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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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.

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.

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?