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.

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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.

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.

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?

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