Signing Off!

We all arrived safely at JFK Airport on Thursday evening. Some students were met by family and friends; others made the bus ride back to Newark, arriving at 1:30 AM. Happy parents and friends were there to greet them. It was cold by our standards!

All in all, a very successful and educational trip. I think!

Thanks to all that followed the blog – the total “views” count (as of today) is 3,163 – more that 100 views per day for the month. It was great fun to write.

Steve Hastings


Last Day on the Nature Island

Well, it is 7:00 am on Thursday, February 2 and “my bags are packed and I’m leaving on a jet plane….” – no wait, that is a song from my misguided youth! We leave for the airport at 11:30 AM; back in Newark at 1:00 AM tomorrow morning.

Last night, we had a wonderful Farewell Dinner at the hotel with several invited guests. The menu was chicken, fish, lasagna, pork mashed potatoes, vegetables and cake! The cuisine was wonderful as usual.

Farewell Dinner

Christy really, really liked the cake!

Christy and cake!

As we wind down, some thanks are in order here, so:

– Thanks to the students, who made this a great experience for Dr. Seraphin and I.

– Thanks to the parents who support their child’s educational endeavors where ever they take them.

– Thanks to the UD’s Institute for Global Studies for sponsoring this trip.

– Thanks to out hosts and guest lecturers here in Dominica.

– Thanks to the hotel staff – they have been terrific and I am sure are looking forward to some peace and quiet.

– Thanks to Skel, our “main man” for transportation.

– Thanks to my wife, Jeanne, and Dr. Seraphin’s wife, Pat, for “holding down the forts” at home.

The blogging has been great fun and I hope enjoyable for the readers. We are at 2955 “views” as of this morning, so some one is reading it! It is now featured on UDaily at:

In my personal opinion, the student in the picture on UDaily are not muddy enough to have had a real educational experience! And, why are they all “bundled up”.

Well, nothing else to do but take a cold water shower, eat breakfast and wait for the taxi!!

Steve Hastings


TV, Screw’s Spa and Exams!

Yesterday, Tuesday the 31st, was a much need day of rest after the hike on Monday. Mr. Martin, one of our guest lecturers, does a weekly TV show on the local station. He arranged for a camera man to come to the hotel and interview us regard our experiences in Dominica. I introduced the group and, then, he went to individual student for their reactions. We hope to get a copy of the final segment.

About 5:00 PM, we climbed into our van with driver Skel “one more time” for a short trip to Screw(‘s) Spa about 15 minutes away. Screw, himself, welcomed us (he lives in an apartment over the admission desk) and cut us a break on the admission fee – struggling college students and all! He was very appreciative of the business.

Screw - spa owner and operator.

The Spa is a series of pools fed with hot water from deep inside the ground. The water is tempered with cold water from a nearby stream. The result is a hot pool, a warm pool, a cool pool and a cold pool – take you pick. Some of us had some pretty sore muscles and opted for the hot one.

The Spa

The hot pool.

Afterwards, the group returned to the hotel, grabbed some dinner and went into study mode until late into the night.

This morning, Wednesday, February 1, Dr. Seraphin and I are administering exams for both our courses. It poured rain all night and is continuing to rain tonight. This is the first significant rain we have had all month in Roseau. The hotel staff prepared “bakes” (my favorite and banana bread (the students’ favorite) to fortify them for the day. This afternoon, will be last minute errands and packing for the return trip tomorrow.

FREC 150 Exam in progress.

Tonight is our Farewell Dinner at the hotel.

As a follow-up to the Carnival Parade post, one of our students, Seth, has posted a You Tube Video of the parade at:

Enjoy! Steve Hastings

Birthdays and The Hike to Boiling Lake

On Sunday, the 29th we celebrated the January Birthdays of Sarah, Kaspar and Dr. Hastings, with cake and ice cream after dinner. We thought these were the only birthdays in the month, but later learned differently – read on!

On Monday, the 30th, we were up early leaving the hotel at 7:15 for a short drive to the Village of Laudat. This is the starting point of the 8 mile (in and out) of the hike to the Boiling Lake. Many consider this hike the most difficult in the Caribbean! According the the topo map in my guide book, you climb to 2000 feet, go down 500 feet, up 200, down 200, up 400, and, then, down 3000 feet to the Lake. In case you lost count, that is a lot of up and down feet – trust me. We did one stair climb of 105 steps (loosely defined) up – this was not the longest! The guide book say to allow 6 – 8 hours. We took 7.5 hours. Not a bad little work out for the first day of your 63 year!

Dan relates the day this way:

“Today was the hike we all had anticipated with fear since the beginning of the trip.  The Boiling Lake hike, an 8 hour trip through the jungles and over mountains to the world’s second largest boiling lake; however, I think most would agree, climbing Morne Diablotin was much more challenging. We woke up at 6:30 am for breakfast at the hotel and, then, loaded into our vans and made our way to the trails start in Laudat.  We had the same guide for this trip as we did on Morne Diablotin, Peter.  This hike was very similar to many others we have taken over the past month.

Feeling "perky" at the beginning of the hike

The path winded up and down through jungle terrain and over rivers.  My first memorable stop spot was on top of a mountain that had an area cleared where we all caught our breath and took several pictures. 

On the trail!

As we continued along the path it became more narrow and along a cliff side; as we rounded a corner the Valley of Desolation came into view.  The site was breath taking. 

Valley of Desolation

The normally green valley sides turned to a reddish rock color almost like a meteoroid had crashed and at the bottom of the valley was sulfur deposits with huge gust of steam blowing up from them.  As we made our way down a river bed into the valley we saw streams of boiling water with an over powering smell of rotten eggs.  We took time to explore the area, and I remember finding streams that ran black.  The guide said it was from volcanic deposits that were deep underground.

Once out of the valley, we followed the trail along a path that ran parallel to a sequence of natural hot tubs.  We hiked for about another hour, climbing up river beds and crossing over more sulfur deposits before we finally arrived at the Boiling Lake. 

The lake is hard to describe.  It was nearly 30 feet below our vantage point and the water had a weird clear yet murky color to it.  The cold air hitting the lake created large plumes of steam and made the lake hard to see in its entirety.  Then suddenly a large gust of wind blew through and the lake became clear.  What we could see was one huge boiling spot int the middle of the lake that was truly amazing to see.  We ate lunch before starting back.

Boiling Lake (Photo by Haley C.)

Boiling Lake (Photo by Haley C.)

Another UD success!

The trip to the lake took us nearly 3 hours total.  The trip back was the same as the way to the lake; however, the rain started and we began to get the true experience of a rain forest.  Soaking wet we walked for three hours stopping along the way for breaks.  We also stopped at a fresh water spring where others and myself took the chance to guzzle down some cold fresh spring water.  Once back at the begging of the trail, our guide pointed out the entrance to a gorge.  This gorge was the Ti Tou Gorge and we swam through it. 

Titou Gorge - you swim in!

The walls on each side were at least 30 feet high.  This gorge alone may have been as interesting and as fun as the whole hike.  We took several more pictures, with a water proof camera of course, and took the opportunity to jump off rock formations into the deep clear fresh water.  We made it back to out hotel around 4:30 pm and had dinner around 8 pm.”

After dinner, the hotel staff surprised Dr. Seraphin and us with a birthday cake and a bottle of champagne compliments of his “wifey”. Dr. Seraphin had not let on to the group that January 30th was his birthday! We were born in the same year, one day apart! What are the chances?

Dr. Seraphin celebrates. (Photo by Mike B.)

I know everyone slept well last night!The last 3 days will include some last minute shopping, a filming session by a local TV crew and final exams on Wednesday!!

Steve Hastings

Carnival Parade

Today is Sunday, January 29th – my 62nd Birthday! I have arranged for cake and ice cream after dinner (at the hotel) tonight to celebrate the the January birthdays of 2 students and my self.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Sundays are quiet here – very few stores or restaurants are open. The exceptions are Pizza Hut and the Chinese restaurants, so they have been the “go to” places for Sunday night dinners. I rather like the “day of rest”.

Students are either studying for finals on Wednesday or working on their papers for class.

Yesterday, Saturday the 28th, was a free day until 3:00 PM. Student shopped or “worked on their tans” (with an occasional swim) at a public dock they have discovered. At 3:00 PM, we all reconvened at the hotel for the parade celebrating the opening of Carnival in Dominica. Carnival does not actually start until February 22 at 4:00 AM (to be precise), but the parade on the last Sunday in January is a preview. Carnival is a week(s) long celebration to commemorate the freeing of the slaves in Dominica.

We were fortunate in that the parade route went right in front of the hotel, so w had “ring side” seats from our balconies.Think of this parade as the Mummers Parade, the Newark Halloween Parade and Mardi Gras all “wrapped in to one”. For more that 2 hours, Sinsay dancers, bands, musicians, floats, and beauty queens passed by the hotel. At the end, any one can join the parade and several hundred locals did!

I have included a few pictures to give you the flavor of the parade. I have some video, but have not mastered how to post them yet. One of the students is working on a You Tube video!

Sinsay Dancers

Beauty Queens

I joined in!

And, the students joined in!

I was exhausted just watching the parade – several of us hit the Chinese restaurant next door for dinner and turned in early.

Tomorrow is our final and longest hike to Boiling Lake, the Valley of Desolation and Titou Gorge (another filming site for Pirates of the Caribbean). The hike is 3 hour one way with a two (not one, but two) climbs to 3000 feet. So…….. if I do not post again, you will know I did not make it!

Steve Hastings

Emerald Pool and Carib Territory

I am a day or so behind, so will try to catch up this weekend.

Thursday, we were out all day on a variety of activities (see description below). The day included a hike (of course) on the Waitukubuli Trail  and dip in the Emerald Pool, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Dominica. From there we traveled to the Carib Reserve (Territory) on the east side of the island for an informative tour, some breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and a visit to a model Carib Village.

The Waitukubuli National Trail runs from one end of Dominica to the other (north-south) covering 115 miles. It is divided into 14 segments for shorter hikes. Two weeks is the recommended time to do the entire trail. My limited experience tells me there is very few flat portions – you are either going up or down!

Drew relates the day as follows:

“Thursday was a busy day, with three different activities planned. First, we hiked a relatively easy portion of the Waitukubuli Trail, which took us about two hours through the forest and led us to the Emerald Pool. 

Trail Marker for those hiking in.

The Emerald Pool was aesthetically pleasing with its bright blue water tucked back into the forest, but because it is one of the main tourist (note: they drive in and walk ten minutes – we came over land for two hours) attractions on the island there were many people visiting from the cruise ship in port.

The falls at the Emerald Pool.

After Emerald Pool, we headed to the Carib Territory, the 3500 acres reserve where the indigenous people, the Kalinago People, live. We were given a tour by one of the Kalinago people who led us down a lava flow to the Atlantic Ocean, which the Kalinago people claimed was a snake that influenced the formation of the island. The views of the Atlantic Ocean from this part of the island are spectacular! The Kalinago are known for their crafts such as weaving, so we made a trip to a model village where we could see the process being done and had a chance to purchase souvenirs.”

Kalinago child at play.

Looking south on the West Coast - Martinique is just visible on the left.

Catching our Breath!

The Carib woven crafts are beautiful!

At the end of the day, we returned to the hotel – once again, we were tired but filled with the beauty and cultural history of this nation.

Steve Hastings

Dominica State College and Cultural Showcase

The last two days have been full of activities. Wednesday, January 25, entailed a guest lecturer for all the students, an afternoon of hospitality at Dominica State College (DSC), and a Cultural Show by the Dominican Cultural Agency.

Mike describes the day this way:

“Dr. Shillingford was kind enough to join us this morning for our second guest lecture from him this week. He discussed Dominican history, climate, geography, ecology and more. I was very impressed with his broad knowledge base – he is an expert on much more than just banana pathology! With a cruise ship docked today, several of us decided to take a quick dip by the bustling Roseau waterfront before we all headed up to DSC. 

 DSC enrolls roughly 1400 students, many who are studying hospitality and tourism.  In a campus classroom, we had a brief group conversation with the students. They took a particular liking to Dr. Seraphin’s humor this afternoon, however I’m not convinced he was able to persuade everyone in the classroom to appreciate mathematics as much as he does. We proceeded to tour the small hilly campus with students as guides.  I’m not sure how much work I’d get done on a campus overlooking Roseau and the sunny Caribbean Sea, but the students seemed very knowledgeable and many confidently shared specific career goals for when they complete their work at the 2-year college.

Dr. Seraphin "advocates" math!

The campus "view".

Before parting ways with the college students, we all collectively made a paint mural of our handprints on the outside of one of the classroom buildings.

Hand Painting!

UD / DSC "Wall of Cooperation"

This evening we toured Old Mill Cultural Centre in Canefield, just north of the capital and only about 15 minutes from our hotel.  The centre is on a former sugar plantation that was established in 1774.  With changing demand for various crops over the centuries, the plant also processed coffee, cocoa, lime juice (and citrate), coconut oil and bay oil.  After touring the museum, we were provided an excellent dinner and treated to a spectacle in Dominican culture.  We were all tremendously impressed and entertained by the traditional folk dancing and tribe music.  We even got to see a performance by Tasha P, Dominica’s reigning Calypso Champion.  Everyone at Old Mill was very happy to have our Univeristy of Delaware crowd in the audience and we celebrated the conclusion of the show by dancing and getting pictures with many of the performers, particularly those in costume.  This was certainly one of the most pleasant and exciting nights we’ve had all trip.”

Jing Ping Band

Carib (Native People) Dancers

Dominican Folk Dancers

Dr. Hastings (left) and a Sensay Dancer

Overall, Wednesday the 25th, will go down as one of the busiest and best days of the month!

Steve Hastings