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Dr. Pino in Trinidad

Welcome to Dr. Pino’s Fulbright blog! I will be occasionally writing on my stay here in Trinidad and Tobago, where I am teaching at the University of the West Indies and conducting research on police-community relations and police reform.


Final Blog Entry (# 7)
May 3, 2009

Greetings and salutations from Trinidad!  I am going back to the US soon, so this is my final blog entry.  There have been more epic journeys throughout the island of Trinidad since I last wrote, and I will do my best (knowing it will be unsuccessful) to express how important this Fulbright experience has been for me. 
First, the epic journeys!  Since I last wrote, I went back to the Asa Wright Nature Centre with our local hero Bennie Berkeley, since he has never been there  (even though he has lived in Trinidad his whole life!).  I wanted to go back because it is such a wonderful place.  Here is a picture of a bird eating lunch.


From there we drove on a treacherous road through the mountainous rainforest until we arrived on the North coast.  From there we went back to Maracas Bay and ate bake and shark sandwiches (described in my first blog entry at the bottom of this page). 
Today with another Fulbrighter (David Goldberg of the College of Du Page in Chicago, and housed in the International Relations unit at UWI) I took a “route taxi,” which takes a full car of passengers to specific places on specific routes for a cheap price, to San Fernando, a major city in the Southern part of the Island.  A colleague of David’s and her husband then took us to a couple of places in the area.  First we went to the Point-a-Piere Wildfowl Trust.  The main purpose of the trust is to breed various species of water foul that are later released into the wild.  There are rare species of birds there, including the national bird of Trinidad, the scarlet ibis, and a male peacock strutting his stuff.


After the Wildfoul Trust we went to San Fernando Hill. From the top of this hill one can see great views of the San Fernando area. 

If you want to visit a Caribbean country that isn’t completely dominated by the tourist trade, I strongly suggest that you visit Trinidad and Tobago.  As you can see from all of the pictures from these blogs, it is a beautiful place that retains its own local identity. The people are friendly, there is a lot to do, and the food is outstanding. 
Before I leave, I have one more final to give to my graduate students at UWI, a couple of research interviews to conduct, and another presentation to give.  During my time here I have learned so much from the faculty, staff, and students at UWI, had many rewarding experiences, and made new life-long friends.  I would like to think that I have improved as a person in terms of learning to be more patient, flexible, and open-minded (people back home will ultimately be the judge of that!).  My passion for research remains as strong as ever, and I can’t wait to share my experiences with my students at Texas State.  While I am eager to go home I will miss being in Trinidad. I am determined to continue my research here and I hope that Texas State and UWI can establish professor and student exchanges.  Overall, I must say that this has been an enriching experience that I will never forget; and I encourage faculty and students to consider the Fulbright program for their own personal and professional development.
I close this blog by thanking Nick LaLone, who has been posting all of these blogs for me. We share a particular sense of humor, and I will demonstrate it here by showing all of you a picture of me near Maracas Bay that Nick doctored a while back. 

I will see many of you again soon, but until then I better dispose of these angry spirits and dragons….

Blog Entry # 6
April 13, 2009
On April 8th and 9th I participated in the University of the West Indies (UWI) Criminology Unit’s conference on developing a Caribbean criminology. Scholars from across the Caribbean, as well as from other parts of the world, presented papers on various Caribbean issues, including the problems of drug, gun, and human trafficking; crimes against children; masculinity and crime; legal issues and human rights; criminal justice issues; and delinquency, particularly in schools.  I presented a paper on some preliminary results of my ongoing research, and I think it was well received.  While at the conference, I met other criminologists who work in the UWI university system (there are campuses in Jamaica and Barbados) and I hope to engage in collaborative research with UWI criminologists in the future.  
The Summit of the Americas will take place here in one week, and President Obama will be here. I won’t have a chance of meeting him, of course, but it will be interesting to see the summit in action here.  The country will be shut down for all practical purposes, due to security concerns (many heads of state will be here) and the fact that many roads will be inaccessible to civilian traffic.   
Today I went on another epic adventure with Bennie Berkeley, this time to the East coast of the island including its extreme Southeastern point.  On the way there we drove through areas of the central part of the island I hadn’t been to before.  Here is a picture of fisherman at Guayaguayare Bay.  In the distance you can see Galeota Point, which is the most Southeastern point of Trinidad (because BP refines oil there no one can actually go there). 

One the way back we drove up the East coast of Trinidad before heading back West for home. Here is a view from the Manzanilla Mayaro Road, and part of the Nariva Swamp. 



I have one month left here in Trinidad.  In two weeks I will be done with meeting students in the classroom and final exams will begin.  I also have more interviews to conduct before I leave.  This has been an enriching experience and I will enjoy telling folks back home about it when I return.  Until next time…..

Blog Entry # 5
March 24, 2009
Hello everybody! My wife visited me last week (YAY!), and we had a wonderful time.   We went to Tobago, but of course I neglected to bring my camera (grrr!). We rented a car and drove around the island, which took five to six hours.  The food was great (fresh fish is always good) and the beaches there are very beautiful.  Rough seas make it difficult to swim there, but it is great to just look out at the water.  Tobago is more like other Caribbean islands than Trinidad.  Trinidad used to be connected to Venezuela before breaking off to be by itself, so Trinidad has geographical features more like Venezuela than the other Caribbean islands.  Trinidad and Tobago are close to each other, though, so the plane flight between the islands takes only about 20 minutes, including the time spent on the runway. 
Back in Trinidad, my wife and I traveled to some places I have shown you in other blog entries such as Maracas Bay, Port of Spain, and the Toco/Galera Point area.  Here is a picture of me standing at the lookout point near Maracas. 

We did go to a place I haven’t been to before called the Asa Wright Nature Center, which is a must-see for serious bird watchers.  It is an amazing place in the mountainous tropical rainforest on the island.  On the veranda of the main building there is a wonderful view, and there are bird feeders that attract many different species of birds.  There are also a number of trails trails where you can see various birds, flowers, trees, and other plants.  Here is a view from the veranda, and pictures of a few of the birds and a flower we saw at the center. 



Now it is time to get back to work! I have a lot of research to conduct yet, papers to write, presentations to prepare, classes to teach, and papers to grade.  My students are very engaging in class, asking questions and thinking critically about the material I present.  It has been a rewarding experience to teach these students.  Soon I will see their written work. 
It is also quite fascinating to witness through my research, teaching, and observations the realities I have been writing about as an ivory tower academic.  I am seeing in practice the phenomena I have been reading and writing about, which enhances my knowledge and furthers my intellectual curiosity.  I have learned much here, which is what the Fulbright is all about!  I can’t wait to share what I have learned with my students back at Texas State. 

Blog Entry # 4
March 8, 2009
Greetings from the Caribbean!  Since I last wrote I have engaged in more research, and my classes are going well.  I have conducted a few more interviews and a focus group with NGOs; more interviews been set up for this coming week.   Many days have also been spent at the UWI main library in the special collections room, pouring over reports written about the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service that cannot be found anywhere else, as well as numerous other rare writings concerning the country’s political, economic and social development.  I have learned much about this interesting country, but I have also realized that there is much more to learn. 
I am slated to give at least two and possibly three presentations here based on my research. One presentation will be at an international criminology conference focusing on the Caribbean sponsored by the UWI Criminology Unit.  The Fulbright Alumni Association of Trinidad and Tobago has also invited me and the two other faculty Fulbrighters to give presentations on our work and experiences.  I may also take part in a UWI Department of Behavioural Sciences seminar series, where faculty concentrating in different academic areas travel to different parts of the country and give papers to the general public. 
A major cultural experience one shouldn’t miss while traveling here is Carnival. Trinidad and Tobago has the largest Carnival in the Caribbean.  There were people selling wares all over the place, and one guy walking buy was selling bandanas that said “Texas” on them (as well as “USA”)!!! I couldn’t resist of course, so I bought it and wrapped it around my head.  Someone has a picture of me wearing it, and if I get a copy from him I will post it on my next blog entry. 
I neglected to take my camera with me (aaaarrrrgghh!) but I did find a couple of pictures on the internet I can have you check out.  The first two pictures are of Carnival Queens.  There are kings and/or queens for each of the groups that participate in the Carnival parades.  Their elaborate costumes are quite interesting.

There were a number of guys walking on stilts during the parade, and I saw this guy walk past. I am glad there was a picture of him online.  I call him “Obama Man.”

By the way, Barack Obama is very popular here in Trinidad and Tobago.  There are t-shirts of him for sale everywhere you look, and on the “American Idol”-style show here called “Soca Star” one contestant told viewers to “vote for him like Obama.” 
Yesterday I took a maxi taxi to Port of Spain, and I took my camera with me.  Here are a few pictures of the downtown area.   The southern part of the city is where all of the tall buildings are, and they line an area called Independence Square. It really isn’t a square, but a long rectangle spanning at least 6 blocks. 

Further north a few bocks sits Woodford Square, which is very important in the political and social history of Trinidad and Tobago.  It has been the sight of political activity for years, particularly in the years leading up to independence.  Eric Williams, who led the country for many years after independence, would give lectures in Woodford Square during the colonial period.  People were inspired by those lectures, and his and others’ lectures became known as “The University of Woodford Square.”  A chalkboard with the same name in the square often has political or social statements written on it.



Here is a picture of the square itself. 


Important buildings surround the square, including the parliament building, currently under renovation.

And finally, at long last, I have found where the Super Friends hang out: at the Hall of Justice! 

Actually, the Hall of Justice houses the Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal, the Civil and Criminal Divisions of the High Court, and the Tax Appeal Board. 
My wife comes to visit at the end of this week (yay!), and we will go to Tobago, the other island of this great country.  We will also hopefully make it to some nature sanctuaries in Trinidad, famous for all of the many different birds, butterflies, and other animals that make these islands their home.  

Blog Entry # 3
February 18th, 2009
A lot has happened since my last blog entry.  I learned to use the “maxi-taxis,” which are mini-buses that travel on fixed routes.  On the “Priority Bus Route” reserved only for maxis and buses one can get from where I live and work (the St. Augustine/Curepe area) to Port of Spain, the capital, in around 30 minutes (often quicker than driving yourself).  Along the fixed routes, people get on the maxis and then hit a buzzer when they want the driver to stop to let them off; when traveling one stops and starts routinely.  It only costs me $4 tt dollars (about 70 cents) to travel to Port of Spain and $5 tt to go back.   
My classes are going well, and I began my research by conducting interviews and pouring over literature in the library at the University of the West Indies (UWI) campus.  I will participate in a criminology conference hosted by the UWI Criminology Unit in early April by presenting a paper based on the initial findings of this research.  I have also been asked to give a talk to the Fulbright Alumni Association of Trinidad and Tobago while I am here.  
As promised I will present a few photos of the UWI campus in St. Augustine.  The first picture is of the UWI criminology unit entrance,


and the second is of the UWI main library.

UWI is known for having a beautiful campus, which includes beautiful and massive trees. The only way to know the true size of these trees is to find the little people and benches underneath them.

Other activities I have engaged in other than conducting research and maneuvering the marvelous maxi madness include hearing a wonderful steel pan band, going to a soca music concert, visiting the Northwestern tip of the country, and visiting Mt. St. Benedict Monastery.    
Nearby where I live and work is the Exodus steel pan orchestra.  They have won numerous contests on the island and have played all over the world.  The band rehearses often at the local pan yard, and they have been rehearsing furiously lately because Carnival is approaching.  It was wonderful to hear them live, because they play great and look really cool while doing it.  I found a decent YouTube clip of them playing in 2006.  Here is the link…
Soca music is the primary music of Carnival here in Trinidad.  Think of it as the party music of Carnival.  The music is basically a vehicle for dancing provocatively and the lyrics often instruct listeners how they should be moving their bodies to the music (with plenty of colorful slang).  Calypso, a more traditional style that originated in Trinidad, is more political.  Soca stars are very famous here, and play concerts all over the world, including New York City and Paris, when they are not performing in Trinidad. One famous veteran of soca music is named Calypso Rose.  She performed at the soca concert I went to with Bennie Berkeley. Other performers included Saucy Wow and Machel Montano, who is the most popular soca star right now.  Here is a YouTube clip of Machel Montano, Mighty Sparrow, another famous soca star, and Calypso Rose (who comes in about half way through) performing recently.  There is a lot of banter between them but from this clip you can see how a lot of these concerts go….
I also went with Bennie to the Monastery and the Northwestern tip of the Island. The visit to Mt. St. Benedict Monastery was very peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle below.  The Monastery is nestled high into the Northern Range, and can be seen from far away.  From the Monastery you can see many miles out, including part of the urbanized area that spreads from Port of Spain to Arima.  One can even gaze at the Caribbean Sea from this location.  In this picture, along with one of the common birds of this island, you can see the Caribbean Sea in the background, and (more or less) the urban areas of Curepe, Tunapuna, and St. Joseph. 

The Northwestern part of the island includes Chaguramas and Macqaripe Bay, a beautiful U-shaped bay that is unfortunately being renovated right now.  Each picture below shows two of the different sides of the bay.  One of the pictures (the one with the coconut tree) includes Bennie, the man we all have to thank for taking me all over the island.


Bennie teaches at UWI in Sociology.  He calls me “Trini Boy” now because he thinks that I have acclimated well to the country (thanks to his help, for sure!).
Well, that’s all for now, folks.  I still miss home and my family and friends, but as you have seen this has been an unforgettable experience.  Trini Boy will provide another update before too long.  Go Spurs!

Blog Entry # 2
February 4, 2009
I have now been in Trinidad almost 3 weeks, and I am over the culture shock and settling in better. I still miss home, though!  
I met my classes for the first time.  My undergraduate criminology class has about 110 students in it, and since it meets from 5-7pm I have a lot of non-traditional students who clearly just came from work at offices, as nurses, and so on.  I would say that at least 70% of the class consists of female students, which I heard was typical in this country.  My graduate course in crime and public policy has around 15 students, and includes school teachers, police officers, a corrections officer, and others who are just trying to get a masters or PhD. One student is a police officer from St. Lucia who is hoping to get his PhD here.  They both seem like great groups of students, and I can tell it will be a rewarding experience to teach them.
My friend Bennie and I went on another adventure.  We drove to the far Northeast corner of the island to Toco, which has Toco Beach and Galera Point.  Toco Beach has many coconut trees, some of which must be about 70-80 feet high. The ocean out here is pretty rough, and the sand has many washed up bits of coral on it.  Here is a picture of Toco Beach.



Galera Point is the most NE point of Trinidad, and this is where the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet.  Here there is a lighthouse built in the late 1800s. The red light of the tower is on for 6 seconds, and then off for 6 seconds.  Ships traveling through here have a tough time due to the very rough seas of the Atlantic merging with the smoother Caribbean Sea. 


Off a little trail is a huge rock you can walk on to view the ocean, and it is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The pictures here do not do it justice.  If you ever visit here, rent a car and make sure you see this place. 



I finally tried a staple food here called “doubles” at the same stand I tried Roti before (and then tried again, of course).  It involves two pieces of fried bread (hence the name “doubles”) covered with crushed and mostly liquefied garbanzo beans, a type of chutney, and a hot pepper sauce.  It can be messy, but it is usually manageable if you eat it like a taco.  Delicious!!! It is usually eaten for breakfast here, and many also eat it as a mid-day snack or even for dinner.  On weekends, the stand near my place has a very long line.  
On my next blog hopefully I will have some pictures of the UWI campus, which has beautiful trees on it.  


Blog Entry # 1
January 25, 2009  

My first week in Trinidad has come to an end. A lot has happened, but I will provide you with the basics.

First, I am living in a small townhouse just south of the University of the West Indies (UWI) campus.   Only the upstairs bedroom is air-conditioned (most all apartments and town houses here have window units or similar small AC units in bedrooms only) but with fans it is manageable in other parts of the dwelling.  I can easily walk to campus (I am only about two blocks away) and a grocery store is only 10 minutes away on foot.  I am not renting a car here, as it is very expensive, but the public transportation system is quite extensive and I will try to learn it here before too long.  There are cell phone companies here that offer fairly cheap rates for calling the United States and other locales, so I got myself a cell phone and use that to call home and around the island here.


While the Island is relatively small, it holds roughly 1.3 million people, and they love their cars just like we do.  Traffic is quite bad during rush hours, and a small incident can back up traffic for hours.   My first week here has been a bit overwhelming, and there has been a bit of culture shock, but I am already getting settled with the help of the wonderful people here and support from my wife and family back home.  


The food here is great.  West Indian style Roti is basically a burrito filled with curry, hot pepper, and meat or veggies.  The bread covering is a basic flour concoction that is thinner than tortillas in Texas.  I had Roti with goat meat this week. Yum! Roadside stands selling Roti and another local cuisine called “doubles,” which I haven’t tried yet, are everywhere, but one is wise to go where the lines are consistently long.   American products are in the stores and fast food has become quite common here.  Burger King, Subway, and Popeyes are prominent, but the most profitable fast food chain on the Island by far is KFC. 


At UWI I will be teaching an undergraduate course in criminology and a graduate course on crime and public policy.  I start teaching the undergraduate class this week and the graduate course next week.  I can’t wait to meet the students!


I have already met a number of the faculty and staff on the campus, and myself and two others will likely study the history of policing in Trinidad (how policing was conducted while under British colonization until now), current police-community relations, and views of community groups, NGOs, and the police on police reform efforts occurring right now in the country. 


People in Trinidad are very friendly, and strangers strike up conversations all of the time.  The people I work with at UWI are all very friendly as well.  One particular individual, Bennie Berkeley, has shown me around the country this past week before classes started.  We went to Port of Spain, the capital, briefly, and then on to Maracas Bay, one of the more beautiful areas of the country.  Here are two pictures I took while in Port of Spain.  Check out the slogan on the prisoner transport truck!


At Maracas Bay, you can eat “bake and shark,” a delicious sandwich made with fried black-fin shark inside a type of fried bread called “bake.”  Here is a picture that doesn’t do the sandwich justice, two other pictures of the scenic overlook prior to getting to the bay, and a picture taken on Maracas beach itself.  



Bennie also took me to the central and Southern areas of the Island (which is slightly smaller than Delaware).  In central Trinidad we went to a nature preserve called La Vega Estate, which has a wide variety of birds and trees.  Here is a picture from that place.  

In the South we went to Pitch Lake, which is the only place in the world where they mine pitch to make asphalt.  Any road made with asphalt comes from this lake, which you can walk on in the dry season (which is occurring now).  There is sulfur everywhere, and it smells just like it does in the summer when workers are building roads or filling potholes. The more pitch they mine, the more they can take later, and that is why they have never run out.   In the wet season you can swim in the lake (if you dare), and people who have insect bites or other ailments will swim or bathe in it.  Here is the tour guide walking us around the lake (if we didn’t go where she did, we might have fallen through like we were in a tar pit!).   

Look for another update in the next week or two.