Sorry for the delayed blog post but I’ve been swamped with work! After a night of studying with my classmates, I ended up getting an A- on my poli sci midterm (hooray!). Day one in Trinidad: My travel buddies Krina, Alton, Heather and I independently traveled because none of us had field trips planned. So, with fanny pack and camera ready to go, I met up with them at port to plan out our day. We ended up getting a deal from the Hyatt Hotel (about a block away from port) to travel to Pitch Lake and the Hindu temples (which one of the SAS field trips were going too anyway) for about $70 per person (including lunch). Teddy, our driver, a group of six Chinese tourists and us began our journey at around 11 a.m.. First stop: Pitch Lake, what locals call the “8th wonder of the world.” The drive was about an hour and a half but the scenery was just beautiful. Like Jamaica (where I traveled last year), the houses were very colorful. However, though the country is very green, there it is also incredibly industrialized, with petroleum factories and oil mineries all over town. Because Trinidad’s history is so rich (From Spanish sovereignty to French ownership to with their African slaves, Chinese and Indian industrial servants) the country is super diverse. Though a large majority of citizens are Afro-Trinidadians (African natives, decendents of slaves) or Indo-Trinidadians (Natives, originate from Mayans, speak Spanish) there are a LOT of Indian and Chinese people too - which means loads of temples, churches, mosques. All of them live at peace too, no racial/ethnic/religious conflict. Influence of each of these cultures is prevalent in different areas of the country (the Hindu temples, for example). Even the United States’ influence is apparent - for example, Teddy told us there are 60 KFC’s, 20 or so Burger Kings and a few Subways. And although English is the main language (makes us SASers lives much easier) Spanish, French and Hindu are also common. I enjoyed the scenic drive because I saw everything from the KFC’s to people’s huts to gorgeous architecture. It’s a colorful country with a lot to offer its people, even those who live in poverty. Anyway, we finally reached Pitch Lake. We ironically ended up on the same tour as the SAS people. Located in La Brea, the lake is the world’s largest commercial deposit of natural asphalt, with 100 acres of land that goes about 250 feet deep into the ground. Ever since it was discovered by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595, the lake’s asphalt has turned into a flourishing industry because the asphalt is mixed and exported to countries all over the world. Though the smooshey ground is fun to walk on, there are areas that are like quick sand. This constant shift in the lake’s land even affects the surrounding town - most residents oF brea build their houses with room underneath to add to the bottom in case the mining causes land shifts. For this reason, roads adjacent to the lake are also very dangerous. But the lake serves a great purpose too: it creates jobs that stimulate the economy and draws in tourists from near and far. What I loved most about Pitch Lake was its surrounding ecosystem. The scorching black asphalt is a stark contrast to its green surroundings. There are even little sulfuric water pools ON the lake that are for stress relief baths during the rainy season. Around the lake there are also lilypads, over 300 different types of birds, flowers and trees. Before Raleigh discovered the lake, there was a forrest in its place that was immediately cut down. The worst part about pitch lake, however, is the heat. The sun reflects on the black tar causing extra heat to surface. Not to mention gets everyone drenched in sweat. Our savior: the occasional breeze. People MINE this lake however every day from 7-4, with or without the breeze. Then, we left with our taxi to lunch at an Indian restaurant where I ate a veggie ROTI, an Indian wrap with curried veggies. Indian food is very common in Trindad because as I said earlier, the country is extremely diverse. Then we went to the Hindu temples, which are famous here. I’m not a religious person, but the temple on the sea is the holiest place i’ve ever seen. Though small, the temple is built right on the beach and overlooks the ocean. By the time we got there, it was almost dusk and the sky was a beautiful off-white, complementing the ocean’s lucid, almost silver, color. Flagpoles with flags of different colors are posted in the sand around the temple. Teddy told us that these flags are posted each time people are cremated at the temple. The flags are never taken down. Around the temple, which is located in the town of Waterloo, homes are smaller but still very colorful. Another fun Trinidad fact: There are LOADS of puppies and stray dogs. Only in America do people really spade/neuter their pets and leash them. There, the island was their backyard, not a lawn. The next Hindu temple, also in Waterloo, had a huge worship statue of a pig god, about 100 ft high, and a camel statue. A gorgeous pink temple is also right beside it. Teddy said they brought an architect from Indian to specially design it. By 6 p.m. we were back on the road. Though sweaty and exhausted, I had never felt more at peace.