Since receiving the highly appreciated and greatly needed support from the O’Brien Foundation in 1995, I haven't been keeping still much. At that time I was a post-graduate student in Eastern European studies. It was right after the fall of the Soviet Union, a very exciting time. During my O'Brien interview, I remember saying something like: "It's not about what my studies can bring to New Brunswick, it's more about what New Brunswick can bring to that region of the world." So, following this line of thinking, I moved to Eastern Europe in 1997, to Latvia, and stayed there until... 2008.
I didn’t complete my PhD from the University of Toronto. Instead, I plunged fully and deeply into the post-Soviet society of Eastern Europe, and decided to become a participant in the growth and reforms, instead of just an observer. Since at the time everything in that society was extremely fluid, I ended up working many different jobs, often 2 or 3 at once. I was a high-school teacher, of French, English, Geography and History, for 4 years. I was a defense consultant for a while, hired by the Canadian Ministry of Defense to assist Latvia's effort at NATO integration. I did some radio reporting for Radio Free Europe. I was hired by the US Embassy in Latvia to run their higher-education programs, the equivalent of a Fulbright Commission, something I did for 8 years. I created and led a foundation, a bit like the O'Brien Foundation, that did fund-raising and provided scholarships to students from Latvia studying abroad. During that time I was also one of the founders and the first chairman of the first ever Latvian National LGBT Association. Then finally I was hired by the Canadian Embassy to the Baltic States to be the Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy Officer for Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. But in 2008, my spouse (who is American) and I, felt the need to return to North America, to return to roots and family. So we moved to Washington DC.
Now back in North America, all of my European experience counted for nothing on the US job market, especially as the economy collapsed, and I was a Canadian without a Green Card. So I returned to university, and got a new degree. This time it was a degree in photography, from Boston University (Washington DC Campus). A whole new, unexpected chapter of my life started.