’t read it, here it is: https://vsmeets.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/the-value-of-life-in-zimbabwe/

wertewelten team

GREAT VALUES: The Wertewelten team and winners have breakfast at the Irish Pub. The contestants wrote about how values affected their various lives. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

During the week, I will meet the other students from Japan, Canada and Russia. There’s even a blind girl from India who wrote about the value of her parents since her birth. The other two South Africans, American girl and guy from Ivory Coast have not arrived yet.

We have been given six months to explore, mingle and merge with other students. I will be staying till the end of August, until my next adventure begins (destination will be revealed only in blog 6 or 7). This is a great test to see if I’m ready to ever work or live in Europe.

Also, I finally feel like the journalist Tintin (Tim) was: far away and free to do as I wish. Yet, having a Snowy (or, as they say in German, Struppi) to protect me from potential harm would be nice. I keep looking on the wrong side of the road while crossing it, for instance.

Tubingen walking distance

QUICK WALK: Across the bridge, students can find the supermarket, bank and even an indoor swimming pool. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

Everything is in walking distance from my flat: the supermarket, the bank, the stationery shop. Yip, everything except the actual university. I haven’t quite figured out the public transport system yet. And my course is in German! Oh
my, I will be spending hours doing an intensive language course. Thank goodness I don’t have to write any tests or exams.
I’m dreaming of weekends away though: the beerhalls in Munich, the Batman mural in Berlin or the Beatles ex-flat in Hamburg. Wait a minute, it’s closer to just take a train to Switzerland or Austria. Ahhh, the perks of living in Europe 🙂


Strange sights

STRANGE SIGHTS: If you take a bus, you may find yourself eating Italian while watching horses perform at show jumping. Take a bus, any bus... You bound to find something new! PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

  • Registration fee: 103, 50 Euros
  • Clubbing: 3-10 Euros (50 Euros if you have an ‘unlimited’ drinking card)
  • Semesterticket (unlimited bus access): 58, 50 Euros
  • Rent/ month: 230 Euros (if in a ‘studentenwerkhaus’)… Up to 500 Euros+ privately
  • Beer: 2,60+ Euros
  • Learning German: from 120 Euros per semester at the DAF (Deutsch als Fremdsprache)
  • Getting a German sim-card: 15 Euros (O2 is supposedly the cheapest network, although you have to buy various bundles before you figure this out. Internet bundle: 3,50 a day! Phone bundle: 20 Euros)
  • Opening a German Bank Account: FREE (as long as you show your living contract and student number)
  • Getting Health Insurance: FREE (then 15 Euros a month)
  • Becoming a resident: FREE (although you have to fill in various papers…all in German)