Last week I had the chance to visit the northern plains of the Texas Panhandle in the frame of Fulbright’s Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF), allowing me to give a lecture on my current archaeological research in Cyprus, meet colleagues and students, and further the idea of cultural exchange at the core of the Fulbright Program.
Although the name of my host, Prof. Christopher Witmore (an Associate Professor in Archaeology and Classics at Texas Tech University – an over 32,000 student-strong institution sited in the middle of Texas’s windswept, tumbleweed-scattered northern plains) had been known to me for years through his prolific writings, our first (and, prior to the visit here reported, only) encounter took place in October 2014 in Metz, in the context of a workshop co-organized by a common friend, Dr. Laurent Olivier. Back then, of course, the possibility of sojourning in the US for a few months thanks to the Fulbright Program had not even crossed my mind (although the idea was slowly taking shape), and Chris and I (together with my UCL friend and colleague Dr. Quentin Letesson) left each other at the end of the workshop with memories of animated late-evening discussions in the lobby of the conference hotel, when it would have been arguably wiser to catch a few extra hours of sleep in anticipation of the next day’s busy program.
After a couple of months spent at the University of Texas at Austin, Chris and I got in touch again and, together with his colleague Prof. Jesse Long from Lubbock Christian University, Chris organized for me a lecturing visit at Texas Tech, with the generous financial support of Fulbright’s OLF.
In many ways, my visit to Lubbock will undoubtedly remain one of the highlights of my Fulbright experience in the US: from the incredible hospitality of the Witmore family, to visits of Lubbock’s cultural landmarks (the National Ranching Heritage Center and Lubbock Lake National Historic Landmark – one of Texas’s earliest archaeological sites occupied by hunter-gatherers almost 12,000 years ago) and meetings with Texas Tech’s archaeologists and anthropologists (faculty and students), without forgetting an interested and interesting audience for my lecture (“Revisiting a Late Bronze Age time capsule: first results from the 2014-2015 excavations at Pyla-Kokkinokremos [Cyprus]”), all ingredients were there to make my stay in the wild north a memorable one.
Perhaps my only regret in this experience is to have been short of time for a visit of the Buddy Holly Center. (I suspect that few people know that Lubbock was the home town of this rock and roll icon). The consolation was, however, to have enjoyed the best steak (Texas-size, i.e. almost too large for the plate) of my life in a nearby steakhouse. (Did I mention that Lubbock was also known for its award-winning meat-judging teams?). But, hey, (re-)visiting some of Lubbock’s best bits and friends is certainly a good enough reason to come back again in the coming months!
Considering the success of my experience in Lubbock, I think it is appropriate to conclude this brief post by a heartfelt thanks to individuals and institutions who made my stay there possible and highly enjoyable: Prof. Chris Witmore & family, Prof. Jesse Long, Prof. Hannah Friedman, Texas Tech archaeology graduate students (Kristine, Evan, Hali, Jackson), Texas Tech University (Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures, Program of Classics), Lubbock Christian University, the Archaeological Institute of America Lubbock Society and the Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund.
For those fellow Fulbrighters currently in the US – or future grantees – who may have overlooked this important opportunity for academic exchange, all information related to Fulbright’s OLF can be found at the following address: http://www.cies.org/program/outreach-lecturing-fund?qt-program=1#qt-program
2015-2016 Fulbright/WBI.World postdoctoral researcher
Department of Anthropology
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin TX, USA