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.
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. Read my feature piece here.
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.
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.
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.
The very first thing I noticed was this graffiti on one of the arch’s pillars.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
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.
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 🙂
Containers at China Mall, Crown Mines. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Double volume mall. Photo: Nolwazi Mjwara
Early morning shoot at the Chinese Police Forum. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
SAPS officers attending a Mandarin lesson at the CPF. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Shandu having the time of her life with a gum ball machine at RMB. We were there for an interview with TCA chairman Erwin Pon. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
In our four way interview with Erin Pon. Reporter Dineo doing her thing. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi