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.
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).
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.
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.