On Sunday, together with my exchange partner Jiaqi and some others, we visited a quarter of Shenzhen called Baishizhou. It was a very interesting area, especially from a geographic point of view. It seems a little chaotic there (very very loud and noisy, everyone needs to honk…!) and a friend even called the area a „slum“ even though, it is not officially considered a slum. Separated by narrow paths, the apartment houses stand very close to each other. Wire lines and tiny balconies are used as clothes lines because the apartments are so small and the apartments are being shared by around six people. I was told that people do not come here to reside for a long time. The rents are low, so people come to work for a while and make some money. This, they told me, is generally the case for Shenzhen. People do not consider Shenzhen their hometown – rather a place to work and make some money and then go back to their home town or another place. So, Shenzhen is rather not a city where people grow up, I was told. After a small tour and some traditional Chinese medical tea, we went to a work shop initiated by an American anthropologist who has been living in China for many years. The workshop was about a crowd sourced documentary on Baishizhou which the participants were to film in the later parts of the one month work shop. Jiaqi and I will probably not actively participate and produce a documentary at the end of the work shop. But that afternoon, we learned learned about a certain approach when planning a documentary as an initial observer. When thinking of your hometown and writing about it in your mother language, it is much more emotional than when collecting impressions about an environment you’re not familiar with. And usually, there is the wish and the intention to improve the situation in your hometown. With this attitude, one should try to approach the project of a documentary for a public that is not familiar with the respective area. Plus, it is important to get in close contact and to communicate a lot with the residents to receive impressions and insights from non-foreigners and to get familiar with the area. So, it is to avoid the attitude and the position of a foreign observer. And why was all this important to the Chinese NGO here? – Organizing community-based tourism (CBT) projects, including e.g. guided tours, where visitors should not be presented the area in a superficial way, require a certain training. The documentary work shop might give inspiring methodical input to the NGO that would like to connect community development, preservation of cultural heritage and tourism.

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