Friday, December 11, 2009

Holy Cross School

I’m sorry its been so long since my last post, but these last few weeks have been quite crazy. I have had to say goodbye to coworkers, good friends and housemates. Matt Kellen after two and a half years of volunteering at the monastery and in Grahamstown left to go back home to Washington. This was very emotional for the community and especially the children that have grown so fond of him. Also Liz Haney left to go back home to Boston along with many other friends of mine who were at Rhodes University on exchange. School ended though two weeks ago. School was actually not supposed to end till the tenth of December, but after the students were done writing exams the teachers just decided to stop showing up (fairly common).

I have a new job starting mid January. When I first arrived here the brothers of the Holy Cross, had been discussing the possibility of opening up a primary school for the younger children in the rural areas around where they are. DSC00202 As I've mentioned the brothers sponsor a large number of these rural children to go to school, one of the largest problems they face is getting these kids into the good high schools. This is mainly because the rural  kids do not have the opportunity to go to school from grade R (Kindergarten) to grade 3. One of the reasons they started the after school programme is to help get the students caught up. The brothers have now begun raising money in the States and plan to open up a grade R school starting mid January. DSC00209 Ntobekhaya who is one of the teachers at the after school programme and also teaches at the best elementary school in town will be the grade R teacher. The plan is to start with grade R then add on a grade every year up to grade 3. This is very exciting!! The first year will be in the building that is now used for the after school program but they have made plans to break ground in the next year on a brand new multiple class room school house. They are know just trying to raise enough money to start building, but the school term will start this January the 15th. I will be working there helping out Ntobekhaya in the mornings then will stay for the after school programme. This should be very interesting because all the teaching will be done in Xhosa. I will be starting Xhosa classes at Rhodes in January.

There Is only one problem I am currently facing with this new gig. I have no way to get to the monastery every day. I was getting rides with Matt who had a company car or with Ms. Walters who is the head of the after school program, neither of whom will be working at the Holy Cross school.DSC00216 The monastery is about 16 k’s from where I live and it takes about an hour and a half to get up there by walking (I just did it and it was brutal). I have decided the best thing for me to do is attempt to raise money in order to buy a scooter. It would cost about $1000 or R7000 that's including a helmet and registration. When I leave I will be leaving the scooter with the brothers so the next Yascer will be able to use it, since from now on the Yascers will be working at the Holy Cross School.


          (Road to Monastery)

If anyone is interested in helping me do this please make a check out to St James’s Episcopal Church and in the Memo please put Rob’s Scooter. The address is

St. James’s Episcopal                                                  19 Walden St.                                                         West Hartford, CT              06107                                              

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and remember to keep these wonderful children in your prayers.

Still Walking,


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Amasango Career School

Over the past month or so I have begun my volunteering in the mornings. Trying to keep busy I have volunteered at Amasango Career School, which is the school for street children. At Amasango, about 65% of the students live at the shelter across the street, and the other 35% seem to be the less fortunate ones who still live at home. There is approximately 140-160 kids enrolled at Amasango and on a good day 90 will show up for school. I’ve enjoyed my time there immensely though it does wear on me both physically and emotionally. One of the “jobs” I've taken on is almost as there pseudo gym teacher. The built up energy these kids have is insane, the only issue is focusing that energy into a structured activity. We play all types of sports, there two favorites being soccer and handball. After school (even during school) the streets of Grahamstown are  flooded with these kids of all ages.DSC00050 They beg for change from university students coming out of the pubs and bars till the morning. They’ll stand outside the grocery store and ask for a loaf of bread. During the day they will wash your car for you if you park on one of the main roads while your inside a store, then hope you pay them for it. Some even sell bouquets of fresh picked lilies and ______ for 5 rand about 50 cents.

Many of these kids have been made orphaned by AIDS, some of whom were even born with HIV. The ones who live at home often come from broken families and are being brought up by a 17 year old older sister or what's often the case a grandmother and a 18 year old brother whose an alcoholic or drug addict. Many of these kids are sent on the streets to beg by their parents or older siblings who then take the money turn around and spend it on drugs or drink.

I could tell story after story about my time at Amasango because there is never a dull moment at . I’ve seen a 12 year old pregnant girl barely make it to her check up. I've wiped the puss from the cheek of a third grader who had her tooth pulled the day before, and by the next day it was infected. I've even seen multiple kids taken away by the police often for no reason at all. The stories just go on and on, so I'll just tell about my first experience there. Matt Kellen invited me to tag along to a readathon he had been invited to they were hosting at a local auditorium. it was one of my first days in South Africa and Matt had been invited because the NGO he works for Gadra does a lot of work with him; his landlord and our good friend is the founder and principal of the school. DSC00051As soon as we got to the auditorium it seemed every student ran up to Matt yelling his name asking him who the “big guy” was (me). As soon as i whipped out my camera i stood in front of about 35 models posing. When we got inside all the students were sitting to the right of the stage in fold out chairs, there was another set of rows to the left but in front of those looked like a table and chairs had been left over from a wedding the night before. Being the first to arrive an Ms. Jane being the amazing women she is insisted that we sat  front row as “honored guests”. Feeling a little guilty considering this was the first time i had even been in any township let alone any school in South Africa i took a seat. DSC00055Then there was a serious of introductions mostly done in Xhosa and then each grade had a separate reading demonstration/performance. Each grade went up and did a demonstration/performance in Xhosa then once they had all gone then each grade went up and did a different one with different students in English. I was amazed by the energy, enthusiasm an to be honest the showmanship of some of the performances. Some of the older grades did dramatic monologues or little skits in English which blew me away.









After the readings, skits and monologues there was some other artistic performances. DSC00062A group of boys did a choreographed kind of dance called Gum-boot dancing. Gum-boots are what we call goulashes and men have been wearing them to work here for decades much like men in the states wear Timberlands. DSC00060The dance was not only very impressive it was hysterical . I loved it. After the Gum-boot dance a group of girls no older then 14 got on stage ad performed a traditional Xhosa dance in traditional Xhosa wear.  After these performances there was a runoff of thank yous by Ms. Jane.Then  a number of speeches given by the other honored guests (all of which were in Xhosa).DSC00074 These were representatives from groups like The Eastern Cape Department of Education and The Department of Arts and Culture. Then at the very end a group of students got on stage and played the marimbas as everyone took pictures of the guests presenting Ms. Jane with a two large mobile bookcases.

I was truly blessed to have this experience with in days of being in South Africa. I also am thrilled about the rest of my year spending as much of my free time at Amasango and with these amazing kids.

   Still Walking,


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Trip to J-Bay a Dream Come True

Last week after the wedding i realized had had a week and a half of nothing scheduled. The students had the time off so there would be no after school program and I wouldn’t be able to start at Amasango till after the holiday. I decided that I needed to seize this opportunity and do a little traveling. The place that has been on the top of my  traveling destination list is Jeffrey’s Bay. That night i hoped on a bus and took the two and a half hour bus trip to Jeffrey's Bay. I arrived just before mid night and waited for a cab for an hour to take me what turned out to be only a twenty-five minute walk. The next day I got the chance to go surfing with three other guys who were staying at the backpackers with me. We were all there for the same reason. J-bay is the surfing Mecca of Africa and none throughout the world for its supertubes and the dolphins  which surf the waves with you. Below are pictures of the supertubes and of two of the friends i made at the backpackers i stayed at, the one on the left is Ignacio from Chile and the one on the right was Yota from Japan they were both backpacking through South Africa Surfing. I also met Mike who was from Westchester county and the three of us went surfing every morning starting early. The third day we got a ride to Cape St. Francis and St. Francis Bay.


On the last day the four of us went to St. Francis bay which was my favorite spot we went to. Its where the movie Endless Summer was actually filmed and where they supposedly found the perfect wave according to the infamous movie.This picture is of me in front of Bruce’s Wave “The Perfect Wave”.

DSC00148This is a picture of my friends and I paddling out in Cape St. Francis, just north of St. Francis Bay.

DSC00147  I have to admit that I did not believe that there were Penguins in South Africa, my sister Madison and I got in a big argument about this before I left she even looked it up and i did not believe her….DSC00146There you go Maddy I have been proven wrong!!  This place was by far the most amazing place I have ever traveled to, I look forward to much more traveling especially in this amazing province of the eastern cape!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Big Traditional Xhosa Wedding



After being in Grahamstown for only a few hours I was invited to a wedding!!! I really don’t know if i could be any luckier. Ntobekhaya Is the head teacher at the after school program. When Matt took me to meet her my first afternoon in Grahamstown I met here daughter Thembesa, with in seconds of meeting me she invited Matt and I to her wedding which was this past Wednesday. It was a traditional Xhosa wedding what an experience! There was a small catch to our save the date, we needed to bring our cameras and take as many photos as possible. This was fine with me, this way i wouldn’t feel rude taking pictures of everything. We met everyone at Ntobekhaya’s were most of the women were dressed in traditional wear some even with their faces painted. everyone was singing an dancing out side the house waiting for Thembesa to come out. Then when she was ready the women went inside and lead here out singing and dancing.


We then all walked to our decorated cars and in a caravan  with are warning lights blinking honked are way through the township on our way to the Methodist church.


When we got there the grooms family was there singing and dancing as well.The bride and here family (still singing and dancing) went to the back of the church while the groom’s family was in the front by the altar singing and dancing but to different songs. then Instead of the whole father walking the daughter down the isle, her father walked her down the isle but her entire family was behind them singing. Later in the service after the vows, the two families start out on opposite sides of the front singing different songs then they slowly join together singing and dancing to the same song. The rest of the time the two families sing the same songs as one.

DSCN1820 DSCN1839

It was the coolest wedding I've ever been to. The way the songs are all songs they’ve known from a early age and they know hundreds by heart. Something that important in a culture used to symbolize not only the joining of two families but the creation of a new family. I only hope that I will have more opportunities like this one it was truly something very special and something i will remember for ever.

Still Walking,


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Map of the Eastern Cape

Map picture
Just thought This map would help explain where exactly i am in relationship to Major cities like East London and Port Elizabeth. Grahamstown is located a little less then a hour from Port Alfred and about an hour and a half northeast of PE. Both these cities are on the Indian Ocean.

A Really Long Flight Well Worth It

These past two and a half weeks or so have been some of the most exciting of my life. Let’s start with the flight, the flight was exciting for the first and last hour I was on the plane. The other fourteen hours were pretty brutal. When I arrived to Port Elizabeth and stepped on the tarmac I immediately fell in love with this continent. There’s something about it that’s really hard to explain, this place from the second you get here tugs on something inside you and the more you experience the harder it tugs. The Taxi which picked me up from the airport drove me directly to the monastery with other college age students heading to Rhodes University. The hour drive from PE was incredible, we past many game reserves where we drove by giraffes, zebras, monkeys, buffalo and many other animals. It was really too bad that I had just finished a total of 18 hours in the air or otherwise I would have stayed awake for it.

When I was woken up by the other passengers we were pulling in to the Monastery which is on the outskirts of Grahamstown imbedded in the hills. It is by far the most tranquil place I have ever been. This picture below is taken of the monastery from across the valley, and is the view you have driving to it from Grahamstown.

I was met by one of the brothers, I asked to see the school and we headed on up to the after school program were I met some of the other teachers including Matt Kellen a Former Yascer from Spokane, Washington, and Liz Haney a volunteer from Rhodes University. Liz is from the Greater Boston area and goes to BC. She is currently on exchange here with many other International students. I also got to meet the kids! I will be working with the older group of students who mostly fall between the ages of 15-17. There hysterical, they can be a bit of “smart allecs” but there very bright kids and I really look forward to working with them. This is a picture of three of my students in the older class, there doing what they do best …ignoring me!

The next day I got to move into my ,which is awesome! I love the place. My roomates are great. Three of them are from the Eastern Cape and have taken it on themselves to teach me the language isiXhosa which is the native language here and something i need to become familiar with as soon as possible. The house is located practically on the Rhodes University campus, which is both beautiful and filled with different activites for someone my age. I have made a bunch of new friends from all over the world who are either students at Rhodes or exchange students. There is just so much to do here and I am having the time of my life. I promise the next entry wont take nearly as long as this one took to post. thanks again to everyone whos made this trip possible and supported me this whole time.

Still Walking,

Robby Hooper

Happy Birthday Joey and Haley!!!!!!!!!!