Volunteering at the International Festival: Houston

Published April 27, 2010 by Iniysa

Day One – 4/18/10

This year’s theme highlighted the Caribbean. I of course signed up to volunteer before I knew this, not that it would have made a difference but perhaps I could have prepared a bit more. Then again I had no idea that I would be placed in the museum area on my first day volunteering.

My mom came up from her home in League City for a surprise visit I enjoyed completely. After a nice walk in the park we left early enough to get lost. Boy did we get lost. The map had me on two streets I really never traveled on, in all my adventures downtown before. Had I know a lot more familiar streets were merely a few blocks down we may have made it to our destination without running. When we finally found the parking lot we had free passes to, we then had to find the festival, and then the entrance dedicated to volunteers. I changed my shirt to the volunteer shirt in the cramped space of a smelly port-a-potty, before running out only to be called upon right away to head to the museum area. I looked at my mom with wide horror filled eyes, the museum area? I may have learned about the Caribbean in middle or high school, but I sure don’t remember what is there; Jamaica maybe? I think Cuba too… That’s the scary part of being on the flex team; you don’t know where you’re going to end up.

I decided to wing it, (not that I had a choice, lol.) and learn things from passerby-ers and redirect. I cheerfully told guests when they asked about different places in the Caribbean that there were areas dedicated to each place that would not only tell them about the area, but you would find vendors from the area ready to tell you first hand! Redirect, redirect, redirect. I learned that the plant beside me on the right was a Figgie fig tree from a guest and happily shared this information to the millions who asked. (No one ever figured out what the plant to the left was.) I enjoyed watching the fake and poorly acted pirate fight (with real swards!) in the replica pirate ship right in front of my station.

Then finally our relief appeared and mom and I found our way back to the volunteer area were they were feeding us. I have volunteered at many, many events but never have the volunteers been so poorly fed; ball game nachos, popcorn and animal crackers??? And I am not listing the vegetarian dishes. This was ALL the food they had. After hours and hours outside baking in the very hot sun, that is what they put out in a buffet style area with other volunteers to dish it out for you? For drinks you had your selection of one of three cola products or water from one of those water tub things you find in offices and put your water in the cone type cups that can’t be set down, great. The water bottles were for the food only, as the staff would randomly yell at volunteers that even looked at the ice cold bottles. It was funny that all the staff seemed to have a bottle in hand and was drinking from them. Needless to say I was not impressed with the volunteer area.

Mom and I covered every portion of the fest as guests having fun just talking and walking. Mom received a phone call from my aunts who said they were downtown for church and wanted to see us. So we left, got lost again trying to get into the parking entrance of Lakewood Church, before we finally pulling into the proper garage and joining my aunts to see Joel, his wife and there music group go to work. Even my mom, who is Jewish, liked the Saturday service.

From there we went to Starbucks to celebrate my aunt’s birthday, where we talked, caught up and had a great time.

Day Two – 4/24/10

I was by myself this time, but since I knew what to expect getting there was a lot less nerve wrecking. Leaving however was a completely different story.

I parked in the parking garage this time, A/2; simple enough right?

I was early this time, so I had taken a walk to find someplace with real food to eat, why is everything downtown closed on the weekends? I think Houston is the only city I have ever been to that closes on the weekends, even when events are happening next door. I ended up spending $6 at an expensive hotel for two pancakes and a bagel. There was a buffet, with four hot food items on it, and the rest was stuff you would find on any Continental Breakfast. (Cereal, yogurt etc.) The cost for the buffet? $17 per person. Holy cow! I thought $7 was a horrible price for buffets with hundreds more items to choose from.  Then they tried to charge me more for what little I got, in which I showed them on the menu where it clearly stated the cost. Nice. They did apologize several times, though.

I spent some time in the volunteer area just relaxing in the shade watching people come and go before my team was called up to take the place of the previous team. This time I was going someplace I had more experience in. Security/Ticket taker, which I can do! IFEST has rules to rival all US Airports. No liquids, no weapons etc. Everyone had to be checked before entering and before giving there ticket. People waited in the long line only to not have a ticket, thinking that the event was free. Most threw a huge fit when they found out they had to chug down there water or throw it away. I went out there several times and made told everyone that they needed to drink there water before they got to the front of the line, no liquids would be allowed, but apparently there were some that did not believe me or ignored me when I passed by them to tell everyone.

That job was fun, even with people yelling at you; telling you what a horrible person you are because obviously, me; a mere volunteer, created these rules just to piss you off. Read the signs, people! We had some really good laughs at your expense, wow people can make a full of themselves when they are angry over a small water bottle.

When my relief appeared, I stayed behind to make sure they were properly trained as this was a much harder job then the museums. They sent me a bunch of teenagers; I hope they survived the angry masses.  There were a few places I wanted to go to that I somehow missed last time, before I headed back to the volunteer area, choked down some chips and cheese, was asked out by a guy that had sit across from me for awhile, then I went home.

Well I tried to go home at least. I think I spent a good hour looking for my car, did you know that there the parking garages are all hooked together and that they all have the same names and colors? So there was a LOT of green A/2 levels. Then I had to find my way out with all the roads that lead to 45 closed. After getting on several wrong roads in an attempt to get to the right road I eventually made it back to 45 south.

Over all, I had a great time!

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3 comments on “Volunteering at the International Festival: Houston

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