REFLECTIONS FROM AMA ALUMS
AMA Alum (Worcester and Philippiness) Elliot Uvin-Simmons writes about his Philippines experience 2016-2017
Round Two of AMA and Time is Running Out!
Hello Assumption Family! Kamusta?...It’s your friend Elliot Simmons-Uvin, or as some of you might know me better as Mr. Moody. For those of you who were unaware of my whereabouts, for the past eight months, the cow has traveled 8,626 miles to Sibalom, Antique, Philippines, for my second year of AMA. This year I’m no longer called Mr. Moody, but now Joe. This year has been quite the adventure working as a teacher, exploring the Philippines with co-volunteers, and finding God in the smallest things.
My AMA year began way back in September when I became the Grade 6 English and P.E. teacher at Sta. Rita Academy (SRA). I remember entering the school for the first time, trying to poke my head into the classroom of sixth graders to see who my students would be, were they well behaved, how many were there, and how is there English? Then the day came, my first class, September 3, 2016. There were 43 new faces in front of me, their English was average, and they were excited to have an American teacher. The only difficulty was language. I couldn’t understand Tagalog or Visayan, and they couldn’t understand my English vocabulary. Despite the language barrier there were many moments that we enjoyed one another’s presence. For example, we sung YMCA camp songs at the start of class, they asked endless questions about life in America and my personal life. We bonded over Pokémon, and even painted a mural together. As I got to know my students more, I started to understand the culture of the Philippines; the role of faith, and the sacrifices some families make just to make ends meet. As a teacher I have realized that it’s the little things that you do that go a long way. The simple kind gestures that come from the heart; a simple high five, a joke, or spending five minutes after school to explain/finish a project that really makes the difference. Even though I am only here for one year, I have learned so much from my students, the faculty and staff of Sta. Rita Academy, and the RA Sisters. As I continue to adjust to the culture of the Philippines, I continue to be exposed to many challenges, and new opportunities every day.
There have been many “firsts” in my journey. My first time to go island hopping, to swim in a waterfall, to hike with slippers, to swim in a cold spring, to hitchhike, to ride a tricycle, to teach English and P.E., to commentate a graduation, to dance at the Department of Education Night and SRA Family Day, to go camping with the boy scouts, to try to learn a new language, and finally tasting the culinary art of the Philippines. These new experiences were a lot of fun, but at times they were awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful because I had to communicate with people with limited language skills, travel to unknown places, and go out of my comfort zone. It was these experiences that allowed me to take a leap of faith, to grow personally and professionally, and in the end to strengthen my confidence in myself and my faith in God.
If I were to answer the question, “What is the one thing you will never forget about the Philippines?” I would say the people. The people have made my experience so fruitful and enriching. Here, I’m a tall white American, named Joe. Also known as Sir Elliot, or just “L.” I have especially enjoyed the AMA community; the Kamustahans, Mid Year, and Year End activities with the other volunteers really make you feel like you’re apart of one big family, with endless brothers, and sisters. Filipino’s are hospitable, compassionate, jokesters who really know how to make you feel welcome and have a good time - it is the people that have made this year an unforgettable experience. Some of you are curious I’m sure to what have I learned so far in these eight months. Well, I’ve learned to let go, to let of go time. By letting go of time I can be present in whatever journey awaits. These eight months have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience, embrace, and receive a different culture. I think its only fair for me to say, “Its more fun in the Philippines!” Talk to you all soon. This Joe’s got to go.
I’m grateful for all those who have supported me along my journey so far - both at home and here in the Philippines. I will leave with 3 goals in mind—learn as much Karay-a as I can, learn how to cook Filipino dishes and run from Sibalom to San Jose! Talk to you all soon. This Joe’s got to go.