I’m so glad that I’m one of the three volunteer teachers who will work at S.A.G. (St. Aloysius Gonzaga) English Language Institute. For me, it’s a dream come true. In fact, I feel blessed to have this opportunity offered by the AdDU (Ateneo de Davao University), my Alma Mater. I didn’t expect to be accepted in this program but I just hoped that somehow, I would get accepted.
I couldn’t forget the time when I was interviewed by Fr. Paul Dass, SJ. There were lots of alumni who applied for this program and I was the last one to be interviewed. I thought I couldn’t make it knowing that I was still far away from the destination. It was also the last day of the interview. But then, the Almighty really wanted me to be here in this program and so I was accepted after the in-depth interview and conversation with Fr. Paul. He told me: “Congratulations, Dats. You’re now a volunteer teacher. It’s complete finally. Just wait there and we will have a meeting with the others.” Fr. Paul called our program coordinator, the other volunteers, AdDU faculties and staffs. There, it was my first time to meet Kuya Karlo. I was also surprised that my former classmate, Darl Precious, was there too.
I thought I was so happy with the good news. However, leaving my motherland is quite sad and a little bit scary. I didn’t even know if the place I’m supposed to go could be dangerous. I have to step away from my comfort zone, and say goodbye to my loved ones (my family and my work). It’s actually my first time to have a volunteering experience and at the same time, to go abroad. But I didn’t let my fear control me and besides, I’m travelling to make a difference. I just realized that there have been a lot of good things happened to me ever since I left Philippines and I’ve always felt thankful for these blessings. It was in the third week of our fasting when we left our country with my co-volunteers.
Honestly speaking, my first trip abroad was a mixture of blasts of highs and lows and wows and ouches. We went to Bangkok, Thailand for a 3-day vacation and there, we had to process our visa before moving on to another place. Language had changed but I realized that I must go with it. We went to various temples, restaurants, shopping malls and vendors. We met lots of people who are like us, some came from different countries just to take a trip to this City of Smiles. There were at times when we weren’t able to communicate due their lack of English knowledge. After the short exploration to the first-ever country we visited, we immediately went as early as five in the morning to the airport. There, we fell in line until we got inside the airplane going to Yangon, Myanmar. It was already lunch time and we finally landed in Yangon. Extreme joy had showered upon me. Language changed again. Fr. Paul and Teacher Yi Yi San were in the airport to welcome us.
Though Taunggyi is even colder than I expected, I have to get used to it. Its land is reddish brown which is different from ours. Even the buildings which are built in light bamboo materials and yet, it’s already enough for the most of the people in the place. The clouds are often crying and I feel the coldness of my body every early in the morning. Well, the good thing is that my body can stand on the cool climate of the place both in daytime and nighttime. In fact, I sometimes use my jacket. I just don’t want to be defeated with this almost freezing climate. I know that winter will come soon, so I have to prepare for it.
Being a foreigner and a volunteer teacher is fun. As of now, I am teaching Listening and Speaking, as well as Grammar to 1st years and 2nd years during weekdays. I’m also teaching Level 6 students of Young Learners Program on weekends. It’s good to hear from them that they enjoyed my class. We also had a leadership training with some students of the school by which they enjoyed and acquired a lot of lessons. I know that most of them aren’t that fluent enough to speak and learn the language. I have to explain things as clearly and as slowly as possible. Almost all students in the Integrated Program are pre-intermediate when it comes to English fluency level. The level is just the same as elementary as far as I can remember. Myanmar has been under a military group recently and that only state owned schools can offer higher education.
The language may not yet be mastered but I’m amazed by the students’ hunger and thirst to learn English. The way they write and the way they talk make me feel even more interested in teaching them English. I could see with my own eyes their passion and determination to finish the tertiary, fulltime and long-term program as offered by the institution. Their lives may be simple, but I’m really touched with their kindness, openness, sincerity and generosity. Come to think of it, students in S.A.G., either youngsters or adults, are like butterflies roaming around the garden of words. I love all of them and my heart simply holds on to forever. Same goes too with my fellow faculties and staffs. They gave us a warm welcome and made us feel at home. For me, they are a family.
I also had fun not just inside the school, but also outside it. We toured around lots of places in Myanmar with Uncle Quentin, Mr. Paul and Teacher Billy. We visited Inle Lake, some of the pagodas, as well as stores that sell silks and jewelries. We even ate various Burmese dishes to some restaurants in Taunggyi. We were invited to some special events and gatherings with the Jesuit brothers at the Jesuit House as well.
Anyway, I believe that life is a journey and that I must go with it. I’m delighted to know that it’s already our one month of stay here in Taunggyi with Darl and Kuya Karlo. I always look forward to whatever activities and adventures we’ll have to experience. I really want to be of big help in building the passionate dream of Fr. Paul for S.A.G. I want to help students as well, and those people who are in need of help, guidance and assistance. We still have a long way to go before our ten months of stay lasts. There will be sadness, there will be excitement but I only hope that I get a steadfast heart to overcome everything for this one-time journey to Myanmar.