In-depth wrap up [4/4]

It’s OVER! We’re done.  It’s over.

I have been looking forward to writing this final in-depth blog post for the longest time.

It has by no means been an easy journey to this semi-blank text box. This week was the most trying week of the whole year.

On Monday we were given one last opportunity to fix and fine tune our features. Most of us staying put in our seats from 7a.m to 7p.m. Coffee and durry breaks being our only escape that day.

Then Tuesday came along. All features were done so there was a little less pressure on us (or so we thought). Multimedia production began that day. We had to start putting together video’s, maps, and, and, and.

By 3p.m that day I realised that I would not be done in time. So a few of us decided to pull an all nighter.  I went out and bought a toothbrush and Shandu lent me a blankie and a pillow. 

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The stash.

The excitement of the “sleepover” started to wane at about 11p.m when I realised how real putting together an audio package was. I had never put sound together but I decided to teach myself that night. Pride isn’t the word I would use to describe the end product but ya. I did what I could.

To go with that I put together an infographic and a ThingLink, both of which I had a little experience with. When I was finally done with that a day later, I thought I had reached the finish line but was told there was one last lap to run.

Putting up all our elements on our new website for the project. The new back end looked a lot like our Wits Vuvuzela website but it was nothing like it at all. It took us a whole day to get our things up on the site. But the storm is over. We made it (somehow).

Now to cross fingers and hope people like what we’ve come up with.

#teamvuvu: Prelene Singh

So I’ve decided to do little profiles on the team. I keep talking about these people and might have pictures up of some, but want everybody to get to know the awesome individuals I have shared the year with.

It’s a bit tense in the newsroom right now, with most people finishing off their in-depth projects. I managed to find one focused lady who was done and dusted to humor me.  Miss Prelene Singh (aka Pre or Pre-Pre when we’re feeling extra silly).

The lovely "Pre-Pre" in the newsroom. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
The lovely “Pre-Pre” in the newsroom. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

*Disclaimer from Prelene: “If you had told me about this interview I would probably have different answers. people are going to think I’m so dumb.”

Me: How would you describe your outfit/style for day?

Prelene: This morning I actually thought about what I would wear. I was happy and relieved to be done with my in-depth so I’m wearing orange to show that.  Before this course style used to be important to me but it’s just gone down the drain, 10 steps back this year. 

Me: On to the more serious, are you sure about this journalism thing?

Prelene: Yes. As a journalist you get to experience the world as no one else can or ever will. 

Me: If you weren’t doing what you doing this, what would you be doing?

Prelene: *laughs* Um if I could come back as another person, I’d totally come back as Guiliana Rancic. Jokes. I’d come back as a writer, just an entertainment writer. 

Me: How have you found your honours year?

Prelene: Let’s put it this way, I would have lost more if I had not done this course. 

Me: What’s been the most challenging thing and the most rewarding thing for you this year?

Prelene: The most challenging would have to be keeping my perseverance and dealing with the different personalities on the daily. 

The most rewarding is being recognised for the hard work I’ve done. 

Me: Where will you be next year and what will you be doing?

Prelene: I have no idea *laughs*

Me: How would you describe #teamvuvu in three words?

Prelene: Talented, loud and unique. 

In-depth wrap up [3/4]

The end is so close yet so far. Yesterday we spent the entire day indoors. Writing and re-writing (mostly re-writing) the drafts of our features. We also read and re-read one another’s features.

It was crunch time, time to make two weeks of running around Joburg looking for sources, being put on hold and having our emails pied over and over again. It was a day of reckoning, a day to do what you could with what you had. A day to take in all the criticism with your sensitivities set aside.

The week that was saw us trying desperately trying to fill the gaping potholes in the tarred road of our stories. Yesterday was about finding the nearest bucket of something to fill that hole no matter what or in some cases off-ramping just before the hole onto another path completely.

This morning we came in bright and early with one stressor put firmly behind us, ready to tackle another – Multimedia production.  We have less than 48 hours to put together the multimedia elements that will accompany our features.  I have not been looking forward to this part of the game.

Being a person who likes photo’s I originally intended to do a photo essay but I realised a very long time ago that my topic does not allow for that and I just didn’t want to deviate from my topic to accommodate my initial plans.

I now have an alternate plan – one that has to come together very quickly. I can only hope it does, let me get to it.

A beaut of a day

The excitement around yesterday had been brewing for a few days. We were positively buzzing when we finally hit the N1 South to Pretoria.

Our destination was a Buddhist temple in Bronkhorstspruit. I knew nothing about the place and had no scholastic interests there. I was going along for the experience and because I am a liker of things.

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Shandu and Thuli didn’t hold back when we took photo’s upon arrival. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

A few wrong turns delayed us a bit but when we finally found our way to Nan Hua Temple we realised that the long drive from Joho was worth it.

The bright red, green and gold trimmings on the Chinese architecture was breathtaking. I felt like I was on the set of every Chinese/Kung Fu movie I had ever seen. We went photo mad from the very minute we arrived. All of us so desperate to try and capture some of the beauty our words would fail to demonstrate later on.

Entrance to the main temple. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Entrance to the main temple. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The very first thing I noticed was this graffiti on one of the arch’s pillars.

Really?! :/ Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Really?! :/ Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

It made me sad, that some inconsiderate people could not grant others the same religious freedom bestowed on them. It’s just crass. But all the while very telling innit?

Anyway that unpleasantness didn’t ruin the mood for long. Our guide Sipho was very helpful, he told us about everything from the architecture, to explaining some religious and cultural aspects of Buddhism.

Walking up to the main temple, a stilling calm washed over me and stayed with me for the duration of our tour. It was a really tranquil space. Being in the temple where the main shrines were was quite an experience.

The 2.5 metre high Buddha‘s were a magnificent sight. The ceilings breathtaking and the mood serene. In the temple I most enjoyed the playing of the echo drum and wooden fish. The sounds created an echo around the room that made one take in design aesthetics in a holistic way.

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The rest of the tour saw us eating a vegetarian lunch in absolute silence and meeting temple master Ven Hui-Xing, who was the most animated person I have ever met. He even gave us each a gift, what a great day indeed. Have a look at the links below for more on the day 🙂

In-depth wrap up [2/4]

And just like that another week has come to an end.

I’ve just sent my second draft through to my mentor,  I know it’s still messy and needs a lot of work but I feel so much better about this one for sure.

My last submission was a very, very rough sketch, mostly of things to come.

This week was far more productive than last week was.  I knew it was getting late for me and my non-story so that lit a fire under my ass.

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Unfinished archway at Chinatown, Cyrildene. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

I knew that this unfinished arch in Cyrildene would be the peice of the puzzle that would make my story about development in that area come together, I just didn’t realise how vital this information would be to the rest of my story.

I’m not where I need to be yet but I am getting there I think. This may have been due to an attitude shift. I think a lot of us got over the small obstacles and chose to exhaust all other means of getting what we needed.

For lack of a better phrase, we had ourselves a cup of cement and hardened the fuck up.

The hustle was real this week, it was inspiring to watch and be a part of all at once. Maybe this won’t be the worst time after all.

Best reads

Week two of in-depth hustling has come to a close, so let’s see what some of my comrades have been up to:

Organised, “victimless” crime

Yesterday I got to have a sit down interview with the chairman of the Chinese Police Forum, Rob Crawford. We met as his house just a street away from Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene.

Rob works on a volunteer basis for the CPF and has been doing so for 12 years now. He doesn’t get paid for his CPF work, during the day he makes his bacon by teaching Karate. Which made the t-shirt he was wearing seem much less prejudicial than I imagined it was.

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Karate kid vibes. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The Juice

Within in the first few minutes of speaking to Rob I realised that he was going to give me information I could have only ever dreamed of getting – and boy did he. If ever there was a scoop of life, this was it.

Rob told my colleagues and I about the kind of organised criminal activity that plagues Cyrildene. About the Chinese mafia (called the Triad), an assortment of crimes that make car hijackers look like novices to the field.

I have some but also no idea how I am going to make everything he told me fit into my story but where there’s a will, there’s a way and the will in this case is gargantuan (I never get to use that word, thanks Elle Driver/California Mountain Snake).

The arch

After the very enlightening interview with Rob, we headed to the official opening of one of the Cyrildene archways. The very pretty one that I thought was done and dusted. I wanted to find out why construction on the other arch had all but stopped and I found out due to a helpful source.

The blazing sun was not a fun time so it was a in and out mission but Shandu wrote about it on her blog, give it a look.

The things I found out yesterday made me super keen to get cracking on my second draft, have so much more to go on now. Excitement.

The “r” word

I think I’ve figured it out. I’ve figured out why so many of my calls have not been returned.  Why so many emails have been no more than two line replies. Why so many of the people I have met in the past two weeks, have answered my questions by simply shaking their heads and in some lucky instances offering a referral.

Shop owners, developers, centre managers and some civil servants have all shied away when I dropped the big “r” word. Is too serious for them to take a chance, to make an official statement or even give an honest opinion?

Is the “r” word the thing that has closed off pathways to people who seemed like the most legitimate and potentially helpful sources?

Research. That is the “r” word.

In the past when I’ve worked on stories people have been open and keen to indulge me. Quick to answer my questions, send additional resources even.

I suppose this is not just any story though. Its the story.

It’s a test, a challenge and a chance to bring together our vast set of skills. To prod and poke, to not tire when it gets to daunting, to show that we’re capable. Capable of leaving shallow waters and venturing deeper. Of digging and digging until we find a story that hasn’t been told. Of being able to see angles that others have missed. Capable of being the kind of journalists we’ve been groomed to be.

The “r” word takes us to another level. It’s not a a matter of scratching the surface. It’s running up and down and around and around, it’s writing and re-writing, shooting and re-shooting. It’s what will launch us into greatness.

I’m trying to swallow the “r” word, to imbibe it, digest it and eventually produce something worthy. Onwards and upwards.

Encounters

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.

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Side piece

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.

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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.