4. Seeing Through A Vendor’s Eyes


All week we had been preparing to meet with the vendors on Thursday to discuss the logistics of the project: get a schedule, teach them how to use video cameras, and just get to know them a little better. However, situations made our plans change.

Cast of Characters



Morning: The Big Issue South Africa Offices

Afternoon: Greenmarket Square



Today was a very exciting day for The Big Issue team. It was our first planned interaction with the vendors. We had a detailed plan of what we wanted to get accomplished and walked into our meeting with high hopes. We arrived forty-five minutes early to set up, and we were glad we did. Some vendors arrived shortly after, some even forty minutes early. Knowing some vendors arrive so early is good to keep in mind for future meetings.

Our morning began with some difficulties. Immediately upon arrival, we were informed that Trudy (our liaison) and Penny (Big Issue staff/translator) were out sick and would not be in the office for our meeting. It was a bit disappointing that one of our key translators would not be there and Trudy would not be there to discuss logistics of the project. Andy, a Xhosa speaking intern of The Big Issue, was also supposed to be there to aid in translations. He did not end up showing up either. The meeting was off to a slow start without being able to communicate effectively. Another concern at the beginning of the meeting was the attendance. When the meeting officially began, only 7 of the 12 vendors were there. Although we had more than half of the original group, the 3 vendors that seemed most interested in the project were not there. Two of these vendors, however, arrived later into the meeting and one called to inform us he was sick. Overall, only one vendor of the original 12 did not attend the meeting or contact us to tell us he wasn’t coming.

Scheduling interviews was first on our agenda. As vendors came into the meeting, we had planned to give them a handout to allow them to indicate their availability. We had anticipated some confusion, but it ended up being more difficult than we thought it would be. Our original plan was for the vendors to tell us what days they absolutely could not meet. Without a translator, however, this proved to be an extremely difficult task. Luckily, an English speaking vendor named Xolani arrived and he became our stand-in translator. He was actually fantastic and very enthusiastic. Until another hurdle was thrown our way. Once he discussed with the whole group, he told us that everyone wanted to meet on Mondays. This was far from what we were thinking. We wanted to spread out the vendors into groups of three and have different groups of three on different days. It is now scheduled that we will meet with all 12 vendors on Monday throughout the day. However, all the vendors seemed happy with the schedule, which was our ultimate goal.

Despite the difficulties during the first half of our meeting, the second half of the meeting went better. We began the second half by taking out the video cameras we had brought, and teaching the vendors how to use them. We asked who wanted to use them, and immediately Themba raised his hand. He picked up using the camera quickly and even started interviewing the other vendors while he was filming. Lavista was another vendor who learned how to use the camera very quickly. He was very comfortable interviewing others as well, especially us. The other vendors all enjoyed using the cameras as well. We had three video cameras and one digital camera. It was amazing to see everyone open up and smile and laugh when they had a chance to use the video cameras. The goal of this activity was to allow the vendors to see through the eyes of a lens before being put in front of a camera to be interviewed.

Lastly, we made name-tags with the vendors. On these name-tags, in addition to writing our names, we decorated it with something about ourselves. This was a fun way to get to know everyone. Something interesting about this activity was that many of the women drew flowers or nature as part of their nametag. Reasoning for each woman was different, but it was interesting to see the similarities. In contrast one of the men, Xolani, drew his house that he was building because he was proud of it. This activity was taped by Themba, who loved using the camera.

Vendors Making Name-tags  Photo cred: Themba

Vendors Making Name-tags
Photo cred: Themba

Overall the day provided a base relationship with the vendors and we are looking to expand these relationships on Monday.


Later in the day, we went to visit Lavista on his pitch. His pitch is located in Greenmarket Square, which is where a street market is. There is a high volume of foot traffic, normally filled with tourists. We were able to see how Lavista interacts with his vendors. In the twenty minutes we were there, he sold four magazines. He is very good at his job; he is persistent and confident. He seems to be received well in the area. We could not spend much time there, but we will go back soon to follow him around for more of the day.


Ari – Today was a big day. We met with the vendors and got to interact with them on a more personal level. This is partially because five did not come to the meeting, and also because all of our intended translators did not come in either. Luckily Xolani was able to translate for us and it worked fairly well. It was a bit stressful however to keep them all on track because there was not a “boss” figure to speak Xhosa at them. This meant that they would get sidetracked and it would be hard to keep them focused for long periods of time. However when we brought out the video cameras and taught them how to use it the positive energy and excitement was amazing. There were people who instantly loved and wanted to use the cameras and others that we had to help more, but everyone was having a good time. Some of the people who could speak English even started interviewing us and teaching us some Xhosa on camera. It was an amazing experience. The name tags was a bit of a disappointment for me though. I felt that seeing how other teams had interacted with their sponsors and groups compared to how it happened with us was a little disappointing. It was not as deep or meaningful with the Vendors, even though some shared personal information it was not a deep rooted as what we saw at the other projects. All in all it was a very good day in my mind. We accomplished a lot, even if it felt like we didn’t cover everything and we worked hard with the vendors for the short amount of time we had.

Gianna – The meeting today made me feel a little overwhelmed. To me, the vendors still seem a little skeptical about our project. It is disappointing, because we want them to be excited. I want them to want to be there. After the first half hour, some were asking if they could leave. This makes me think that they don’t find what we are doing worth their time. This is upsetting to me. I am also nervous about meeting with all the vendors on Monday. I don’t think it is ideal but I hope we can get the content needed. I was happy with how passing around the cameras went, however. I feel like this was fun and the vendors opened up when using the cameras. This was definitely a good idea and I would love to have the vendors do this in the future. I am interested in seeing where this project will go and who will continue to take part in this project.

Jordon – Today was not the day that I expected it to be. We arrived at The Big Issue ready go to and work with all of the vendors and get them scheduled and after Trudy called in sick, Andy was a no show, and we only had a vendor as far as translators go, we felt sort of stranded. I definitely feel like we were able to connect with the vendors on a very fundamental level once we taught them how to use the cameras, however I feel like we failed at a lot of our logistics planning. Monday, at this point, is seeming sort of terrifying but I feel like once the first few days pass next week, we’ll feel a lot better about our project.

Nadjia- Today went differently than I had planned. We were there setting up around 9 and two of the vendors came in a couple minutes after that, even though our meeting wasn’t until 10. Nicky came in and told us that both Penny and Trudy wouldn’t be in because they were sick. That made me a little nervous because we only had one person of authority there with us. Also Andy had yet to show up and we were trying to explain the schedules to the vendors and it was just not working out. That was the hardest part of the day, because I’m not sure if they just didn’t understand or they didn’t want to do it. The day got a lot better when one of the vendors, Xolani, stepped up and helped us translate. He did a great job at it and the vendors decided that they all wanted to come on Mondays because that was their slowest selling time. That made me extremely anxious because we are now doing every single vendor at one time, and I did not know if that would be too much. But after that we started teaching them how to use cameras. That really got everyone out of their shells and excited. Some learned faster than others and even started filming and interviewing one another in Xhosa. It was amazing to watch how excited everyone got and how easily they were able to grasp the concept of recording. Some of the women I was helping had a really hard time, but focusing them in a small group helped a lot. It was great to see all of the vendors come out of their shells and feel comfortable with the camera and being interviewed. They loved being able to watch the videos and look at the pictures they had taken. Seeing the smiles on their faces was the best part of the whole day by far.

Continue to Act 2 Scene 1: Emotions Run High