IN-DEPTH: Day 3, Wednesday October 3 2014
“This is an in-depth project? More like an out-depth project, because I am completely OUT of my DEPTH!”
Yes, I did spend much of today coming up with that. I think it’s the small achievements that count…
So today I mostly thought about safety. Yesterday eight of my colleagues went into Yeoville and had some difficulties. First they noticed that two men were following them from place to place. The group eventually hid inside a church until the men went away. Secondly, when heading to the taxi rank to head home, some random guy on the street grabbed one of the girls. When he was asked what the fuck he was doing (a direct quote), he said that he had just wanted to give her a kiss. I could write a decent-sized thesis on that, about sexism and the ever-present fear that a woman feels most of the time. But that’s not what this blog is about, so I’ll file it for later use.
Getting back to Yeoville, I think we were all a little apprehensive going in today. I don’t think this issue was completely thought through when Yeoville was suggested as a topic, honestly. At one point this afternoon we were standing outside the market, and a car came flying past with a good ol’ AK47 pointing out the window. Apparently they guy had just committed a robbery and was making his getaway. A police car followed shortly in pursuit.
Even before that, safety is an underlying concern. Today we all traveled in a group (which I’m partly glad for, because I don’t feel comfortable traveling on my own), which was slightly problematic because we all need to do different things in different places, so a lot of time was spent waiting. The risk of something actually happening is only going to get worse when we start bringing equipment with us for photos and videos, because it will make us worthwhile targets.
Second thing I noticed today, which is kind of tied into the first thing, is that we must seem really alien to everyone. Much of this project (and journalism generally) is the human aspect – we find and tell stories about people, we get to know about their lives in an intimate way, in order to tell their stories so that the audience have a reason to actually care about them. That means, of course, that we need to foster a relationship with our subjects that will give us access to their stories to do this.
Safety is an issue because we stand out, and in a lot of ways our otherness affects people’s willingness to open up and let us tell their stories. I met and spoke to a couple of traders today, and something that struck me is that I didn’t properly estimate how difficult it might be to form a relationship that will help me get what I need.
I am not the most charismatic, outgoing person in the world. By nature I’m pretty quiet and shy, and never the life of the party, which is a bit of a disadvantage as a journalist generally. In Yeoville a whole other level is added to that by the fact that I’m a white girl (oh! How tough is our lot in this life? You know not the cross I bear!). One trader today actually called me ‘madam’ – he was probably just being polite, but a part of me cringed when I heard it – I have many faults, but being someone’s madam is not one of them. I need to work on finding a way to encourage people to open up to me, feel comfortable talking to me. Favour the masters student, a Godsend, contact-maker and our unofficial Yeoville guide, suggested that I buy some of their goods to make them happy and start a rapport. Tomorrow I’m going to make it a lot less formal, more a conversation than me asking questions and them answering.
So things to improve on tomorrow:
Have more conversations, encourage people to be more comfortable around me. Also need to work on being more outgoing, but I’ve been working on that one since I was like 13, so may not make amazing headway in the next 24 hours.
I also need to speak to more people. The traders today were what I’d call more formal – they were in rented spaces within the Yeoville market, and I learnt that they fruit sellers I spoke to actually import produce from West Africa. This suggests legitimacy and a desire to run a business, not simply a case of trying to survive. I need to talk to informal traders, the people who sell illegally on the sides of roads in order to make a living. Didn’t have enough time to meet with him today, but I’ve made contact with Edmund Elias, and I know he is more involved in that form of trading and can help me.
Might need to look into finding a way to contact JMPD. According to Elias, these are the people who deal with illegal trading, but it could be difficult arranging for comment.
Finally – MUST find a way to remember that it’s EDMUND ELIAS. My sister is dating a man named William Ennis, and I keep almost using the wrong name.