Alumni Spotlight: Darlene Grieger

Darlene was raised in Iowa but she is living in the Phoenix, Arizona area. She went to Thailand to volunteer with Cross-Cultural Solutions. She had spent 12 weeks in Costa Rica with CCS and most recently, she volunteered in Lima, Peru with CCS. After 40 years of being a real estate broker, she retired. She has worked in some of the schools helping students with English, Math and homework. Darlene was a volunteer at both of George W. Bush's Inaugurations.

Morning: As soon as I got up I would go to the kitchen and check if the coffee was ready. If not, I would make it, have a cup, and smile to all of the other volunteers running through the kitchen to get to the shower. We were given sarongs so we always looked presentable...I got dressed and made sure the room was picked up. We did have room check on occasion. I was fortunate to have my own room most of the time. I was the oldest and felt they gave in to that. I would go back to the kitchen and have some cereal or peanut butter sandwich. There was no cooking inside. The stove was outside on the patio. Some cooked an egg; however, the cook was always available if needed. By 8 AM we had to be ready for our bus and the cooks would prepare our lunch and always put in a little packet of tissue. There is a shortage of "paper goods" there.

There were 12 volunteers from around the world and we were assigned to the different schools to help students with English. My partner was an 18 year old from Canada. Each couple had their own room assigned and the students would go from one class to another on a schedule. We had between 80 and 100 students a day and we had to come up with subjects that would interest them. That was not difficult as they all seemed to want to learn from us. We would have our lunch together and then the bus would arrive to take us back home. We would be escorted to and from the bus by some students and some teachers and often times, the principal. We would be at one school for 2 days and then another school for 2 days and so on for 2 weeks.

Afternoon: Sometimes there would be trips planned and sometimes we were on our own to do whatever. I did go on some very interesting trips but I also enjoyed going to my room and resting. There were times we would watch TV together. We were all busy checking our emails and still getting acquainted with each other.

Evening: We would all have dinner together about 6 PM and a few times, CCS took us out to dinner to get acquainted with their food and their customs. After dinner I would work on my lessons for the next day. Most of the volunteers were also preparing for their classes and we did it around the kitchen table or in that area, all together. The driver would take some people to town or shopping or to a place where younger kids meet. He would pick them up and bring them home at their agreed upon time. I did go but preferred talking with other volunteers.

Highlights: The highlight of my volunteer experience was with the young people. They were so happy to see us there and they wanted to touch us all of the time. We were appreciated. My big highlight was when the bus would pull out of the school parking lot, the students would line up on the left side of the driveway (I sat behind the driver with an open window) and they would reach for my hand. This happened at different schools and it always brought tears to my eyes.

I hired a driver in Bangkok and he took me to lots of different and interesting places, plus acting as a body guard. He took me to the castle when the King's sister was cremated. He asked that I wear a black outfit and pearls. Before we went, he took me to an elegant place to buy some beautiful pearls. When he escorted me on the grounds, he told me that the people watching were saying "What a nice lady!" I was showing respect for their King and Family.

The overall experience was overwhelming. I tried to cram every single second into my mind so I wouldn't forget it. How wonderful it is to have these thoughts that I can "bring forward" and smile again, just remembering what a great experience I had. I want to go back.