Keep calm and carry on

This hangs in my room and gave me the kick I needed when I woke up.
This hangs in my room and gave me the kick I needed when I woke up.

Yes, yes we all know and have come to hate that infamous meme. But whatever your feelings are that statement remains practical and true.

I had a bit of a freak out yesterday when I realised that things weren’t looking so great for my in-depth work.

Today was a lot different. I told myself that I would do better, try harder and just not give up on myself. When I got to the department I lined up all the people I had to talk to, made a list of things to do, read more and just carried on.

A classmate of mine who was off sick last week said it best when she said “there’s really no point in freaking out, I’ll just do my best with the time I have left.”

Even though the two trips I made today weren’t super helpful they weren’t a complete waste. I saw photo opportunity ideas run across my mind, found a few more words to add to my feature and I suppose just made the best of it. I even found new contacts who are willing to help me out so that’s always a plus.

Today was great because I willed it to be. Tomorrow will be better because I’ve planned for it to be.

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Well here we are…

… more or less in the same exact place I was a week ago. Okay maybe not a whole week but certainly a few days ago.

I woke up at 5a.m with hope in my heart and some determination in my hand.  I had plans, no, visions of how the day might go and how much I’d get done.

The sky after the afternoon rains. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
The sky after the afternoon rains. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

By about 11a.m this morning those hopes and plans had all but vanished.  What remained was a deep hopelessness.  My poor time management skills were holding me back yazi.

After a quick durry at lunch time a little hope was back, I got round to trying to call sources again. I was met by engaged lines, voice mail messages
and endless ringing.  On two lucky ocassions I was met with an actual human voice on the other side.

I have successfully managed to eliminate all distractions from my (cough photography portfolio cough). I hope, I really do that I can make some noticeable headway tomorrow. If not for my sanity, for my sanity (see the cray levels are on ultra already)

ps – I really didn’t want to have me, me, me posts on this blog because you know it’s meant to be a profesh situation but I guess I’m not an automaton like that. Okay then.

Best Reads

New Chinatown-3

As part of our in-depth project, we have to blog religiously to keep our various mentors up to date with what we are doing and how we are progressing (or not). There were a lot of posts to read through and a lot of good one’s out this week, but as always I do have my faves and here they are:

  • A Chinese Necropolis: Day two by Mfuneko Toyana. Learnt something interesting about Chinese tombstones when I read this and it was just a good read. Give it a bash.
  • Chinese Johannesburg: Field Work Day 3 by Liesl Frankson. I legit cannot wait to read Liesl’s final product, her topic is of particular interest to me and this piece is a nice little taste of what’s to come I think.
  • In depth day 5: Thank God for Google Translate by Ray Mahlaka. Ray struck gold when a genius and innovative idea to start breaking down the language barriers we all kept hitting. That’s my team member ya’ll. Have a look at his blog for more posts from the past week, pure quality.
  • Snake wine for sexy time by Caro Malherbe. Last week we tasted some of the most potent alcohol I have ever tasted, Caro looks at what was in that little shot glass.
  • Unpacking prejudice by Shandukani Mulaudzi. Shandu writes about an interview she had, which forced her to realise she had some ‘unpacking’ to do 😉

In-depth wrap up [1/4]

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.

GALLERY: Breakthrough

The past two days have been the best, most productive, most informative that I’ve had since our in-depth journey has begun.

I meant a number of extremely helpful sources, who helped to give me an even clearer idea of where my story is heading. We also had our our Multimedia Pitch Meeting yesterday, ya that didn’t go so well for me. Have no solid idea’s to speak of but I am wracking my brain night and day trying to figure it out.

I could write up a report on the intricacies of the past two days but I’d rather show you why it was so awesome 🙂

Sink or swim

[Yes these titles are reference’s to the Kate Cann‘s book]

Today was the day I had to get my act together. Today was the day I had to decide what I was doing and how I was going to do it.  Today is the day things started making sense.

NEW NEW: Derrick road entrance, the home of 'new' Chinatown. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
NEW NEW: Derrick road entrance, the home of ‘new’ Chinatown. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Headed back to Cyrildene this morning to chat with someone from Marais Attorney’s, one of the only places that aren’t run or owned by Chinese people in the area. I had a chat with a 24 year old clerk, Ou Jia. He was born in Shanghai and decided to move to South Africa when he was 12. He said he just couldn’t live with his parents (yes, you read right). “Don’t get me wrong I like my parents, I just couldn’t live with them anymore,” he said.

He has been working at Marais Attorney’s for two years now and feel they help to bridge the Chinese community in Cyrildene to the “outside world”.

He said what they do is important because most Chinese migrants who are in South Africa come from rural backgrounds and have very little education, “they have a poor understanding of the law and how things work here.”

A shot at creativity. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
A shot at creativity. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

After my interview with him the two encounters that followed were a highlight of the day.

First we walked into a restaurant trying to have a chat with the owner. The three people we spoke to called a chef from the kitchen to come translate for us. We explained who we were and what we wanted to do to this young black man, he then relayed our message in what seemed like fluent Mandarin.

When he wasn’t getting his point across he started speaking in English, very slowly. Then the they went on to have a whole conversation about their stock and lunch time and we had to slowly retreat from the whole thing.

Then we went to the cultural centre, which turned out to be a library. A young woman, Hubi told us a bit about the library and even started opening up about her personal life. While she was speaking her colleague shouted at her in her mother tongue then said to us (very sternly at that)  “We’re working here! You go outside”. So that’s what we did. What a day indeed.

A labour of luck innit?

In the deep end

Last week I had all this unconstrained excitement for our in-depth project to begin. All the preparatory and introductory speakers and an outing made me super keen to dive in, to get in there.

Then Friday came along and took at least 50% of the built up excitement away. We had pitch meeting’s in our groups and then went on to pitch our story idea’s to the rest of the class. I was really excited about the two idea’s I had come up with until I heard them being pitched by other groups. Shit. That word became the opening for my pitch, the pitch I had imagined would be all fresh and original. I suppose that’s what happens when there are other geniuses in the room 😉

Anyway after some discussion I then settled for a new story altogether. Development or under development of Chinese spaces/infrastructure in the city, a look into the future of Chinese spaces in the city.

I woke up with no plan and no direction. Yes I had a topic but what I’d do with it was my worry and the biggest challenge of the day. At first I figured it might be a good idea to work backwards by going down to Old Chinatown, to get a little historical context and all. But that idea didn’t really tickle me.

FIRST STOP: Rivonia Oriental City Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
FIRST STOP: Rivonia Oriental City Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

So I read up a little bit in the morning and found some great research done by Dr Yoon Jung Park, a senior research associate at Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg. Her research focuses on Chinese migrants in South Africa. Her work looks into perceptions, ethnicity, identity, class/power dynamics and more.  Upon reading she highlighted “new” spaces that Chinese people are occupying to branch out (in lack of a better phrase). This then made me do a little noodle dance that saw me heading out to Rivonia.

Rivonia Oriental City opened up just over a year ago. It’s not a ‘typical’ Chinese mall as there is a lot of integration and diversity. There are a hybrid of different stores including commercial South African staples like Pick n Pay and Truworths, we also saw a Kenyan coffee shop, well to say Kenyan is a stretch, they had pap and vleis as the meal of the day, but I digress. There was also a black hair salon next to a discount variety store.

However, there was not much difference in the Chinese stores present in the mall. There were clothing stores and gift and variety stores that sold the same merchandise. Interestingly there was a corridor next to the Pick n Pay that lead to the kind of oriental stores we have become accustomed to. Something about the low lighting and lack of activity making it not so ‘typical’.

GET CLEAN: Miracle soaps being sold at a stall on wheels. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
GET CLEAN: Miracle soaps being sold at a stall on wheels. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Speaking to people at the mall proved challenging, a strong language barrier being the catalyst. The people we did manage to speak to had been in the country for some time and as a result could speak English. It was interesting to hear one guy Nathan Cai say he had “too little” Chinese friends and only wanted more, while someone else, Rose Zheng said she had “too many” and wanted to diversify her friend group.

Rose also said that she liked that this mall was different to China Mall: Dragon City, where she had worked previously. She liked the diversity of shops and people she was surrounded by, pointing out that all the businesses are not all Chinese owned and run. “It’s nice because we are in South Africa,” she added.

Being at the mall and getting insight from some of the people there did not make my angle any clearer but it did give me direction, I was heading North and now in a more North Easterly direction. Ooh suspense.

GALLERY: We went on a field trip :D

As I mentioned in my last night, today my journalism class had a field trip. We went down to the old/new Chinatown in the city.  Today I choose to tell the day’s tales in a visual manner, enjoy.

ps – a few others are up on my photo blog: therebble.tumblr.com

Let the hunger games begin

Okay I might have added some spices in that headline, what I mean to say is ‘Let the in-depth games begin’.

Today was our first real introduction to our in-depth projects. A month dedicated to writing and producing in-depth features on a certain topic.

This year’s topic is ChinaJohannesburg – a look at the Chinese diaspora in this city.  A topic that didn’t come as a surprise to most of us because there was a leak (journalists, can’t tell them anything).

We were all divided into groups, each getting a sub-topic and a mentor. My group got given the topic ‘history and the future’ – a topic I begin to appreciate more and more as the day went on. Our mentor is the one and only, Kenichi Serino (yays).

Basically what we have to do over the next four weeks is immerse ourselves fully in this community in order to produce a long form feature with multimedia components (ranging from video, photography, audio and and and).

Our prep consisted of a number of guest speakers to give us some background and advice on our topic. It was a long day but a very informative one. Ideas were coming in and out of my mainframe all day. Especially because a bulk of what the speakers had to say touched heavily on my group’s topic.

Hearing the stories about the realities of being a migrant and of life in China made it abundantly clear that the next month would be an enlightening one. In a real and genuine way, in a way that would bring me closer and deeper than any documentary or article could.

My favourite quote from the day came from Emma Chen, owner of restaurant Red Chamber in Rosebank, she said: “Nobody dislikes the Chinese government as much as the Chinese themselves”. A loaded statement, that left me with much to think about (and investigate).

Tomorrow we have a field trip planned, I can barely contain my excitement. Let the adventure begin J