Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Saturday May 23, 2009 (The first real day on the island)
Friday was filled with lots of travel, but today was another story. It was our first real foray out into town and nature as a group. The morning started with an intro to the area and “ground rules”, followed by lunch and a drive up Flagstaff hill (an old lookout for pirates back in the day trying to defend against the British).
On Flagstaff hill, we saw a number of birds (including the Mot-Mot, rufus-tailed jacama, and the oropondola for those of you who may be “birders”). We also had our first encounter with the cattle around here. The cows are often tied along the roadside, but most appeared to have broken free and congregated in the middle of the road. You either honk or get out of the car and move them along to pass. We also say banana trees laden with huge bunches of fruit, as well as huge mango trees and almond trees.
After our hike it was back to the cottages for free time. After a quick round of swimming and an encounter with “Andy the Fruit King” (he walks around the beach selling all sorts of fruits and likes to give high fives and laugh almost non-stop), most of the group headed into town to sample the local food. They have one tip when it comes to ordering food here. When you are asked if you want shrimp, chicken, or fish (no menu- just three meat options), choose what you want. When you are asked if you want rice or French fries with it- choose rice! Apparently, if you order French fries, you just get fried fish or chicken and the fries. If you say rice, you get the fish or chicken with a really good sauce, rice and like 8 other sides with it. Everyone agreed the local food was amazing.
Friday May 22, 2009 (The day everyone arrives)
Our second day here started earlier than most will. We (Dr. Lehtinen, Tim, Chase, and myself- the early arrivers), got up around 6:30am to scope out some field sites for Tim and Chase’s IS projects. We headed out to the Doctor’s River which is located between Charlotteville (our town) and Speyside (the next town over). On our two hour hike we had our eyes out for two species- the Bloody Bay Poison frog and a type of guppy. No luck with the guppy, but we did find the frog. It was calling from pools of water formed around a waterfall.
After the hike it was time to head towards Scarborough (largest town on the island) and Crown Point (where the airport is located) to get permits for research, buy cell phones, and pick up the first of the day’s students to arrive- Larken and Alex. The six of us grabbed lunch (chicken and rice- so good!) and then split up. Larken, Alex and Dr. L headed back to Charlotteville to relax and Tim, Chase and I remained around the airport to wait for Emily to arrive at 4:30. After the hour or so drive back to Charlotteville, we made some spaghetti, chatted a bit and then Dr. L and I headed back yet again to the airport to pick up the remaining students (Alex, Ben, Whitney, Heidi, Aaron, and Trip).
While there were no major problems with travel, poor Whitney (on her first time traveling out of the country alone) had a flight delayed leaving Atlanta and just about missed her flight from Trinidad to Tobago. I guess everyone was already on the plane and a local came and found her in the bathroom crying and ran her through customs and everything else at lightning speed so she wouldn’t miss the plane (which was the last one leaving for the night). That gives you an idea of how friendly and helpful most of the Trinibogoninans have been so far.
Well, it has been a late night for all of us (didn’t get home from the airport until after 12am), so more to come tomorrow…
Monday, May 25, 2009
First Day in Tobago- Thursday May 21
After a very long day of traveling, Chase, Tim and myself (Elizabeth- field assistant for the course) have made it safely to Tobago. Tim started around 2:45am, Chase at 4:30am, and myself around 6am, and we all finally arrived at our cottage around 11:20pm last night. Travel from the states to Tobago was relatively uneventful, but that was made up for on the cab ride from the airport to Charlotteville. A few things to know about driving here- they drive on the left, every road is tiny and incredibly windy (I am talking about turns that make you really nervous for what could be around the other side), and everyone drives far too fast. The cab driver didn’t seem phased by it, although the three of us where on the edge of our seats. The three of us were too pumped from the long travel day, crazy cab ride, and the thrill of finally being here that we couldn’t fall asleep right away. So we checked out the ocean (which is a mere 10 feet or so from our cottage) and chatted a bit before falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves and the hum of our fans (no AC).
Today, after waking up to roosters crowing outside my window at 6am, I scoped out the town and made a quick grocery run while the boys were still sleeping and came back to make a breakfast of eggs and toast. I forgot salt and pepper at the store, so the eggs were bland, but edible and good fuel to start our first day’s adventure. We walked into town (which only takes about 5 minutes or so) and along the way noticed lots of stray, but friendly, dogs, cats and chickens roaming the streets. There were a lot of people out and about- children on their way to school dressed in blue jumpers and yellow button-downs, fisherman coming in with their morning haul, and old men standing on street corners bantering about all the people walking by and swapping stories. We walked around for awhile and eventually came upon a little café called, Top River Pearl. We stopped in and Tim and I got big mugs of coffee made from local beans. We both agreed it was strong and delicious. Soon after that we decided we were hot and sticky and that could only mean one thing- time to go romp in the ocean. After applying lots of sunscreen (mostly at my urging because I am a pale redhead and the sun hates me), we jumped into the incredibly clear, warm waters of the Caribbean. We stayed out there for an hour or two throwing a football around with the waves lapping around us (thanks to Chase for bringing a football, a soccer ball and cards to keep us entertained). Obviously, after playing for hours in the sun, we were hungry again. We set out to town again and because we had a great experience with our brief visit to Top River Pearl earlier that morning, we headed there again for lunch. We ordered club sandwiches (slightly different than in the states with more veggies, but we all agreed it was one of the best clubs we have ever tried). Tim ordered a local juice called “Maubry” which tasted a lot like root beer and Chase and I had grapefruit juice. Full and happy we wandered back to our cottage- Chase and Tim are reading and I am of course writing this.
I imagine we will find our way back to the water before the day is over, maybe play some cards, read, explore some of the local flora and fauna, and then either make food here or venture into town for some local flavor. So far the trip is starting out awesome- stay tuned for another update of our adventure tomorrow.