Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When did you get back?

Time’s a funny thing.  


On one hand, it is a relentless and unwavering marker of sameness.  Every second lasts, by definition, precisely as long as the second before it.  Same goes for minutes, days, months.  We freak out when our watch batteries run down and start measuring seconds just a couple milliseconds too slowly.  Without all our clocks, radios, cell phones, trains, and planes subscribing to precisely the same definition of a second, the mechanisms and patterns of our lives would slowly unravel.  Our society praises timeliness and scorns tardiness.  We strive to ensure that our organizations, workplaces, and other enterprises function “like clockwork.”  In our day-to-day lives, no unit is measured so carefully as the second.


And yet.


We all know that every second is NOT the same.  The eight hours spent staring at a computer screen can pass in a flash while the two hours spent scaling a mountainside can stretch on for eternity.  Or, perhaps, for a different person, the opposite is the case.  Our subjective experience of the passing of time is as wildly varied as the objective measurement of time is obsessively fixed.  Our brains somehow accept this bizarre paradox, the idea that time can be both supremely unchanging in the world and infinitely flexible in our mind.


Why the pseudo-intellectual musings on the passage of time?  Why not write more about poop, fake marriages, communal taxis, and masked tree people?  The answer, hard as it is for me to admit in writing, is that my summer is over.  For the past nine weeks, I have journeyed through time and space with no rules or guidelines except those I’ve imposed on myself.  Days spent lazing around quiet village lanes in rural Senegal passed in the blink of an eye, while transport-heavy days featuring several communal taxis, markets, homestay negotiations, and agricultural rituals stretched on and on.  A morning spent breaking down camp at a 11,000 foot mountain pass near Kings Canyon might slowly glide by, while an afternoon spent waiting out the heat in Black Rock City could abruptly crash into evening in no time at all.



All this to say, I left work at 5 PM on July 3rd, and then time fell apart.  That ends tomorrow at 9 AM.  Tomorrow means a return to the imposition of deadlines, “paid time off,” lunch dates, weekend adventures, and the annoying crush of business-hour-only errands.  There will be clear markers of routine to guide me through the day, the week, and the month.  It will be fine.


I left on this journey with no particular goals, other than to break away from my comfortably busy routine and see what happened.  I was open to life-changing realizations, mind-bending cultural immersions, dramatic ideological showdowns, but I wasn’t going to be disappointed if I just saw a lot of pretty stuff and hung out with good people.  I had a lot of questions about myself, my career, my social connections, and my role in the world, but I was in no rush to find answers.  


Which is great, because I didn’t find many.  I did, however, learn an awful lot about myself, the meaning of community, and the incredible size of the world.


I drove with Mike to the John Muir Trail with a concrete goal: deliver food and goodies to my friends Hannah and Noble as they pass the midway point of their 250-mile trek.  I expected to share good times in the backcountry with my rugged buddies and to be impressed by the remote beauty of the Sierras.  I was not disappointed on either front.  The crystal waters of the alpine lakes near Selden Pass were certainly among the most stunning natural features I have ever witnessed.  But I was surprised by an additional feature of this particular trail: the dynamic community of thru-hikers.  From Pancakes (the 11-year-old homeschooler rushing through the trail with his slightly concerned mom) to Sherry and Gary (the friendly middle-aged couple from Fresno), my interactions with these bizarre characters from across the country struck me deeply, as did the force that drew them all to this particular secluded natural superhighway.  The natural support and camaraderie they shared on their parallel physical and spiritual journeys was touching to witness.  



My travels through West Africa with Juliana were certainly the intellectual peak of my journey.  Thanks to my faux-wife’s truly impressive mastery of Senegal’s dominant language and cultural practices (as well as a lot of good old fashioned stubbornness), we managed to insert ourselves into a dizzying series of villages across the less-traveled roads of southeastern and southwestern Senegal.  Tradition endures there.  We saw a lot of crazy things.  And then, like the good Brown students we are, we had to unpack them.  Stuffed into the gerry-rigged backseats of countless jam-packed communal cabs, we hotly debated topics such as the meaning of the incursion of technology into remote communities that had resisted “modernity” for hundreds of years, the confusing boundaries of hospitality in the face of extreme power imbalances, and the daunting maze of linguistic pitfalls facing anyone who tries to describe one culture in terms that make sense to their own.  I boarded my flight back to America shellshocked by the sheer quantity of individual cultures and traditions I had been allowed to witness in four short weeks in one tiny country.  The implications for considering the massive diversity of the entire planet are staggering.




And then I went to Burning Man.  Four days after landing at SFO, I drove out to the middle of the Nevada desert to build a home for 17 people with my roommate David and four friends I didn’t know all that well.  Up until the moment we arrived in Black Rock City, I wondered if this particular journey was a good idea.  I wondered whether Burning Man would be “too crazy” for me, if I would be wildly uncomfortable the whole time, stuck in the desert with a bunch of bizarre people I couldn’t connect with.  


I need not have worried.  I fell in love with Burning Man fast, and Camp Warp Zone became my family.  Coming home to camp was as exciting as going out on an adventure, knowing there would be friendly souls hanging out in the home I helped build, eager to hear what I’d been up to and share their own journeys.  And I had a lot to talk about.  



You see, my brain really loved Burning Man.  On one level, the urban studies geek in me was delighted by the brilliant, rational city plan that allowed 65,000 people to arrive and instantly orient themselves to everyone else.  I loved the concept of “neighborhood character” in a city that only exists one week a year.  “Oh yeah, the bars over on 7:30 are great,” folks would say, as though 7:30 Avenue, one of the radial spokes of the Burning Man city plan, didn’t just spring into existence days ago, miles away from the location of the “same” street last year.  On another plane, the social butterfly in me loved the open hearts and minds everyone brought to the Burn.  Anyone was fair game for a conversation, a compliment, or a hug, and everyone was deeply interesting.  


But perhaps most importantly, my brain loved the self-reflective elements of Burning Man.  Coming off a barrage of crazy experiences on the other side of the world, I relished the abundant opportunities for meditation and internal reflection, whether surrounded by friends in our wood-burning-stove-warmed HexaHome or by surreal interactive art in the far reaches of the Playa.  I learned a lot about my own mind.  Funny as it sounds, I found out that my brain takes care of me, that me and my subconscious are pretty much on the same page.  Which is an exceptionally comforting thing to realize.  Having not stopped moving in two months, I was finally able to take a step back and consider what it all meant.  Truth be told, I didn’t find a whole lot of answers.


But I think I understand the questions better now.  




---


When I started writing this post, I was hours away from my first day back at work.  As I finish writing a week and a half later, I’ve already finished off two hectic projects, and have two more ramping up.  The abrupt reintroduction to the daily grind reminded me that I forgot an important part of my multi-phased journey: all the bits in between.  The days I spent in transit, running errands around San Francisco on weekdays and grabbing meals with friends in DC and NYC and weekend camping in Shenandoah National Park.  It was these relatively ordinary days on which I ironically felt most free, watching other folks go about their daily rituals.  Tuesdays in San Francisco are amazing when you don’t have to go to work for ten hours!  I had forgotten that every day brings the opportunity for adventure and connection.  


I’ll try not to forget it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

CASAMANCE: Stage Directions for an Incomplete Play in Three Acts

The curtain rises on the Basse Casamance, the southwesternmost region of Senegal, infamous for its endless mangrove swamps, colorful fishing canoes, and brooding separatist movement.


Act I, Scene 4: Beach Cow


Juliana and Gene, two intrepid married semiotic urban linguistic anthropologists, enter stage left. Leaving their monstrous backpacks behind with their mild homestay family in the small, muddy transfer town of Oussouye, they are off to the coast for the day.  Their destination: Cap Skiring, a beach town popular with Europeans.  A jumble of signs point the way to hotels and cold beverages, but out heroes set out in the opposite direction, pressing on in their never-ending quest to avoid being mistaken for “tourists.”  Passing through a small beachfront fishing operation, they proceed farther up the coast, away from the dreaded tourists, and also away from...everything.  They soon find themselves more isolated than they intended.  Sure, they wanted their own space, but the lack of a single beach umbrella or jewlelry hawker is almost unsettling in this tourist town.  They walk for hours, convinced that the next bend in the coastline hides a small collection of cabanas, perhaps staffed by a local youth, who would compliment them on their impressive beach walking endurance and offer them bargain priced fruit juices in the shade.


Instead, the beach curves endlessly onward.  Herds of skinny cows wandering aimlessly through the sand are the travelers’ only company.  Perhaps paradise lies beyond the next curve.  Or the next.  Or the next...





Act II, Scene 2: The Other Toubab, Where Is She?


Summoning up an extra reserve of Wolof-enhanced charm, Juliana secures a two-night homestay in the Diola village of Buoyouye, connected to a kindly teacher/rice farmer/shovel carver by a hotel bartender who claimed to know the village’s chief.  Later the next day, Gene awakes from a nap in the middle of (yet another) thunderous downpour.  Gallantly grabbing his wife’s raincoat, he sets off into the tempest, down the dirt track towards a vaguely pre-arranged rendezvous point, Chez Annette, just beyond an imposing fromager tree.  But his beloved is no where to be found.  A midly helpful neighbor shouts out that she left with Christine...but to where?  


Thus begins a 2-hour long wild goose chase, as Gene is directed from one small concrete home to another, trekking back and forth between small residential compounds spread out along the worn dirt track that connects the village to the rest of the country.  Back and forth he trots through the dumping rain, interrogating villagers in his clumsy French.  Is she at the Cyber Cafe trailer donated by a Belgium NGO and managed by the lovely Christine (a different one)?   Is she at the teacher/farmer/carver’s house?  Our host’s sister’s house?  Her uncle’s?  No, no, no, and no.  Trekking back to the village from one of the more remote homes, Gene hitches a ride in a car that promptly gets stuck behind a sedan submerged in six inches of mud.  After assisting in the demuckimg of the second car, he continues on foot.  But now, the entire village is abuzz with news of the two separated lovers, and many others have joined the search, including Juliana herself.  Their dueling searches bear fruit simultaneously, as the two Toubabs collide outside the dance hall, an unintentional homage to the many collisions that occurred inside the hall the night before to a thumping Afro/Western soundtrack.  Reunited at last, Gene hands his wife her raincoat, just as the sun breaks through the impressively voluminous clouds, revealing a blue, blue sky hanging over the endless acres of mangroves and mango trees.




Act III, Scene 3: Boutique


A light drizzle falls on the village of Cachouane.  Juliana and Gene have taken cover under the overhang of the village’s only boutique, the small neighborhood stores that sell tiny packages of necessities such as candy, detergent, Nescafe, and dehydrated milk.  They share this bit of shelter with three men.  The dreadlocked young man to their left is quite chatty, but is perceptively suspicious of the veracity of their marriage.  The two satisfied men with few teeth to their right slowly inform us of the religious breakdown of the small town (almost all Muslim, surprising for a Diola village).  Conversation grinds to a halt.  The five new acquaintances stare off into the horizon together, watching as the rain falls softly into the winding inlet that will soon carry the two Americans away, pushing them forward into the next chapter of their journey.





Thursday, August 1, 2013

How to drive a sept-place

So far, I’ve spent a grand total of 28 hours traveling between Senegalese cities in the shared “bush taxis” known here as sept-place.  Each experience has been quite unique, as no one seems to have standardized the sept-place driving process.  


No one, until now that is.  Ladies and gentlemen, here it is: the world’s first comprehensive guide to becoming a sept-place driver.  


1. Obtain a 5-seater Peugeot station wagon from the 1980s.  


2. Remove all non-essential parts.  Non-essential parts include the odometer, door handles, dashboard, all casing, etc.


3. Add a third row of seats to the back of the car where a station wagon’s trunk would normally be.  This row should be raised to a height where the head of an average American male brushes the ceiling of the car.  With three passengers in this new back seat configuration, you can now “comfortably” fit seven passengers (hence sept-place) in your Peugeot.  


4. Head to a nearby gare routiere and loudly announce the destination of your car until you gather seven travelers with the same rough itinerary.  This is best done at 6 in the morning or earlier.  If you are in a rural area, you’ll need nine travelers.  Two will share the front passenger seat and four will squeeze into the middle row.  The order in which passengers are allowed to enter the car should be decided by an opaque procedure only loosely based on the order in which tickets are purchased.





5. Load up your much-reduced trunk space and roof rack with all baggage, chickens, motorcycles, furniture, and goats. Chickens should be packed tightly in wood crates with squirming beaks and necks sticking out at sad angles.  If any particular chicken makes too much noise, it should be slapped in the face. Goats should have their legs bound together and placed on the roof under a bicycle.




6. Drive to your friend’s house.  Pay him back for something by throwing bills out the window.  Drive to your other friend’s house.  Pick up some food.  Get gas, get on the highway.  


7. Obtain questionable insurance documents from the nearest small town, but only if you know you’ll be passing through a military checkpoint on your route.


8. At random intervals, pull to the side of the road, get out of the car, and engage in bizarre business transactions in small villages.  Do not explain your activities to your passengers under any circumstances.


9. You will likely encounter truly massive potholes along your route.  Wait until the last minute and then swerve violently to avoid these.  On many roads, there may be more pothole than pavement.  When this occurs, your best technique is to drive with half your car on the road and the other half in the dirt track along the side, so the entire car is tilted at a 10 degree angle.


10. Do not stop for food or bathroom breaks unless explicitly commanded to do so by a desperate passenger.


11. Upon reaching your destination city, unceremoniously dump your passengers in the city’s gare routiere, leaving them disoriented in the middle of a muddy crowded market full of sept-place drivers aggressively recruiting passengers for their own journeys.


12. If your car encounters mechanical difficulties, pull over to the side of the road and get out of the car.  It is imperative that you not explain anything to your passengers.  Get out your toolbox and bang on appropriate parts until the car can move in a forward direction once more.  If necessary, remove some seemingly essential parts, such as half an axle.  If a permanent fix is not available, head to the nearest main road, and bargain angrily with other passing transport vehicles to secure passage to the nearest town for your previous passengers.  Ideally, this alternate vehicle should already be filled to capacity, and include a massive writhing cow on the floor of the seating area.




13. Repeat steps 4 through 12.

Hugs from Ziguinchor!

Gene

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Masks Come from the Bush



July 24, 2013


Here is where I am now.  Here is where I had vicious, vicious diarrhea when I woke up this morning.  It’s a village of 528 people called Iwol, located at the end of a two kilometer path straight up a mountain from the nearest dirt road.  After communicating that I needed to go number 2, I was directed to a large pile of boulders on the outskirts of the village.  The views to the surrounding valleys from the mountainous toilettes are stunning.  We had forgotten to pick up any toilet paper, so I made do with some friendly looking leaves.  Then we made our goodbyes (“Ke do ba! A wa!” in Bedik) and hurried down the mountain and 7 km down the dirt road back to Bandefassi (where we had stayed the night before), a relatively cosmopolitan village that boasts a small campement offering such modern amenities as a toilet (no running water), electricity (at night for a few hours), and bread.  I’m hanging here for the night recuperating while the Cipro kicks in and Juliana visits another more remote village nearby.  Bachelor night away from the old ball and chain!





Back to Iwol, though, and the 18 most anthropologically significant hours of my life thus far.


With the minor additions of cell phones (reception is astonishly good), cement, and t-shirts advertising golf tournaments in Connecticut, life hasn’t changed much in Iwol in centuries.  Everyone lives in circular huts (15 feet in diameter maybe) with dogs, sheep, goats, and cows wandering throughout.  This village primarily grows peanuts, and we happened to be in town for seed-sowing time.  And that means, Sambubu.




What is Sambubu, you may ask?  Well, let’s back up a few steps.  If a Bedik man needs a lot of work done in his fields, he can activate a most creative system for mobilizing and motivating the village labor force to come to his aid.  First, he promises (and provides) ample food (maize mush with green pasty stuff dug into the center, served in a calabash and eaten with the hands) and booze (some crazy fermented wine substance) both during and after the cultivation.  He also contacts the village family responsible for managing the Sambubu (Masks), and pays them 5,000 CFA (~$10, a rather large sum) to request the presence of the Masks that day.  The young initiates of the village then guide the Mask in from “the bush,” where he/it chants in a growly voice while dancing behind the workers, exhorting them to work harder and getting up in the space of the slow workers, brushing his perfectly spheroid, tree-like, faceless “costume” up on them.   No photos available unfortunately...wasn't kosher to get up close to the Masks with the camera, so we'll see if any of the photos I took from a distance can be cleaned up.




I say “costume” in quotes because the Sambubu were emphatically denied to be human.  Also, it should be noted that the work being done was exclusively performed with hand tools, and yet the 50ish participants managed to plough and clear two rather large hillsides in an afternoon.  The event continues in the evening after dinner, when the Masks return to dance and drink (with the help of the initiates) with the villagers.




It was nuts.


Oh, and the language situation continues to get crazier.  Out here, French and Wolof are less common, as the local (and I mean LOCAL...you walk three kilometers down the road and they speak a different language) tribal languages are still dominant.  We’ve been staying with the Bedik, but passed through Pular villages on our way to Iwol, and there are Bassari nearby as well.  A lot more Toubab (White guy) gesturing required, although I’m trying my best to learn at least a few phrases in each culture we visit.  I.e. in Bedik, “Ah [pause pause pause] yeh” means “I’m fine.”  But say that to a guy in the village next door, and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy.



Time to say a tearful goodbye to my wife for the night and see if I can track down the Spanish NGO down the road...apparently they’re hosting a village soccer game soon.  


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Maangi fi!

Firing up the ol’ Gene Pool again to share a few musings on my West African travels thus far.  Will be heading out in a few hours with my faux wife and anthropological adventure buddy Juliana to a much more remote area of the country, so wanted to get an update out to those who requested one before internet gets questionable.  Kind of trippy to reread (well, skim) all these emotional posts from Nicaragua I wrote three years ago while traveling through another developing country that is in some ways very similar and in some ways a polar opposite...


Anyway.


I’m three weeks into my two month sabbatical/leave/self-exploratory-journey (shabbatical?), and have been having a rather disconnected but incredible series of experiences.  Straight off of a series of nutty last days at work, I headed off on a 5-day resupply mission with my buddy MIke to bring our friends Hannah and Noble some fresh goodies and fresh company as they made their way down the 220 miles of the wildly beautiful John Muir Trail.  Going from nonstop work-computer time to the most remote wilderness I’ve ever visited was jarring, to say the least, but I haven’t felt so free in ages.  On my way to Dakar, stopped off in DC for a series of too-short lunch dates with some of those hardworking DC folks and a “glamping” (glamour camping aka car camping for the uninitiated) trip in Shenandoah National Park (I got the party tent!).  Then NYC for a quick send-off from a few friends and my parents, and then...Dakar (via a 22-hour journey by way of Frankfurt and Lisbon).  Phew!  


Instead of a “blow-by-blow” (likely tedious), thought I’d break up some on my thoughts on Dakar thus far into a few themes.


Manga janga Wolof, tutti rekk (I’m learning Wolof, a little bit)


This is the first extended trip I’ve been on where I haven’t had passable language skills in the local language. Juliana could explain the complicated relationship between all the languages used in Senegal far better than me, so I won’t try.  Suffice it to say that, despite my best Rosetta Stone-assisted efforts to teach myself French the past few months, I’m basically still at the “greetings/where is the bathroom/thanks!” level with some additional (and usually chuckle-inducing) phrases bastardized from Spanish.  Which would be sort-of fine, except that (despite being the official language of the country), French isn’t the native language of anyone here, except tourists, expat NGO workers, and maybe some super rich folks.  Everyone else grew up speaking Wolof or one of the other 20-odd regional/tribal languages that get thrown around in the street.  


And Wolof is HARD - no sound-the-same-as-English words + nasalized consonents (ng, nd, mb...) + no standardized spelling + not much internet documentation makes for a rather steep learning curve.  Juliana’s near-fluency is impressive and totally essential...people open up so much more when you address them in their native tongue, rather than the forcibly-educated language of their past colonizer.  She’s been a great teacher, and now that I’ve moved slightly beyond the one exchange every tourist learns (nanga def/maangi fi - how are you, i’m fine/here [convenient combination for a blog title]), I get a lot more smiles (and slightly cheaper cab fares).  My crowning acheivement thus far is “ndax am nga dox” (is there any water).  Of course, my 10-phrase vocabulary will likely become obsolete as we head out tomorrow towards Kedougou and the aforementioned 20-other tribal languages...


Urbanism Stuff


Putting on my Urban Studies hat, Dakar is a fascinating city.  It’s come pretty far along, development-wise (lots of cell phones, computers, Western-style interiors, cosmetics, etc...), but you wouldn’t know it to look at the roads of the fairly well-off neighborhood I’m staying in with Juliana’s homestay family.  Garbage is everywhere, the streets are intermittently paved, donkeys share the road with cars, the “soccer field” is a pile of dirt.  Mid-sized expensive homes sit next to ruined empty lots or giant construction projects.


Also, the taxi situation is nuts.  It’s basically Lyft on steroids (for those Bay Area folks).  Literally every third vehicle on the road is a taxi, albeit a taxi with a good luck hair charm dangling off the back and a barely held-together body.  I’ve never waited more than 30 seconds for an available cab, even in Dakar’s sprawly/”suburban” neighborhoods.  Sounds like basically everyone with a decent job doesn’t bother with a personal car, and just cabs it around...wouldn’t you, if you could get directly where you wanted to go for cheap whenever you wanted?


Teranga (generosity/hospitality/Senegal’s claim to fame slogan)


Even with my overuse of the colonial overlord language, people here have been overwhelmingly friendly and open.  The feeling of community is pervasive, especially as it’s Ramadan, and everyone has an excuse/need to gather together in the streets every night and share food, drink, and laughter.  Juliana let me tag along when she visited some of her closest Senegalese friends for ndogu (break-fast) one night, and it was a rollicking seven-hour affair including massive plates of food shared between ten people, a marathon two-hour chanting session in an adjacent room, and distant “family” members popping in and out.  Plus, people are just...outside.  All the time.  Forget hanging out in the living room, bring the TV out to the curb, and chat with the dozens of people who pass by your house every minute.


Whoof, it’s way late...kissing my luxurious home stay goodbye (the self-directed mobile bidet thing is actually quite refreshing) in three hours and grabbing an early morning sete-place (seven seater car) across the country!


Much love, and I’ll post again when I can, inch allah (mandatory for ANY statement that references the future...I ain't gonna post if G-d doesn't will it).


Gene

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

For anyone else concerned about what the NC Supreme Court decision today voiding gay adoptions means for gay families in NC

NOTE: This is probably obvious, but this post isn't about Nicaragua.  I just haven't set up a non-travel blog yet.

--------------------


So I may have jumped the gun on declaring myself a one-mom child.  Here's what I've figured out so far:

[DISCLAIMER: I'm not a law expert by any means, so I could be totally off here.]

Sounds like my family will be fine as Alice and I were both second-parent-adopted in New York, where state adoption laws explicitly allow second-parent adoption.   "Full faith and credit" clause of the US Constitution means NC can't invalidate an NY adoption just because we live here now. But then again, exceptions have been carved out in the past for other controversial "contracts," like interracial marriages and gay marriages (i.e. the Defense of Marriage Act which allows states to ignore gay marriages if they want).  However, there's a recent federal appeals court decision that affirmed the fact that out-of-state gay adoptions are binding in any state: http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/06/06-6213.pdf

Looks like bad news for all the gay couples in durham who did their adoptions here though.  The whole issue hinges on the ability of a non-related person to directly adopt the child of another person without the latter relinquishing their parental rights, which the court decided is not possible under current NC law.  The Court found that crazy liberal Durham judges had no right to waive that state requirement, and thus the adoption is void.  Unclear whether this immediately applies to all second parent adoptions completed in Durham, but that would certainly seem to be implied.


To me, a mere liberal arts undergrad with no experience parsing Legalese, the court seems to go out of its way to show that their decision invalidating the adoption is solely based on a technical jurisdiction issue, not any sort of ill-will towards gay adoption as an idea.  In fact, it includes lots of lovely language about the healthy relationship between the child and his two moms, and reinstates joint custody.   It also has a helpful comparison of the three types of adoption in NC: direct, agency-assisted, and stepparent. Second parent adoption is a modification of the direct adoption procedure, where a birth mother allows a new parent (or set of two legally married  parents) to adopt her child.  In order for second parent adoptions to be granted again, state legislature would have to explicitly change direct adoption laws.  Until then, sounds like a trip to New York is your best bet to re-adopt your own children.  

Some key quotes from the case [essentially, one mom attempting to invalidate the adoption as a way of preserving sole custody]:

Happy Lesbians: "Plaintiff’s parenting skills were found to be 'very attentive, very loving, hands on and fun.' ... The child refers to plaintiff as “Mom” and to defendant as “Mommy.” [Aww...] ... As the trial court stated, the minor child 'shows lots of love and respect for both parties..."

The Jurisdiction Issue: "Because the General Assembly did not vest our courts with subject matter jurisdiction to create the type of adoption attempted here, we hold that the adoption decree at issue is void ab initio."

2nd Parent Adoption vs. State Regulations: "In her petition for adoption, plaintiff explained to the adoption court that she sought an adoption decree that would establish the legal relationship of parent and child with the minor child, but not sever that same relationship between defendant and the minor child.  As we have established, such relief does not exist under Chapter 48." 

The Uniformity Issue: "The record shows that this new form of judicially-created adoption may have been available only in Durham County and not available in the other counties of North Carolina.  If our uniform court system is to be preserved, a new form of adoption cannot be made available in some counties but not all.  This Court has the responsibility to ensure that the law is applied uniformly in all our counties." [But it would be fine if it was available across the state?]

Joint Custody Maintained: "Defendant explained to the adoption court that she 'intends and desires to co-parent with another adult who has agreed to adopt a child and share parental responsibilities.'  Thus, defendant shared parental responsibilities with plaintiff and, when occurring in the family unit defendant created without any expectation of termination, acted inconsistently with her paramount parental status." [Essentially, even if plaintiff was legally the only parent, she sure didn't act like one.]

What's sad about the case for me is that a gay woman is willing to invalidate adoptions for the entire state  just to try and take back sole custody of her son from her ex-partner.

Blargh.