Fighting those fears of the unknown

A buddha displayed at the entrance of one of the shops we entered at Cyrildene in the east. Photo: Prelene Singh

A buddha displayed at the entrance of one of the shops we entered at Cyrildene in the east. Photo: Prelene Singh

After we were given our in-depth topic which is Chinese in Johannesburg, it took a while for it to sink in. This was because I did not know what to expect of our topics and how to go about it because I really did not know a lot of Chinese people.

During last week we had lots of people who were Chinese and people who were learned in Chinese culture in South Africa to come speak to us about the history of Chinese people in this country and Chinese culture in general. It was quite informative and they opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I can do with this topic.

After #teamvuvu’s visit to Old Chinatown in Commissioner Street and Cyrildene, I was excited to jump into researching the history and future of the Chinese.

A picture to show how Chinese Cyrildene is and the language barrier we faced going into the tow Photo: Prelene Singh

A picture to show how Chinese Cyrildene is and the language barrier we faced going into the tow Photo: Prelene Singh

The first day o in-depth I had a plan to speak to Mr Pon who owns the Firework shop on Commissioner Street. I went to his shop and was so surprised at the friendliness I experienced in the shop. I met Mrs Pon and she was willing to talk to me about the family and said I should speak to Mr Pon also.

I was surprised to see a hair salon in Cyrildene on Derrick Street. Photo: Prelene Singh

I was surprised to see a hair salon in Cyrildene on Derrick Street. Photo: Prelene Singh

I spoke to Mr Pon and he was willing to tell me all about his family. However, the Chinese are generally people who keep to their themselves so he said he would speak to his brothers and get back to me. In the meanwhile I met the rest of men who worked in the shop with Mr Pon. They to had such interesting stories to tell. (I wont give away their stories just yet).

So I planeed to communicate with Mr Pon over email and telephone and workout when I could meet with everyone. Later that day I went to Cyrildene again. I took every chance to immerse myself into the Chinese spaces in JHB so I could get a feel of how to go about communicating with them.

This is Cyrildene again, my second visit to the town I looked at the buildings and architecture. Photo: Prelene Singh

This is Cyrildene again, my second visit to the town I looked at the buildings and architecture. Photo: Prelene Singh

While Cyrildene is still a Chinese town it is very different to Old Chinatown. The people in Cyrildene are a lot more weary of “foreigners” and they do not speak willing to you. The language barrier is very difficult because not a lot of them speak English. However, we did meet some friendly men helped us find our way around.

Cyrildene, at first site might just look like a big flee market but if you take the time to look around and acknowledge the shops which are there you will see that it is a fully fledged mall, but just outside. there are hair salons, medicine stores, restaurants at every corner and even a temple.

A shop located under the temple. Photo: Prelene Singh

A shop located under the temple. Photo: Prelene Singh

It was a relatively successful day and I look forward to researching this topic further.

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