Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Last Week in Arivaca

This is my last week in Arivaca. Next Sunday I will be flying to California for a while and then I will be leaving the US again for an extended period of time. It may be several years before I have a chance to visit Arivaca again. I will miss Arivaca, but it is time for me to move on. After three years of applying for hundreds of academic positions I have finally landed a post as an associate professor.

I came here almost two years ago with almost no possessions and very few expectations. At that time I had no idea when I would be leaving. I found myself in a unique community in the middle of the Sonoran Desert on the very edge of the US. I believe God sent me here for a reason. At first I had no idea what tasks I needed to accomplish or what lessons I needed to learn before I could leave here. All I knew is that when I finished what I needed to do in Arivaca that God would send me elsewhere. I have now reached that point.

Although I am probably not aware of all my accomplishments here. I think two stand out. First, I finished writing my first non-academic book, Catherine´s Grandchildren: A Short History of the Russian-Germans under Soviet Rule. A task made possible by the very helpful and friendly librarians of Arivaca. They managed to get me a wide variety of obscure sources in English, Russian and German through the magic of inter library loan. Their ability to get me books from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University libraries compensated for my lack of access to any research libraries.

Second, I managed to organize and host an international academic conference with absolutely no backing or funding. This was not an easy task. It was extremely difficult to get anybody to come out to Arivaca. Not even people from Southern Arizona could be enticed to actually show up. Despite having already sent in their abstracts the entire contingent of people from the University of Arizona dropped out without any justification less than two months before the conference. These people are on my permanent black list. Nevertheless I did end up with four speakers and myself. About thirty five people showed up from town to listen and ask questions. All the presentations and question sessions went very well. Given that there was a very real chance up until the last few days before the conference that I would be the only speaker to show up, I think it went pretty well.

I will now be leaving Arivaca with almost no material possessions. But, I have a lot more experience and knowledge than I did two years ago. I have had the privilege of living in a community unlike any other I have encountered. Here people still love their neighbors. They wave to you when you pass them on the road. If you are walking they will stop and give you a ride. They raise money for those here in need of medical care beyond their financial means. They organize frequent events with lots of very good home cooked food. Here on the frontier I found the last remains of an older more communitarian America. I am leaving here with love and peace in my heart.

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