This past week has been one of the most challenging of the whole year. On Monday morning we officially started working on our in-depth research projects.
Up until that point we had only been told how intense it would be and how difficult it may be to connect with sources. It took no more than a full day for us to realise this ourselves. Day after day, colleague after colleague would walk into the newsroom at the end of the day with nothing but defeat written all over their faces.
Our biggest challenge was definitely the language barrier we bumped into in almost 80% of our encounters with people from the Chinese community. There were some particular instances that stuck out that I talked about earlier in the week. Which is why it was so interesting to find out about a partnership with the Chinese Police Forum (CPF) in Cyrildene and the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the area. They are working together to combat the language barrier so that the police in that area can do their jobS as effectively as possible.
The video above was taken at a Mandarin lesson held at the CPF offices on Thursday morning. In attendance are members of the local SAPS. These lessons take place weekly. It was interesting to me because one has come to expect foreigners to adapt to local ways of doing things when they migrate to a particular place. In this instance things are happening vice versa. The locals are finding ways to adapt to a foreign language to help migrants in that area.
While I understand that being a foreigner in any country is challenging, we have all stumbled upon one recurring theme within the Chinese community. I use the word community loosely here because the five or so examples I’m drawing from are by no means representative of the community at large. A lot of the English speaking people we encountered described the Chinese community, especially those living in Cyrildene as being very insular. To me the example above is evidence of that.
So our challenge this week was two fold. Not only could we not communicate effectively but we also had minimal success in trying to break down the walls built up by some of the people we encountered. But on the whole I get that as a foreigner in a place you consider especially dangerous, one would take to keeping to themselves to avoid landing up in any kind of perilous situations. My job is to figure out how to work around this well enough to make a connection and get the information I need,
Well I suppose that’s not my job in this particular instance because my topic doesn’t rely too heavily on individuals on the ground, but who knows it might in a few days.