Tag Archives: travel

2015: Postdocs, New Jobs, Publications, and a Whole Lot of Travel

I’ve come to think that it’s mostly graduate students & professors who have time and headspace to blog. Postdocs? We mostly just hustle. Words erupt from my fingers, thousands, thousands of words all over the keyboard and into papers and grants and emails and I don’t really feel like I own any of the words anymore. They’re all words for other people. I posted on Savage Minds the other day and I remembered the luxury of my own words, arranged in a way that pleases me. I’d like to do that more often.

Scotland was real purty.

Scotland was real purty.

So what does a postdoc hustle entail, if there is no time for blogging? In 2015 I travelled to Seattle, Colorado, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Qatar, Oman, San Francisco, Greece, Australia, New York, Scotland, and Germany.  I gave one keynote, three invited lectures, organized a conference, organized two sessions, chaired other two sessions, and presented eight papers. I published four articles and have five more in press. I got three postdocs and turned down two of them. Oh and we moved house with two days notice.

After my dream-like EUROTAST Marie Curie came to a close, I started up a slightly strange dual position at the University of York, a Centre for Digital Heritage postdoc and teaching, and that’s where I am now.

So what has all that gotten me? It’s hard to tell. My CV is hell on wheels, I feel pretty good about that. I’m tied down with teaching these days, but that’s okay. The students at York are great, the classes are small, and you feel like you can make a significant impact with teaching. I’d like to cultivate a bit more quality with my academic writing, aim higher with more polished publications. After attending all of the conferences last year (SAA, CAA, EAA, SHA, TAG-NYC, I get tired just thinking about it) I’m attending none this year. I’m spending one day a week getting together a Pretty Big Grant for my avatars project, saying “no” to a lot of stuff (sorry, I feel bad) and trying to keep my original goal for archaeology in mind: doing great research with people I like and respect. That, and learning how to use Unity. dammit.

But no lectureship/professorship. Yet. I’ve been assured that I don’t want one, but I’m stubborn. We’ll see what 2016 brings. #lifegoals, right?

Colleen in Oz (Kinda)

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Are you coming back?

In 2012 when I was writing my dissertation I would post a very small part of an ongoing pulp fiction series each time I’d finish a chapter. I’d fight in space, ride a horse in the Wild West, you get the idea. So when I finished the whole thing, I imaged that I’d finally met the Wizard. The Wizard of Oz.

So I finally went. To Oz, that is. The last few months (make that years, really) I’ve been traveling a lot. The esteemed James Flexner and I (of previous Kalaupapa fame) applied for a visitor’s grant from Australia National University for me to give a couple of seminars and come rub brains with archaeologists down under.

I ended up giving two talks, Critical making, creativity and play for disruptive heritage practice and Archaeology, Augmented Reality, and Avatars, two of my favorite research topics at the moment, met several people in the department, and was generally impressed by the state of things academic. I didn’t really have a lot of time to dwell on the fact that I was in Australia—I have been buried by deadlines for just as long as I’ve been traveling. At that point I was working on an upcoming publication on difficult heritage online, the Introduction to Critical Blogging in Archaeology, and the processing the big Genetics/Heritage conference in Liverpool that I had organized with EUROTAST.

This is where I was, 99% of the time.

This is where I was 99% of the time.

So I didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing. I was able to check out the requisite koalas and kangaroos, and went on a lot of long runs up and down hills in Canberra. It was Fall (in May) so the leaves were turning yellow and it was getting chilly. The architecture was very modern, and pretty much felt like America, except for all the massive birds.

I think that was the most disconcerting thing—the extremely large birds, just hanging out like pigeons. Cockatoos, parrots, massive, beautiful preening things, scooting around in parking lots and pestering people. So, America, but with big birds everywhere. Strangely, I was accused of not caring about being in Australia and not trying hard enough to experience it. Admittedly I was half dead from jet lag while I was there, and not on holiday. But I was constantly asked, “Are you coming back?” and I couldn’t provide an answer that satisfied anyone in the least.

I want one.

A photo posted by colleenmorgan (@colleenmorgan) on

Look, a zine machine!

Anyway, I like more improvisational travel these days. It’s a little miscellaneous, but serendipity can be a lot more fun than a brutal itinerary.

EUROTAST: A few photos from Ghana

A few photos from around Ghana: Elmina castle and Accra. Check out the rest of the set on Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/colleenmorgan/sets/72157643627864965/

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Fuzzy France, Crisp Yorkshire, and Murky Italy: A Photography Update

I’ve been trying to take photographs again, and not just the snappy-snap iPhone photos that are uploaded to Instagram, that I treasure for their quick and easy conversational imagery.

I sometimes wish that my thesis had been about hands in Assyrian art.

A photo posted by colleenmorgan (@colleenmorgan) on

Dan and I brought a 1930s £5 medium format camera with us to France over the summer and had a lot of fun finding film, setting up shots, and generally taking the time to play with the analog format. It was great, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but I may take a roll of test shots first, as these were the atmospheric, but not completely desirable results:

So I’ve been trying to haul the Nikon D200 around with me, both on walks in Yorkshire:

And more recently in Padova/Padua:

and Venice:

For a 7-year-old (!!) camera, the D200 is still solid, though suffering from several dead pixels at this point. You can check for dead pixels in your own camera by taking a photo with the lens cap still on, or by noticing horrible bright spots when you take an otherwise lovely photo. They are non-fatal but annoying, and I should have had the D200 serviced years ago.

Reports that the DSLR is dead are vastly overstated, though I could concede that the iPhone is the new DSLR while the DSLR is the new video camera. I was able to order equipment with my new (awesome) postdoc and I’ll be producing short films with this nifty piece of kit, pretty soon.

Yorkshire & the Ragged Ends of Travel

I was standing in the middle of a medieval street when it finally hit me–I’m going to be here for a little while. It was nighttime and cold, and I’m woefully unprepared for wintertime in Northern England. I am still living out of a suitcase, which is only half-full anyway, as I left most of my summery digging clothes back in Qatar. Two hoodies, a cheap scarf that I bought on Green Lanes in London wrapped so that you could only see my eyes, a pair of gloves with a hole in the thumb, and shoes so thin that I could feel the exact dimensions of the flagstones beneath my feet. And I was happy.

I had one of those moments that the full impact of two years spent ricocheting between continents came to rest on my shoulders. A wild reel of colors and flavors and faces, and a profound weariness. But there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with that kind of weariness, a reliance on your own endurance and self-preservation.

The street was unfamiliar, full of huddled medieval timber houses that lean over you, arching their eyebrows and trying to get in a word. I passed by a pub where Guy Fawkes was born, and a big, fuck-off cathedral, and isn’t this a little bit different than dusty ol’ Oklahoma? As I walked through the streets I was taking the usual inventory of useful shops and streets-I-should-remember, slowly getting used to the idea that this will become familiar and invisible in the months to come. The casual way the tea shop uses the Roman wall to prop up their signboard, soup advertised with all sincerity, the unselfconsciously tweedy old folks, the profound whiteness of this little Northern city will no longer deserve attention or comment.  The constant travel has only sped up the cycle of acclimation.

Earlier that day we had hired a removal service, which sounds very Repo Man-meets-the-mafia to me. All of my possessions were decanted from their storage unit and are trundling North toward a very tiny terraced house that I managed to lease on the same day. I’ll somehow cram all of my books and eventually my wayward husband into the place–he’s still off directing excavations in Qatar for the foreseeable. Still, I’m looking forward to doing a nice little bit of research while I’m at York, and they’ve been kind enough to furnish me an office in the stately King’s Manor, which King Henry VIII fussed around in at some point. Though I doubt he came to my office, which is next to the former kitchens.

Later I found out that the name of the little street that I stood on was Stonegate, but at that moment I was only aware that I was outside of a small bar with stiff drinks, and I shrugged off my introspection and went in out of the cold. To my delight they had Bulleit, which I ordered neat, with a cherry. Because not everything changes, and a sweet bourbon goes a long way to make a girl feel right at home.

English Countryside Interlude

“It is going to be bitter.”

There were two that looked acceptable, one still slightly auburn, but that could be overlooked. I leaned over the low stone wall and tugged the berries off the bramble. I took the reddish one and gave the other to Dan. We popped them into our mouths in unison, then both made faces and laughed.

It’s good to be back in the countryside–raincoats, wellies, huddling next to a wood-burning stove in August. The green-growingness, old brick, and ducks in the river Exe almost seem normal these days, almost go without remark.

I hopped the train yesterday out of hot and frenzied London after wading through a horrible mess at Oxford Circus (hsss, tourists…as if I’m not really one of them) frowning at loud talkers on the Quiet Carriage, towing my bright red suitcase through Paddington, which I almost don’t notice anymore, the iron work, the soaring arches, the huddled trains is a glass aquarium.

I’d like to live in London again someday; we’ll see what these unending job and grant applications bring. The countryside has a lot of quiet though–the hustle from living over Seven Sisters road was unending and the city always begged me to go down nobbly cobblestone alleyways and look in the shop windows at things I couldn’t afford.

There’s a leg of lamb from the neighbor to cook and Dan’s gone to pick vegetables in the rain. I’ll just leave you with Finsbury Park, one of my silly map drawings, my universe until yesterday.

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In 2013, I Circumnavigated the Earth

I was walking through the courtyard of King’s Manor, the exquisite old brick building that houses the York Archaeology department and I had one of those strangely self-aware moments. The courtyard is light fragmented–the morning-wet pebbles covering the ground reflected the white cut-out geometry of the sunshine. The buildings surrounding the courtyard have been cut up and re-built so many times that it made me smile at the jigsaw facade. While I was chatting to professors at the reception the night before, I would steal glances at it over my glass of wine; I ached to draw an elevation so that I could understand which bricked-in window was first, which truncated arch corresponded with a vanished doorway. I still didn’t have time though–I had to get to my fellowship grant presentation. Life, as has been typical lately, was on a rocket-sled, and the architectural contemplation would have to wait. I inhaled the brisk morning air and wondered if I was nervous. Not really.

York was at the end of a fairly long and restless run-around in the months after my thesis. After the third or fourth where on earth have you been? from friends, I thought I should probably summarize, rather than leave it at Instagram photos of various noodle dishes and check-ins at far-flung airports.

After we left Qatar at the end of February we went to Bali for a month to write. I was able to get a good amount of work done there, but it’s never enough. It was occasionally difficult to write when my computer would be threatening to over-heat and ants crawled in and out of my keyboard.

Bali was lovely, and I did manage to blog from there for a while, though our time there was blessedly unremarkable. We worked when we could, went to the beach for sunset, tooled around on a fantastic little motorscooter, and hung out with circus people. From Bali we went to Bangkok, then to Cambodia for Angkor Wat, then back to Thailand.

I have never been to Southeast Asia, and I’ve been telling people that Angkor Wat is my Petra. That is, while most people really want to see Petra (and I did, and it was certainly incredible), I have always wanted to see Angkor Wat, ever since the first grainy black and white photo of its fat bristle-towers beckoned me from my grandma’s encyclopedia in Oklahoma.

We spent a while on an island, Koh Rong, in a treehouse, where I read all of David Graeber’s Debt and inflicted passages of it on my husband and his sister. Great thunderstorms wracked the island during the night, and Dan got a terrible fever and the rain came in all over. Monsoon.

I ate everything I could see and hardly anything I knew the name for. Pineapple dipped in hot chili powder on the sleeper train. Inadvisable yet delicious seafood next to a mildly fetid lake. Bowls and bowls of soup, served out for less than a dollar. Everything-on-a-stick. Puffy dumplings in the Bangkok Chinatown. I considered each day that I didn’t have a mango a failure. And miraculously, I lost weight.

Japan reversed everything–everything was expensive but clean and I missed Thailand very much. Still, we went to all the things I should have gone to after studying Japanese for three years and specializing in East Asian archaeology as an undergraduate. The Jomon pots, the keyhole-shaped tombs (Kohun), the Yayoi mirrors and bells all made me melancholy, friends that I had to leave behind for the Middle East, for digital archaeology. I never really was able to dig into a regional speciality after that, so theory and method is what I specialize in now.

We crashed into Chicago, both horribly sick, but my darling Melissa took care of us and we stayed in her flat on the edge of Lake Michigan. Chicago TAG was a flash-bang, and then we headed to Texas to catch up with old, dear friends. It was a little sad as well, but I was happy to see Enchanted Rock in all its sunshiny pink glory, crazy with wildflowers and cacti.

As you can see with my previous post, I spoke at commencement, walked swathed in my darling friend Doris’ robes, and saw more of my nearest and dearest back in the Bay Area. Berkeley was being particularly Cali and gorgeous, though I couldn’t enjoy much of it as I was frantically packing all of my stuff to fit into 100 cubic feet. I figured out that shipping all of my stuff to England would actually be cheaper than keeping it in the US for storage, so it’s somewhere off the coast of Mexico right now, on a barge.

I’m in London now, and England for the duration. I’ll be writing grants and job applications and picking up some work. I have entertained a fantasy about being a London pedicab “driver” but more likely than not I’ll have my hands in the dirt again fairly soonish. After all, I don’t have The Knowledge.

And that’s where I’ve been and where I am. Where I will be is another question entirely.