[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.
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.”
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.
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 China–Johannesburg – 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