My name is Colin and I will be one of the instructors for this program, along with Hannah and Rita.
I just got back to the US from Madagascar, where I instructed this summer. I have been working with Dragons in Indonesia for the last couple of seasons, and I am excited to be taking this big step with each of you travel to a new place, to figure out how to get our bearings, and to see some of the most unique nature and culture on Earth! In this post I will share a little bit about my background, and I look forward to reading your introduction yak posts and meeting in person in a few weeks.
I grew up in a rural village of about 400 people in southeastern Pennsylvania–from where I am writing this–and I started seeking travel opportunities as soon as I could convince my parents to let me go out exploring. After high school, I moved toward the big city (Philly) to study anthropology and peace and conflict studies at Haverford College. During my first semester, I was searching for creative outlets and got involved in a mural project with group of visiting artists. It was a fun project and since I really bonded with the artists, the professor who organized their visit helped me to apply for a fellowship from the college to spend my summer break working with the artists in Indonesia. I was awarded the fellowship and spent the summer in Jogja painting, living in a boarding house with local university students, studying the national language, trying as many new foods as possible, and falling in love with the country. While I kept finding chances to return to Indonesia, I also wanted to keep visiting new places. I studied abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, taking courses in environmental studies and critical theory. I took every chance I got to explore another corner of the South African landscape, and traveled with friends up through Namibia to see its stunning desert coasts.
After undergrad, between trips to Morocco and the Persian Gulf, I returned to Indonesia on a Fulbright fellowship to study mural arts and the production of public space as a guest researcher with the Center for History and Political Ethics at Sanata Dharma University. After completing the project, I moved to southern California to get a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Irvine. During grad school, I spent my summers doing preliminary research in Indonesia, and my project quickly shuffled to cultural and biosecurity issues facing the country’s growing kopi luwak industry. I now know way too much about kopi luwak, aka civet coffee, aka “cat poop” coffee, having spent years researching with kopi luwak producers across Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Sulawesi. I also learned an odd amount about civet biology, small carnivore conservation, and the history of the Indonesian coffee industry. Since filing my dissertation, “Feral Natures and Excremental Commodities: Purity, Scale, and the More-than-Human in Indonesia,” and getting my doctorate in December 2017, I had been managing a specialty coffeeshop in West LA while working on academic journal articles, getting back into reading novels, and growing my small collection of the plants of Madagascar and the Socotra archipelago (between Yemen and Somalia). On a whim, I joined Dragons and am not looking back!
I spend a lot of my time playing around with coffee and thinking about the relationship between flavor and the unique environments of production. I also spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between nature and culture. I’m a nature-lover, and there is arguably no better place to be captivated by plants and animals than in Indonesia. I’m so excited that you are each taking this leap with us, and I’m looking forward to traveling to see some incredible nature with you all this Fall! It has been an amazing privilege that I get to spend time and travel in Indonesia, and I can’t wait to share this experience with our group.
I leave for Vietnam on Wednesday, and I’ll be traveling there until the start of our program, but I will be checking the boards and my email regularly, so don’t be shy about posting any questions!