One thing tbV and i have in common is we both love people-watching. [Who doesn’t!]
Sitting in a coffee shop or a bench at a popular tourist attraction or in a restaurant and just watching the people around us. Trying to imagine stories, attitudes, experiences, fun things about the person from the little bit that we see.
But there is something even better.
Later this morning my friend Nicky Lloyd and i will be heading out once again to the train station to buy a return ticket to town. We will then nervously stalk an individual who is sitting by themselves and once we build up the courage, will ask if we can sit with them and chat to them a little bit about the state of South Africa and particularly their hopes and fears and present experiences.
Last week we were chatting about it at a little sandwich restaurant during our half-time break and i casually mentioned the phrase “sitting with people” and Nicky later honed in on that and we realised it was a really strong statement. So that is what i am going to be calling the blog segment of this project.
SITTING WITH PEOPLE
You see, i am a bloggerist and my friend Nicky is a photographer and this whole adventure was her idea. She has a presentation due at the end of the year and she decided she would like to interview [and hopefully capture the pictures of] a variety of people travelling on the train to provide a glimpse of the differences in background, story and attitude of a slice of South Africa as it heads to and from work and more.
# What is the thing you like most about South Africa?
# What is one thing you wish you could change?
# Do you think South Africa is in a better off or worse off state than it was in 1994/5 years ago?
# What do you think needs to happen for change to come that affects more of the majority of people in SA?
# Do you believe there is hope for South Africa?
# What is something you do that you think makes life here better for someone else?
Those are the base questions we have, but, depending on the conversation they change and adapt as we see fit. At the end of the conversation, if it feels appropriate, Nicky will explain the photographic element of the project and ask permission for a photograph. About 2 in 5 people say yes.
We have only been out three times, but it has been an incredible experience so far. The initial connection moment is always nervous and weird and a little awkward [cos who talks to people on trains] but every single time we have started talking it has been such eye-opening and inspiring stuff. The conversations are all completely different and mindsets and stereotypes are being thrown out the window, person by person.
Thinking about this whole #IAmStellenbosch debacle where the focus has once again been put on individuals and a collective cry of LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! i would recommend this process to South Africans in general. Let in not be about you for a moment. Stop. Take time to listen to someone else’s story who is different from you. And just listen for the story’s sake. Not for how it connect with or informs your story and not so you can find a fun fact or an interesting tie in to insert into their story. But just create spaces where you can really hear someone else’s story, their background, their history, their present day experiences. And as you walk away, sit with that. Let that person’s fears and delights sit in your mind and your heart. Let you be about them for a few minutes, or the rest of the day.
i am going to be sharing some of the stories of the people we got to meet and interact with over the next couple of weeks – this will just be a glimpse through the window into someone’s life and hopefully inspiration for you to create the same opportunities – it doesn’t have to be on a train. Making some time to connect with a stranger and ask them if they mind having a conversation with you and sharing some of their story. That might be what changes this country.
Let’s Sit With People together…