IN-DEPTH: Day 4, Thursday 2 October 2014
Random thought for the day: You meet so many people allergic to dogs, but never any dogs allergic to people… Curious, a government conspiracy perhaps? Must investigate further.
I felt a little less freaked out walking the streets today – still not fun, but I guess I’ll get used to it as the project goes along. The place is still not safe though, and I feel like I constantly need to be wary of everyone around me. Today’s exciting encounter was with the same guy who harassed Rofhi on the street (for a more detailed account, go to her blog here) on Tuesday, just as we arrived in Yeoville. He followed us from MacDonalds, where the poorer among us sneakily used the loo while Zelmarie was the noble customer who actually gave them business by buying some coffee. He was friendly at first, greeting us and being rather nice. He latched on to Zelmarie – pretty white girl, she’s getting it a lot these days. He kept asking her name, asking for her to buy him some coffee too, asking what she was doing here and where she was going, and if we had a car. She was nice enough, said that she was on her way somewhere then (we were) but maybe later on the way back she would – she very deftly avoided giving him her name or telling him where we were going. We bumped into him again later, and he was a lot less friendly this time – “where’s my coffee? You said you’d get me some?!”. As someone remarked, he was just really aggressive, not the sort of character you want to meet in the middle of a strange place. As we were leaving, we debated using a different street to avoid his wonderful company, but it was too late anyway and we didn’t bump into him again. This event reminded me a bit of my time in Grahamstown, when you’d often find yourself taking a less convenient or longer route just to avoid that beggar who would follow you half your journey or get cross when you said no.
We started out in Yeoville Market this morning. I made a point of walking around a fair area of the market, and greeting the people manning (or womanning, because this is the 21st century dammit!) the stalls, but I don’t know if the constantly smiling white girl did much to put them at ease. I also managed to talk to a Nigerian trader named Ugo who has a small stall selling Nigerian cusine – giant yams, and dried fish surrounded the place where I sat while we talked. He was pretty guarded when talking to me, he seemed uncomfortable and I didn’t quite manage to put him at ease throughout the interview. Still, he did actually talk to me, which was nice, and from him I learnt that there is an onsite manager running the market who is there from 7am – 4pm each day.
I sat in on Zelmarie’s interview with another trader named Sebastian. They were talking about something quite different – Zel’s topic of sanitation and health, but I wanted to be there in part because I hoped he’d be willing to talk to me too, and in part to get some first hand information on Yeoville generally. He was fascinating, has been working at the market for 14 years. He has a relaxed disposition, and has agreed to talk to me tomorrow.
While Zel and I were in that interview, Anazi and Tendai (the amazing people that they are) actually managed to find and chat to the manager, Sabatha. As I was talking about yesterday, I think my otherness (and strange appearence) freaks people out a bit, but one thing I noticed today was that the other girls are much more readily accepted – like a good, manipulative journalist, I plan to use this to my advantage, because that is a way to get in with people. Anyway, back to the manager – he is willing to talk to me, but he will be away for the next few days so is only available on Tuesday to be interviewed. The sense I got from him as he spoke was that he has a great affection for that market place and the people in it, and he believes it is a well-run machine. He also said that if I get permission from the head office, I am more than welcome to film him and the market place next week – fantastic to know for my multimedia!
So I think today was a lot better than yesterday – I feel like I’m on the path to finding some great stories, even if I’m not quite there yet. I’m slowly, slowly finding ways in, now I just hope I have enough time (and luck, but I’m Irish, so I should have a bit of that in reserve) to get stories worth reading.
– Talk more with Sebastian. He’s been there for years, and will be a great source of information. I’m hoping he can also connect me with a few other traders there, because I want as many characters as possible, and also don’t want to repeat sources (I don’t think she would, but Zel could totally grab him, yell “MINE!” and be well within the journalism code of behavior.
– See Edmund. Yesterday we just didn’t have the time and today when we went to the streets where he trades books he had gone to the bank. I really need that other side – the informal traders, the ones who cannot fit into an organised system like Yeoville Market. I’ll call him and set up an appointment tomorrow, for before we leave for Yeoville, and will hopefully start developing this side of my story soon.