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My first attempt at chapli kabobs gets the Instagram treatment. (Photo by Brett Konen)

Until recently I knew next to nothing about Afghanistan, except that we’ve been at war there for more than half my lifetime.

From what I saw in the news I envisioned dry, desolate terrain throughout, with militants popping out from rocky outcroppings just long enough to shoot at a nameless target.

I knew this wasn’t accurate, but I didn’t have an alternate vision to replace it with.

So, with a little time on my hands after graduation, I decided to build one.

I could have tackled Afghan history, or economy. But there’s something much more tangible about food.  Rather than trusting text to be true, we can see, smell, touch, taste the food in front of us. It’s a primary source in the study of a culture we can’t absorb firsthand.

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Madhukar Chebrolum, of Redmond, swings at a pitch with his cricket bat during practice for the NW-iFusionIT team Thursday at Woodinville’s Northshore Sports Complex. (Photo by Colin Diltz/Seattle Times)

Behind a complex of warehouses in Woodinville, in a fluorescent-lit sports complex laid with AstroTurf and strung with netting, there’s a batsman stepping up to the pitch.

I’m at late-night cricket practice for The Moose, the traveling team of The Microsoft Cricket Club. It’s 9:00 on a work night but nobody’s going home anytime soon — they’ve got a national tournament in Florida to prepare for.

“Make sure you’re behind the net,” warns Vishwa Gaddamanugu, the gum-chewing coach. I’m standing alongside the automated pitching machine listening to the rhythm of pop, crack, thump as Gaddamanugu feeds ball after yellow dimpled ball into the machine to meet Vik Kothari’s long paddle-shaped bat.

I’m glad I heeded the warning a few moments later when a ball rings off the metal edge of the cage an inch right of my ear.

It is football season and I’ve made a promise to my Seahawks-loving husband to “really try and get into football” this year.

Joaquin Uy explains how Filipino activists were gunned down at this Seattle street corner in 1981. (Photo by Ansel Herz)

On Saturday, the Filipino activist group AnakBayan Seattle will celebrate its tenth anniversary as the first overseas chapter of the democratic youth organization, which is based in the Philippines.

But the history of Filipinos fighting for dignity and respect in Seattle reaches back further to over a century ago. This history isn’t taught in schools, and there are few, if any, public monuments to its impact.

On a rainy November afternoon, Joaquin Uy, one of the founding members of AnakBayan Seattle, showed how the struggles of Filipino writers, poets, workers, and community organizers are woven into this city’s brick and concrete. The past came alive as Uy guided us on a historical tour from the International District, to a dilapidated downtown street corner, to the steps of King County Courthouse, and finally to a hilltop Queen Anne cemetery after dark. To learn this history, watch this video of the tour below.

Garcia (left) celebrates with fellow UW students Jessica Oscoy and Tania Santiago as Obama’s reelection is announced at a UW watch party. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/The University of Washington Daily)

Yuriana Garcia, 20, is an ambitious, soft-spoken Honors student majoring in Human Centered Design & Engineering at UW. She has a passion for bioengineering, and an impressive record working on research projects in genomics and microbiology.

She’s also an undocumented immigrant.

Until recently, her dreams of a PhD and a career using technological innovation to aid development in third world countries were tempered by the uncertain reality of life as an undocumented student.

President Obama’s re-election was met with jubilation by young undocumented immigrants like Garcia. It meant that his recently established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was here to stay – for another four years, at least.

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My second cousins John (center) and Nakon (right) show me family pictures with familiar faces during a reunion/introductions of sorts in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Dacia Saenz)

BANGKOK, Thailand– They were complete strangers, but it instantly felt like a family reunion.

One week before I departed for my first international reporting trip, my grandmother Cece and my great aunt Karen casually drop to me on Facebook that, oh by the way, I have relatives in Thailand.

Come again?

Now I’m from a long and proud line of auto factory workers, mechanics and nurses from Flint, Michigan. But other than trips to Canada, I was one of the few people in my family to travel and live outside the U.S. since our ancestors came through Ellis Island. Or at least I thought.

So to learn that I have Thai relatives was not only a major revelation, but one that profoundly altered how I view my family in the world.

But the facts were fuzzy at first. I wasn’t exactly clear how my little branch of the tree spanned to this corner of the world.

So I sent a Facebook message and a few days later I was off to meet these mysterious family characters in the bustling city of Bangkok.