It has now been one year since I moved to the desert. The date is marked by the start of the monsoon rains. The region is again turning green with fast growing vegetation in the wake of the first substantial precipitation in 12 months. The toads can finally mate. Their loud croaking marks the start of a new cycle of life here. The renewal of life in the desert at this time seems a fitting marker to celebrate the anniversary of my presence here.
So I am taking this opportunity to assess my first year of living in the desert and to think about the upcoming next year. I must admit that I failed miserably at achieving the main goal I set for myself last year. For the second year in a row since receiving my doctorate I failed to get a job as a university lecturer. Both years only one institution even bothered to interview me. But, I am beginning to think that perhaps this is a case where I should be thankful to God for unanswered prayers. Two of the jobs I applied to in the last two years were at American University Beirut. There is no question that being unemployed and poor in Arivaca beats being killed by Israeli bombs in Lebanon. This is of course an extreme case. But, I think it might be an omen.
I have made good progress on all my other goals. My popular history of the Russian-Germans under Soviet rule, Catherine’s Grandchildren is almost finished. I should have a completed draft ready to send out to readers sometime this fall. I also completed a number of shorter pieces in the last year. These included one journal article, one book review and two book chapters in collected works. Not the most productive year true, but better than a lot of people manage with much better resources. Now that I will not be wasting my time applying to lectureships this upcoming year I expect to be able to be much more productive.
I have both expanded and deepened my intellectual horizons while living in the desert. I have read dozens of books on the history of Arizona, Mexico, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Tibet, Russia, Pakistan and Chechnya in the last year. I must say that the library system for Pima County is much better than I expected. The librarians at the Arivaca branch of the TPPL are absolutely fantastic. They are extremely competent, knowledgeable and polite.
Finally, I have accomplished a feat I was not initially sure was possible. I have conditioned myself to walk ten miles a day in 110 degrees over unpaved roads without difficulty. Now the walk seems easy. But, there was a time less than a year ago when I considered it a tiring task. It was just a matter of will power and repetition to make the trek routine.
During my second year of exile in the beauty of the desert I intend to continue to exercise my mind and body. I plan to finish writing Catherine’s Grandchildren. On 10 March 2007 I will be hosting the Conference on International Borders and Migration, otherwise known as the Big Idea. Finally, I remain as always dedicated to helping free of charge anybody who feels they can benefit from my knowledge and expertise. You won’t get a better deal anywhere else. I hope my second year in the desert is as good as my first one.