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Taxi Project

by Zen Marie • 20 September 2012

We went as a group to the taxi rank, going first to the security office. The security seemed reluctant for us to be walking around taking photos in the rank. We said that we were not taking pictures but only wanted to speak to people.

He agreed but wanted to walk with us. We then split into three groups. I was with mellissa. The rule was to go and ask a hawker to give us directions as to where we could buy tea, go buy the tea and go back to the hawker giving them the tea. We would then ask them if they could tell us a story about the taxi rank.

We met a hawker who was wearing a white shirt and check shorts. He had straightened hair that he wore tied up. We asked him where we could buy tea and he directed us to the boxer supermarket. As we approached the boxer supermarket we were not sure if he meant that we could buy tea inside the shop or outside. Seeing nothing outside we went in. they had no tea. As we walked on to find a tea seller, mellissa and I found that we didn’t agree on the the hawkers gender. Mellissa thought that the hawker was a she, I thought that she was a he. I qualified this by saying that maybe he just a pretty he, which was why she thought that he was a she. We asked three more hawkers where we could buy tea but none of them knew. A street hairdresser directed us to a supermarket on the south east corner of the taxi rank. This shop said that they were sold out of tea. We continued to walk east on the southern perimeter of the rank and stopped at a chisa nyama to ask them if they had tea. They thought that we wanted to buy tea bags, we said that we wanted prepared tea that we could drink. The man at the chisa nyama said that we should try ‘pick and save’ which was diagonally opposite his shop. We got to this shop, which was a take away chip shop type place. Finally, we were able to buy tea! We ordered three teas with fresh milk (not powder) and sugar. I asked the woman behind the counter if she wanted a tea, she said no, but said said she would have a cold drink.
I bought her a coke, and asked her if she could tell us a story about the taxi rank. At first she was reluctant but then told us a story about a taxi driver who was fighting with a policeman. The taxi driver challenged the policeman to take his gun off, and fight him with his fists. He said that in a fair fight he would beat him up. The policeman did not comply.

We took the teas back to the first hawker. As we walked mellissa and I continued to discuss the hawkers gender. She was insistent that the hawker was a woman. We decided to make a ten rand bet on the matter. When we got back to the hawkers stall, we found that he (she) had left. As we waited, I realized that we had done a full circle of the taxi rank, arriving where we had started. The hawker returned shortly and I presented him with his tea. He said that he didn’t want tea, but I insisted and laughingly he accepted, probably thinking that we were quite strange. An older woman with a backpack on greeted us and we greeted her back. We talked to her. She told us that the hawker we first met was her son. Yes! I won ten rand! We asked if she could tell us a story, she laughed. Mellissa asked her questions about being a hawker, what they sold, if her son worked with her etc. She said that she has worked as a hawker at noord taxi rank for 12 years. She was selling fruit, sweets, loose cigarettes and air time. She had a case which housed a machine that automatically uploaded air time to cell phones. No scratching or punching in of codes necessary. She said that it made things much easier, but that people took a while to get used to it, however now most people understood how it worked and appreciated its convenience. She went on to tell us that her son had dropped out of school, but only worked sometimes with her. He spent most of his time in the township. She didn’t say which one. She told us that people often stole things from her. They would take fruit or sweets and just run away. She said that she could do nothing to stop this, it just happened almost every day. She said that you needed to be calm and not fight.

Mellissa asked her again to tell us a story, and she related an incident about two years ago, where women wearing mini skirts were assaulted. Taxi drivers beat them and tore their clothes off. She said that things used to be bad but that now things were better. We thanked them and asked them their names before we left. Unfortunately I forgot their names.

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