There have been a number of encounters along this in-depth journey that have been interesting, surprising, disappointing and some enlightening.
Today I had three different encounters that served as a further peak into the Chinese diaspora in Johannesburg. Well maybe not so much a peak but rather an actual front row seat.
The first was in the morning at the first meeting of the day. Shandu and I headed out to Randburg to meet the centre manager at China Discount Market. Upon pulling in to the parking lot, the grey and red walls seemed to be the only thing we could see. The parking lot was almost empty.
After a few stops and starts we sat down to talk to 26 year old Angelique Gu. She was very helpful and answered all our questions, even though our conversations were intetrupted quite often. The fifth and final interruption came from a man wearing an all black suit. He nodded in our direction and then went on to have a whole chat with Angelique. Then he sat down and his jacket exposed a silver gun tucked away in a holster on his hip. Two or three nervous glances later Shandu and I started packing up.
Slumber makes you fat
The next trip saw me heading out to old Chinatown with my group members Emelia and Prelene. While milling about before our interview, Prelene and I walked into a cafe quickly. I yawned when we were paying and the lady helping us said: “You like sleep to much”. To which I replied well I do actually. Then she went on to tell me that’s why I’m so big (she made a gesture with her arms to demonstrate my roundness). I laughed as one does when they are reminded of how they look. She then went on to tell me: “You too fat for your age. Sleep less, exercise more. Stop eating meat and only eat veg.” At which point she showed me a sample by taking a big mouthful of what looked like strips of cucumber in a soup. She licked her chopsticks to demonstrate how delicious her healthy lunch was. Chinese wisdom is blunt innit?
A historical affair
We had an interview with four generations of the Pon family – one of the oldest Chinese families in Johannesburg. We met with the family at a noodle bar.
Two black pigtails and the sweetest, cutest face were the highlight of my day. Four year old ballerina, Gabriella Pon had me from the moment she showed us her first ballet move. She was very excited to show everyone her new red tutu and very keen to pose for photos.
Not only is she a ballerina but she also speaks three languages fluently (Cantonese, Mandarin and English). And has the cutest wave. She made my day.