Two Decades, Two Continents. A Journey.

As I fill out my passport application on a sunny Bay Area weekend, I think back to the fifteen-year-old adventurer with her first, and only, passport picture (Азаматтығы/гражданство/nationality: Kazakhstan) taken for the first time in Uralsk in preparation for her travels. In May, 1997, this fifteen-year-old had seen the rolls of perforated paper tape but had yet to touch a computer keyboard. She was excited to see the world. She spent her school years learning two languages besides her own, quoting an encyclopedia, diving into mathematical formulas and graphs, and absorbing the contents of her home and town library because learning everything she could about the universe around her made her very happy.

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Making Change

A while back I spoke with a group of young men and women from San Francisco International High School as part of Changemakers project organized by their teachers. How I wish I had been given a chance to learn the same lessons at fifteen: that making change in our communities starts with someone unafraid to speak out. Our meeting was extraordinary not just because it happened in my lifetime, but because it took place at all.

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Five Things I Love About Bay Area

Sunshine. There’s so much sun and warmth to wake me up from Midwest winter hibernation, though the weather in Silicon Valley is refreshingly cool, all year around. I am still getting used to seeing sunlit sky every single day and not having to worry about winter clothes. Air. The air here makes me aware of each breath I take. It’s dry and cool, and invigorating. Nothing beats that fresh morning breeze from the lake, with the scent of pine and blossoms of the season.

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Love Without Borders

“Why can’t you just go to Russia?” an immigration officer asked, after I explained in detail that I would be in danger as a member of persecuted minority, if I were to be separated from my U.S. citizen partner of over a decade and deported back to Kazakhstan. In 2010, my experience at the USCIS offices in downtown Chicago was surreal. My wife was in the same room, but was not allowed to speak.

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Surviving Winter

Mandarin orange peel, cinnamon sticks, candle wax form a new candle. I am a firebug at heart, especially in December. Winter is not my favorite season. My childhood was spent far too close to Siberia, so I had enough snow to last me a lifetime. But there are ways to fight the cold. Ambient sounds of a fireplace, as well as spicy, roasted smells and tastes do bring imaginary warmth to alter the perception of the weather outside just enough.

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McDonough Voice has published the story of our fight against DOMA

Disputed DOMA provision struck down

Local couple feels impact of federal law

“MACOMB — Sveta Apodaca and her wife, Andi, had been at the forefront of fighting the Defense of Marriage Act for years, but on Wednesday, the Macomb resident said the couple could in a way finally breathe freely.”

Thank you to Jackie Smith for doing a wonderful job with the article.


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Growing Pains

Onward, Brave Gardener. As far as gardening goes, my thumbs completely lack even the subtlest shade of green. The only things that do survive and sprout against all odds are usually those that aren’t supposed to, like potatoes in the cupboard or carrots in the refrigerator. Once, Andi came home from a trip, to find the house plant replaced with a sprouting onion. It outlived the plant without any light or water, so it was only fair to give it a better chance.

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Discussion of DOMA at WIU

On Apr 25, noon at Western Illinois University Library and May 1, 5PM at WIU Quad Cities Campus, I will discuss the effect of DOMA on binational families and the struggles of the DOMA Project couples. From WIU Calendar: Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Location: Leslie F. Malpass Library, Room 180 Description: The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has affected the lives of thousands of U.S. citizens and ignited a civil rights battle that wound up in the Supreme Court last week.

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@ereit asked: What does belonging mean to you? My first impressions of America in 1997 were one of any traveler in a new world. After a long and exhausting journey across the ocean and past Customs, I breathed in the air, felt the ground at my feet, and looked around, taking in the surroundings. America was cleaner, louder, warmer than what I was used to. Brighter at night, with lower ceilings, far better roads, with fast food places smelling unpleasantly of melted, processed cheese.

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Freedom of Dreams

This artwork, Freedom of Dreams, was created sometime in 2004. I still remember how it came to be: I’ve laid out a stack of collected magazines on the floor of the first apartment Andi and I have just moved into together, and picked out the brightest pages in my collection. I was a Western Illinois University student, working on my Master’s degree in Computer Science. Andi and I were incredibly poor and immensely happy, together at last!

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