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Is Somebody Up There Keeping an Eye on the Cubs? (From the Archives)

(First printed in the Chicago Sun-Times October 3, 2003)

Is God a Cubs fan?

Arnold Kanter certainly seems to think so.

Every Yom Kippur for the last 20 years, Kanter, a 60-year-old, self-described “recovering lawyer” and Cubs season ticket holder, has stepped up to the microphone at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston between services to plead his case.

In 1999, he published his collected Yom Kippur musings in a slim paperback titled, Is God a Cubs Fan? (Its second edition, Is God Still a Cubs Fan?, was published last year.)

“It’s a question we’re continually exploring,” Kanter was telling me the other day. “If he’s a Cubs fan, he’s probably got a lot of explaining to do over the years.”

“Wrigley Field, it’s such a religious place to be. Where else do you get 40,000 people together rooting for someone they’re pretty sure is going to lose? That’s a real testament of faith.”

For Kanter, arguing about whether God is even a baseball fan is pretty much the same thing as arguing about whether God exists.

How can God not be a baseball fan? Of course God is, he says.

God, Kanter insists, is a season ticket holder at all 30 baseball clubs. National and American leagues.

God’s got great seats, too, come to think of it. And being omniscient, never misses a game.

But how does Kanter know that the Almighty prefers the Nort-siders to the Sout-siders, or any of the other venerable ballclubs?

Process of elimination.

Left field from the stands at Wrigley Field. Photo by karlnorling via Creative Commons/Flickr.
Left field from the stands at Wrigley Field. Photo by karlnorling via Creative Commons/Flickr.

1) God is not a Yankees fan. That’s just a given.

2) God would not be a fan of any team with a domed stadium. Blocks God’s view. So, sorry Seattle, Toronto, Montreal, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Houston and Milwaukee.

3) God wouldn’t be a fan of any team that offends Native Americans. Bye-bye Atlanta and Cleveland.

4) God wouldn’t root for any team that had artificial turf. Ever. The White Sox lose on this point. (Anyone remember the “Sox Sod” Astroturf at old Comiskey?) It also rules out Kansas City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

5) God clearly would not be a fan of a new team. If God’s a Diamondbacks or Devil Rays fan, then who did God cheer for before 1998?

Kanter has reasons to eliminate every team in Major League Baseball except for two: The Cubs and the Red Sox.

Spooky.

“Sometimes those two teams seem indistinguishable,” Kanter writes in Is God Still a Cubs Fan? “Both play in great old ballparks, neither has won a World Series in over 80 years, Cubs first baseman Leon Durham blew the 1984 pennant by letting a ground ball go through his legs and ex-Cubs first baseman Bill Buckner blew the World Series for the Red Sox with an error two years later.”

So which is it? Cubs or BoSox?

“We do what the ancients do,” Kanter says. “We look for a sign.”

Kanter says he’s seen signs at Wrigley before. Honest.

“When the Cubs put in lights at Wrigley, it was about the driest year Chicago ever had and the first night with the lights the game was rained out.”

Mmm. Yes. Biblical even.

But God’s not supposed to take sides, right? In wars or on the playing field.

Well, if the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures are true, God may love everybody, but God does have favorites.

Look at the Israelites. God’s chosen people. So why not God’s chosen team?

Actually, the biblical history of the Israelites has parallels with that of the Cubs. Or at the least, their fans.

Both wandered in the wilderness for a long time. Forty years for the Israelites. Ninety-five for the Cubs. But who’s counting.

Both were faithful and believed — for the most part — that eventually, God would lead them to the promised land. (Now, will Dusty Baker be a Moses or a Joshua?)

Both have been persecuted by their neighbors and had some less-than-effective leaders from time to time.

Chicago Cubs vs the St. Louis Cardinals, May 8, 2013, by NoNo Joe via Creative Commons/Flickr.
Chicago Cubs vs the St. Louis Cardinals, May 8, 2013, by NoNo Joe via Creative Commons/Flickr.

In Scripture, both Hebrew and Christian, God has a clear preference for the meek and downtrodden. Clearly, God likes underdogs.

For sure, God loves people of faith, and Cubs fans are nothing if not faithful. Quite literally.

The Bible tells us, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

That certainly describes the opening-day crowds at Wrigley. Even when the Cubbies are cruising in last place, what do the fans say? “Maybe next year.”

It may sound silly, even sacrilegious, to say God could enjoy baseball enough to have favorites. But why not? God is God, after all, and there is nothing too big — or too trivial — for the Creator.

In Christian tradition, there is something called common-grace theology which says, basically, that God takes pleasure in all of creation — including culture — and that all goodness is God’s goodness. Including good baseball.

That’s not to say that God doesn’t also equally enjoy Sumo wrestling, competitive yoga, Greco-Roman wrestling, surfing, bowling, synchronized swimming, or any other number of physical pursuits that can showcase the beauty of the human spirit.

And nothing says triumph of the human spirit like winning the World Series after being perennial losers for most of a century.

So, is God a Cubs fan?

Hey, hey! Holy cow!

Absolutely.

To order a copy of Kanter’s Is God Still a Cubs Fan? for $14.95, call the Jewish Reconstructionist congregation in Evanston, (847) 328-7678 or go to www.jrc-evan ston.org/publications.html.

Kondandani Potty-time Massacre

The first time we visited Kondanani was the afternoon following our successful adoption hearing in Blantyre. We dropped Vasco off at our host’s house to play Wii and XBox with the boys to his heart’s content, picked up a golden retriever puppy that the family was giving to orphanage and all piled into the SUV – with Rob and Francisco and their equipment – so that we could make it to the children’s village before the crew ran out of enough light to film.

We go there at tea time (5 p.m. every day Annie hosts a tea/coffee and sweets roundtable with her staff), visited for a bit, had some truly awesome Mzuzu coffee and then went to one of the children’s wards, beginning with the infants. Then on to the two-year olds and that’s where all hell broke loose.

It was potty time. More than a dozen toddlers were in an small room adjacent to their sleeping room with the amais. Each was seated on a tiny, brightly-colored plastic potty. As soon as they saw Rob and Francisco, one instigator seated under the sink, began to scream with terror. And then another started. And then another and another and another. Until almost all of them were crying and screaming and trying to pee.

My favorite were two brave little soldiers, one crying and one not, who kept scooting closer and closer to big scary Francisco as he filmed.

It was such a ridiculous sight it made us all laugh. All of us except for, of course, the two longsuffering amais who were left with weeping pee-ers on their hands.

I whipped out my iPhone toward the end just to capture a bit of the moment for posterity.

 

Kondanani Children’s Village: Shelter in the storm

 Kondanani Children’s Village is the most beautiful, best-run and nicest orphanage in all of Malawi. More than 150 children live there presently, on a campus of rolling rural land, huge gardens, lovely brick dormitories and learning centers and under the watchful care of the loving, fiercely protective Dutch lioness Annie and her conscientious staff. Kondanani takes in only infants and has committed to raising them until they are married. Not just 18. Not just through college or whatever. Until they are married. Like a regular African family. It’s an extraordinary place. An extraordinary home.

This is where Madonna found her daughter Chifundo “Mercy” James.

Mercy was in good hands there, but is in even better hands now in her forever family in America – amai Madonna, sister Lourdes, and brothers Rocco and David (who is also from Malawi, of course.) We spent many hours visiting Kondanani, about a 45 minute drive from Blantyre. Annie is amazing. The children are beautiful. The one to the left there is Grace.

Yeah. Grace. I know.

I’ll be writing more about Annie and Kondanani in the future but wanted to share some of the photographs I took on our last visit, the day before we returned to the United States. It was the only truly yucky rainy day we had in Malawi (the rainy season had just passed.) But Kondanani still was full of light and love.

As you can see …

This is the 3-4 year old wing…
These four boys made my heart melt.

And their outfits made me think of the Apostles (and Jesus himself) in the movie “Godspell.”
Preee-pare ye, the way of the Lord …

This one was named “Bertha,” like the Grateful Dead song.

Hard to Ask, Harder to Hear….

They day after the High Court approved Vasco’s adoption in Malawi, we went back out to visit with his extended family in Chileka, one of the poorest sections/districts of a really poor city in one of the poorest countries in the world. That’s where Vasco lived, on and off, for an undetermined period of time after his mother and father’s deaths and living on the streets.

The family tells one version of the truth about how their desperately sick, orphaned nephew ended up begging on the streets. Vasco has another. We read between the lines and have our own idea of what happened and it’s not pretty. It’s maddening. As his mother, it makes me want to thrash a few people. Some of them are in the video below.

This is some footage I shot on my iPhone (before AT&T turned it off, bastardos) while Rob Feldman (the co-producer of the documentary film being made, “Vasco’s Heart,” interviewed the family at length on camera while Francisco (we love him so) shot beautiful footage, much prettier than this version. But this was easier to upload and … well … you get the story.

The fact that Vasco lived through all of this with such an incredibly sweet spirit intact is part of the miracle of his life.

Seated between Rob and Vasco’s uncle, Mavuto, in the video is James Phiri, one of the many angels God dropped into our lives on our journey to becoming a family, was our luck-of-the-draw (if you believe in such things – I don’t) driver hired along with our rental SUV. James is a beautiful man of faith and, among many talents and blessings, he speaks Yao, which turns out to be the tribal language that the older members of Vasco’s extended family are most comfortable conversing in, rather than the national language, Chichewa, or English. He was our translator, guide, driver, protector and really became a member of our family through the month he was with us. He was unflappable, deeply cool – like Dusty Baker cool. We had a car accident one day and he was more concerned about the woman who blindsided us and how she’d be able to pay for her repairs than he was for the rental vehicle for which he was responsible. He got pulled over in a speed trap on another occasion and just laughed. This man is an angel. We consider him a Big Brother to Vasco and we miss him terribly. So grateful for this man’s grace and elegance and generosity of spirit.

An Open Letter to Madonna: Thank You, From One Mother to Another

2010-06-25-adoptiondaysuccess.jpgDear Madonna,

Thank you.

Earlier this week, after a month-long sojourn in Malawi, my family arrived home in California with our newly-adopted son, Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David Possley.

His adoption would not have been possible without you and the bold actions you took in Malawi last year when its High Court denied you the adoption of your precious daughter, Chifundo “Mercy” James.

You didn’t take no for an answer.

You didn’t buy their argument that allowing your adoption of Mercy would encourage human trafficking. You didn’t agree when they said Mercy would be fine at an orphanage and without a loving family from a foreign land.

When you appealed that myopic ruling and then won approval of Mercy’s adoption from the Malawi court of appeals, you effectively made case law that kicked open the door for other American families to adopt some of the 1 million children orphaned by HIV, AIDS and other diseases (including a grotesque indifference to the suffering of the most vulnerable among us).

Your actions paved the way for families to be created across thousands of miles, through forests of diplomatic red tape and seemingly unbridgeable cultural chasms.

My husband and I met Vasco in October 2007 while we were traveling in Africa on holiday. A few years earlier, we had made a donation to an organization in Blantyre that works with some of the 60,000 children who live on the streets of Malawi — the vast majority of them, as you are well aware, AIDS orphans.

We were on the ground in Malawi for about 48 hours and spent most of our first day visiting with a few dozen teenaged boys — “street kids,” in the parlance of Malawi — at a drop-in center in Limbe.

On our way back to the motel in Blantyre, our guide asked if we would mind making one more stop to visit a street kid that, in his words, was “just kind of special.”

We drove on the road to the airport to Blantyre’s rural Chileka district, clambered down a muddy embankment and saw a clutch of mud-and-waddle huts. Our guide yelled something and we heard a squeaky boy’s voice shout something back — “I’m coming!” in Chichewa, his native language.

2010-06-25-vasco.jpgOut came this little fellow Vasco — tiny, skinny — maybe 35 pounds soaking wet — with huge eyes and a smile that would split your heart in two. He was about eight years old but was the size of a five-year-old American child.

While we visited with Vasco, who had lived alone on the streets of Blantyre for months after his mother and father had died, he sat on my lap. When he pressed his bony back into my chest, his heart was beating so violently it was shaking his little body and moving mine. I took a good look at him and noticed that he was sweating and struggling to catch his breath even though he’d been sleeping when we arrived and not running or playing.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked.

“He has a hole in his heart,” we were told.

With the time we had left in Malawi, my husband and I tried to get him medical attention, but there was none to be had. When we left to continue our holiday in East Africa (which we had won in a raffle — no, really), we stopped to see Vasco one last time. We hugged him close, told him that we loved him, and then we climbed back into the van and headed to the airport.

As the plane took off and I looked down at the African city, I thought of the hundreds of times I’d taken off from American airports, and I knew that if Vasco were the poorest child in the U.S. — even a homeless orphan — he’d be in the hospital that night receiving the care he needed. I began to cry and then I began to wail, making a scene on the flight all the way back to Kenya.

My tears were fueled by righteous anger knowing that Vasco probably would die a sinfully early death because he was poor and African. That is the worst kind of injustice.

I felt impotent, helpless. Then I remembered something our family friend Bono had told me a few years earlier: “We can’t do everything, Cathleen, but what we can do we must do.”

I couldn’t fix his heart myself, but I could tell his story.

When we returned to Chicago, where we lived at the time, I told Vasco’s story in the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times, where I was a columnist. The piece ran on a Friday morning. By Saturday afternoon, three hospitals had offered to fix Vasco’s heart for free if we could just get him to Chicago.

2010-06-25-arrivingatohare.jpg

It took 18 months to get him to there, but on April 29, 2009, Vasco arrived in Chicago. Two weeks later, while we were in church on Mother’s Day (because God has a sense of occasion, apparently) he spiked a fever. The next day, doctors determined that he was suffering from malaria.

The infection, we learned, has a two-week incubation period. Vasco had had malaria twice before in Malawi and it nearly killed him. If he had spiked the fever before he left Blantyre, he would not have been able to travel and we doubt he’d be alive today.

As Vasco recuperated from malaria and a host of other parasites he’d brought with him from Malawi, surgery was pushed back for more than a month. He was staying with us in our home outside Chicago and during that time, we got to know Vasco better. We saw the amazing person that he is — incredibly bright and curious about the world, deeply intuitive and compassionate, soulful, grounded and so very funny.

We also learned more about what his life would be like once he returned to Malawi with his repaired heart.

That had always been the plan. Get him to Chicago, fix his heart, and send him home. It didn’t matter that we had fallen in love with him, or that he could really use a family, parents, consistent love and security. International adoption, we were told, was all but impossible.

2010-06-25-vascopostsurgery.jpgWe prayed for an answer, an alternative, an escape plan and we waited, filled with equal parts hope and terror.

Vasco underwent successful open-heart surgery on June 10, 2009 at Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, just outside Chicago.

Two days later, as he was about to be moved out of intensive care and into a regular hospital room, we heard the news that the Malawi High Court of Appeal had overturned the lower court decision and approved your adoption of Mercy.

Legal precedent! Case law! A miracle!

A door swung open and a way had been made for us to become a legal family. It was a mitzvah created by many human (and divine) hands, including yours.

Shortly after Vasco was released from the hospital, we moved to Laguna Beach, California and began the process of adopting him. First we became his legal guardians in Malawi, then came months of bureaucratic paperwork on both sides of the world. We had a home study done, got fingerprinted by the FBI, collected recommendations from friends, family, our pastor, our rabbi. You know the drill.

Meanwhile, Vasco absolutely flourished. He’s grown more than six inches and put on more than 30 pounds. He enrolled in school for the first time and excelled beyond anyone’s expectations, learning English and how to read in record time, playing soccer on the town’s championship team, learning to swim and ride a bike, to snow board, skate board and even to surf.

By early spring, everything was in place. We were just waiting for a court date in Malawi to make it legal.

Late last month, the three of us — Vasco, my husband and I — returned to Malawi for our adoption hearing. We prayed to God for favor and mercy and tried to not to panic.

Hearts in our throats, on June 1 we walked into the chambers of Judge John Chirwa at the High Court in Blantyre. The judge began reading his ruling and about half way through I began to cry tears of joy when Chirwa announced that he was legally bound by decision in the “Mercy James case” in making his ruling and, therefore, he approved our adoption.

Because of Mercy.

Because of you.

Vasco now has a forever family. I have a beautiful, healthy, happy son — my first and only child. We are blessed and grateful beyond words. To God and to you.

The blessing you helped create will not stop with us. We tell Vasco’s story to anyone who will listen, and we are creating a road map to guide other American families on their sacred journeys to adopt Malawian children who need them desperately.

From the bottom of this new mother’s heart, thank you.

For your generosity of heart and spirit, as well as your perseverance, bravery and chutzpah — just like the biblical Queen Esther whose name you’ve aptly taken as one of your own — thank you.

You have been a mighty vessel of chisomo — grace — in our lives. And in my heart, you will always be Vasco’s fairy godmother.

God bless you, Madonna.

Zikomo kwambiri, amai.

2010-06-25-vascobymaryhurlbut.jpg

Home!

Three days, three continents, nearly 30 hours in the air and 3 1/2 hours (inexplicably) waiting in the immigration holding pen at LAX, we arrived home late Tuesday in a stretch limo (sent by Uncle Veen who’s in Japan at the moment) accompanied by Uncle Dave (who met us at the arrivals gate at LAX – we’d told Vasco that as soon as he saw Uncle Dave, that meant he was an official U.S. citizen and so when he spotted Burchi in the crowd, he took off running at top speed and jumped into his uncle’s arms) and were greeted by most of closest friends in Laguna Beach who were standing in our driveway with flowers, balloons and champagne.

Maury and I have never been more surprised in our lives. The fact that Uncle Dave could keep that a secret for the whole ride home from LAX? Miraculous.

Inside the house were cards, notes, a gorgeous, fully blooming orchid from the Tacklinds and lots of food. Auntie Lisa had stocked the fridge with healthy favorites and Auntie Katie had made us a delicious big pan of chicken parmesan. Pastor Brad and Auntie Margy had shared Brad’s birthday cake with us (yum! had it for breakfast the next day) and Uncle Joel  had left three boxes of Rootbeer XS, our favorite. Aunt Sarah and cousin Cora gave Vasco a beautiful American flag, which will hang next to his Malawi flag in his bedroom. So thankful for the thoughtfulness of our dearest friends.

Among the crowd of our favorite people – including three of our pastors (we love you Clarke, Brad and JeffyJeff!!!) – was a very kind reporter from NBC news in Los Angeles, Conan Nolan. He’s a dear friend of Keiko and Rob Feldman, the filmmakers who are making a feature-length documentary about Vasco’s story. Rob and photographer Francisco Raposo were with us in Malawi for the first two weeks …

We were so knackered and out of it after the month in Malawi and the loooooooong trip home that we barely made sense to ourselves, nevermind anyone else (particularly a reporter.) So Conan very kindly offered to return the next day. We spent a few hours with him and his crew on Wednesday and a short story appeared on KNBC news that evening.

Here’s the link to Conan’s report on Wednesday: “BRINGING VASCO HOME”
We’re told Conan will have a longer version of Vasco’s story on his news show on KNBC in Los Angeles this Sunday morning that will include some of Rob and Francisco’s footage from Malawi.

We’ll share that link, etc. when we have it.

I’ll also be going back to load more photos and video from earlier in our trip that I couldn’t load from Malawi, so please check back in with some of the older posts as you can. Unfortunately, my MacBook Pro laptop died about a week ago and is in the shop getting fixed. On it is the only copy of the video of Vasco first seeing his extended family again in Blantyre. As soon as that’s back from the fixin’ place, I’ll load those powerful videos.

We’ve now made this blog public, so please feel free to share it with anyone you like.

Again, thank you so much for your support, prayers, humor, outrage, generosity, friendship and love to us and on our behalf. We love you all very much.

As I’m writing this, a young buck deer is nibbling grass outside my office window.
It’s really really good to be home.

Curios and curiosities: Things to do at an airport

Apart from my beautiful son, my very favorite souvenir from Africa was this hand-made rag doll of Archbishop Desmund Tutu that I bought at the Jo-burg airport.

I love Tutu so.

That crazy, infectious laugh.
His beautiful spirit.
His circa-1980 spectacles.

The doll is a Zuko Doll – the product of what has evolved from the Masiphatisane Sewing Group begun in SA’s shack towns in the 1980s. I did a bit of reading about them when I got home and I loved this part of their story in particular:

When we presented our dolls to the Bishop himself, the only thing he wanted changed was that the doll had to have underwear. “NO this won’t do…. the doll must have underpants because I wear underpants.” 

My Archbishop Tutu doll does, in fact, have underwear. Light blue jockey shorts, complete with white elastic waist band. Love. It.

As some of you know, I have the word UBUNTU tattooed on my back. I learned that word from Bono who learned it from the archbishop.

Tutu explains it this way:

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

Johannesburg and a history lesson on the way home …

Our first stopover on our journey home to California from Malawi was in Johannesburg, where the sound of FIFA vuvuzuelas filled the air almost everywhere we went in the city that is home to two of my heroes: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The one place we couldn’t hear the raucous enthusiasm of soccer/football/futbal! fans from around the world was at the Hector Pieterson memorial in Soweto.

Most of us probably don’t know Pieterson’s story, but it is a horribly sad and powerful moment in the history not only of South Africa and the struggle to end apartheid there, but of identity, the sacredness of all life, race relations and justice worldwide.

Our friend Peter, a Brit who lived in Malawi for a decade and now has lived in South Africa for the last several years, took us on a driving tour of Soweto, a formerly all-black township (although still almost entirely black) under Apartheid that borders the city of Johannesburg (of which it is now, post-apartheid, an official part) and the large gold mining district that abuts the city.

Soweto was the launching pad for a number of watershed moments in the struggle against apartheid, including the Soweto Uprising by students in June 1976 during which police opened fire on school children, high schoolers and other young people after, according to reports, some of the young protestors began throwing rocks at police. Hector Pieterson, only 12 years old, was shot in the back. The photograph taken of his lifeless body being carried to hospital by another student, 18-year-old Mbuyisa Makhubo, while his sister, Antoinette, ran alongside was seen around the world and spurred international condemnation. Pieterson was killed on June 16, 1976 and that day is now commemorated as Youth Day in South Africa.

As the three of us visited the memorial, I began to think about the link, over time and cultures and history, between what happened in Soweto when I was five years old and what happened in Malawi last week. I wonder whether we would ever have met Vasco if events in South Africa had unfolded differently. Would a white couple from California adopt a black boy from Malawi if apartheid hadn’t ended, if the lessons about race and reconciliation that were hard learned (and still are being learned) in Soweto, Johannesburg and elsewhere around the world hadn’t taken seed on these hardscrabble streets, in violence and chaos, with the will of children and others long ago?

We explained to Vasco as best we could what had transpired in this place long before he was born. He admires Madiba so much, even though I’m sure he doesn’t entirely grasp what apartheid was and why and how it ended and what Mandela’s role was in all of that history. My memory card in the camera maxed out before I could get a few shots of Vasco’s face when we drove across the Nelson Mandela bridge in Johannesburg. He looked up and saw Madiba’s face on the bridge supports (or whatever they’re called) and shout/whispered, “MANDELA!”

Out of Malawi…(Better) be home soon!

Hiya from JoBurg where we’re on a long layover between flights and I’ve managed to find a computer out of earshot of the vuvuzuela honking that pervades, seemingly, all of southern Africa at the moment due to the World Cup here.

Sadly, not only am I now without iPhone (friggin’ AT&T bastardos), but on Friday, without warning, my Macbook Pro laptop died. We had it checked at the iStore here in JoBurg (their version of the Apple Store) and … no dice. No idea what happened.

So, I (this is Falsani if you hadn’t already gathered) am totally off the grid. And I don’t like it. Not one bit. So much to blog. So many pictures to share and video and columns to write and send to my patient editor in Washington, and and and …

Blerrrrrrrrrg.

We depart JoBurg in about six hours for an overnight quick flight (in relation to what comes next) of about eight hours up to Dubai, where we then have another 24-hour layover before the last leg of our journey home: the whopping EIGHTEEN-HOUR flight from Dubai direct to LAX.

It’s a 777 and we have seats that are, we believe, not in the middle of the middle section like they were on the way over. But that’s a long haul in coach and Emirates has been a disaster in terms of customer service. If they came through with some amazing grace toward our family on the way home, it would go a long way to repairing the damage they’ve done and that I intend to share with the world once I’m computer-attached again, rested and have re-gathered my bearings.

Please pray for us. We’re all a little under the weather – Mom the most. Seemingly everyone in Blantyre had a bad hacking cough and head cold the week before we left and we got it. We’ve got meds out the wazoo because the one easy thing to get in Malawi is medicaiton (unless it’s ARVs for AIDS babies) and we have cold medication with codeine (over the counter!) etc, which should ease the discomfort for us on the long flights home.

I have never been so happy to leave a place as I was yesterday leaving Malawi.
That drive to the airport in Blantyre – boy did it bring back memories.

The last time Maury and I made that drive was almost three years ago and we had to leave Vasco behind. It broke my heart. This time, our boy – our legal and forever son – was with us in the van and in the plane and now here in South Africa, where he’s playing XBox in the next room after having toured part of JoBurg and then Soweto this afternoon. Very moving. If it weren’t for what happened in this place 20-some years ago, I doubt we would ever have met this boy and become his parents. We stood there before a memorial in Soweto, in front of the church where Archbishop Tutu has preached, near the road that Madiba walked when he was freed from prison after so many years to greet the world with a heart free of hate and filled with grace, and we were so thankful, so grateful for those who paved the way long before we set foot on this wondrous and cruel continent three years ago.

Thanks be to God, today, for these African fathers (and mothers, of course) who brought us to this place of peace and reconciliation. Thank God for mercy, grace, joy and connections that we would never, ever make if left to our own devices.

And thank God for Maury, for this
wonderful, grace-filled, patient, funny, warm, loving, doting father – for the fifth time – who genuinely loves showing the world to his newest son, Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy/Poppy Falsani, Papa Possley, Rebbe Allen, Uncle Dave, Uncle Veen, Uncle Davidy and Uncle Bubba and to all the fathers out there reading this.

Love you and we’ll be home soon … Tuesday afternoon, inshallah.

Happy Father’s Day, from Cat (Yusuf) and us …

Mama, we’re comin’ home!

A quick note to say that, Lord willing, we will be home in Los Angeles (and then the Gu) a week from tomorrow.
The adjudication of our case by the US Embassy in Malawi will take place at 2 p.m. tomorrow in Lilongwe. We will overnight with friends of our hosts here, the beautiful Halliwell family, in Lilongwe and then pick up Vasco’s immigrant visa on Thursday morning before returning to Blantyre.

We are to be on a South Africa Airways flight on Saturday (we have no confirmed seats, but a lovely woman here in town who works for SAA has promised to meet us at the airport and get us on the flight to Johannesburg) and overnight in Johannesburg with still more friends of the Halliwells there, before catching our Emirates flight to Dubai on Sunday.

We will arrive in Dubai on Monday a.m. and have a day’s stay there – either at a hotel compliments of the airline or at Uncle Jamie’s flat in town – and depart Dubai for Los Angeles on Tuesday morning Dubai time, arriving Tuesday afternoon in the beautiful, blessed, long-missed-by-this-grateful-family US of A at LAX on Tuesday afternoon.

We cannot wait to be home. The whole Possley clan: Cathleen, Maurice and the newly named Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David.

Thank you for your continued prayers, support, love, good humor and occasional outrage (thanks especially to Uncle Veen for that.) We love you.

See you soon …
Chisomo,
C&M&V

This was supposed to be the easy part …

Hi everybody.

We’re feeling pretty darn grumpy over here in Malawi at the moment.

New delays. Unexpected frustrations. General we’ve-so-had-it-with-all-the-bullshiteness.

Yesterday, we awoke at 4 a.m. in Blantyre, packed overnight bags and hopped in the SUV with our driver, James No. 2, at 5 a.m. to drive five hours north to Lilongwe to appear at the U.S. Embassy for what we thought was the final step in our adoption process/immigrant visa application process to get our son back to the Shire (read: beautiful Laguna Beach, our beloved home and community.)

The plan was to appear at the US Embassy for what we believed was our last step – the adjudication of our adoption case by the US and the processing of Vasco’s immigrant visa to reenter the States (he automatically becomes a naturalized US citizen as soon as he walks out of customs at LAX) and then, as we could not make the Saturday flight from Malawi to Jo-burg,  perhaps head to Lake Malawi for couple of days to unwind, look at the lake, swim in the pool and read a few books.

As you might have guessed by now, that’s not what went down.

Last week, when we met with the U.S. Consul Peter Ganser, we came away believing that when we got Vasco’s new birth certificate and new Malawi passport, with his new names and new, more accurate birth dates (the birth certificate and passport had to match), we would return to Lilongwe, meet one last time with Ganser, have our case officially adjudicated and be able to come home on the next flight we could book, which already was a week later than we had expected. Before we left for Lilongwe this week, Maury spent a day changing our flights on South Africa Airways and Emirates Air to the tune of about $2,000. Some of you know the horror story of our experience with Emirates before we left and how thoroughly gruesome the 16-hour flight from LA to Dubai was for us, so handing them another $1,500 was galling. But, we told ourselves, it’s only money. We can make more. We just want to get our boy home.

Last week, Ganser, who has been until now a lovely and helpful man and is an adoptive father of two to boot, told us that he’d need to do his “due diligence” in the intervening time between our meeting last week and this week, checking with Vasco’s family (his Uncle Mavuto, the one who speaks English sort of, mostly) to make sure that Vasco’s biological parents were indeed deceased. I sent him Mavuto’s mobile phone number on Monday. Ganser said he’d call. So you can imagine our surprise when we stood on the other side of the bullet-proof glass from Ganser and heard him say something to the effect of, “Ok. Your paperwork looks all set. Now I just have to do my own investigation – due diligence. I have to speak to Mavuto and to any other living relative (that would be Aunt Esme who speaks about three words of English, a little Chichewa and mostly the obscure Yawo dialect) and … this part is particularly enraging – Mac – the sociopath and pathological liar who traveled with Vasco to Chicago and stayed with us for six of the longest weeks of our lives before we put him on a plane back to Malawi (at Ganser’s behest.)

Some of you know the story of Mac and what a problematic human being he turned out to be. He lied about just about everything, including much of Vasco’s biography; embezzled about $7,000 from the charitable trust set up for Vasco’s care by the Chicago Sun-Times (we sent him money for various expenses – doctors, vitamins, medication, a new tv, a puppy for Vasco, etc. – from the trust funds and he basically drank most of it. No tv. No puppy. We’re still not really sure where Vasco was actually living before he came to Chicago last year as it was not with Mac. Mac’s awful wife Susan had thrown Vasco out of their apartment.)  Ganser is also the one who yanked Mac’s visa to the US at the last minute last spring after an American missionary accused him of stealing money – something like $10,000 kwacha, which is a couple hundred bucks.) We worked closely with Ganser to get Vasco and, yes, Mac to the States for Vasco’s life saving surgery. Ganser released Mac’s visa under duress and with the understanding on our part that if Mac was any problem we were to put him on the first plane back to Blantyre.

So what the hell? Why in the world would Ganser have to “check” with Mac now to do “due diligence” in Vasco’s immigration case? We are Vasco’s legal parents by decision and decree of the Malawi High Court. Even before that, we were Vasco’s legal guardians in Malawi – since last fall.

Maury and I were so flummoxed by what Ganser was saying to us – and the news that we’d have to return to Lilongwe not once but two more times before we could leave for the States – that we stood there gape-mouthed like a couple of bumpkins rather than the well-connected, well-clouted, veteran journalists that we are. We were wearing our parent hats. And it wasn’t until we got back out to the SUV, with Vasco totally confused and angry with us that we couldn’t leave for LA on Wednesday as planned, and began our five-hour trip back to Blantyre, that it hit us – the magnitude of the bullshit that we had just been handed by this diplomat. Adding insult to injury, our driver told us that the SUV was almost out of diesel fuel and the button that accessed the auxiliary tank full of diesel was broken. We spent two hours looking for fuel and finding none in the Malawi capital, wound up literally a back alley of a black-market diesel dealer (who was also out) while five guys spent an hour hand siphoning diesel out of the auxiliary tank, pumping it into plastic containers and pouring it back into the main tank. We then drove 100km before we found a station that had diesel. You know you’re in a third world country when …)

This was supposed to be the easy part. The hard part – getting Malawi to grant the first international adoption to an American family since Madonnna got her daughter Mercy out last year – was done. We just need his immigrant visa and for the US to give the nod on the adoption.

What the hell? Are we suddenly dodgy? Is there some moral turpitude that has surfaced calling our character into question? If that’s the case, then what in the world have we done that could top anything Madonna has done in her 25 years in the public spotlight? Last time I checked, I hadn’t published any nude pictures of myself in a hard-bound, foil-wrapped package. I’m not running Madonna down in saying this. I am forever grateful to her for opening the doors to international adoption. Without her and her persistence in challenging ancient and ridiculous Malawi case law, we would not have been able to adopt Vasco. For that, we are forever grateful. It’s just that, I mean, jeeez. If they approved Madonna’s adoptions TWICE, what the hell is the hold up with us?

We’re livid. We’re exhausted. We’re trying to figure out what to do next.

Before we left California, we alerted Senators Dick Durbin (he was helpful in getting Vasco to the States last year) and our new senators in California – Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, about our trip and the background of Vasco’s story, etc., just to give them all a head’s up IN CASE something went awry.

We’re wondering if now is the time to call “awry!” Will that speed the plow or only make Ganser slow down further? Do we reach out to the Obama administration directly? We do have the contacts to do it. Do we wait until Monday to see what Ganser has to say for himself, or do we make a move today or Sunday to put pressure on him to stop farting around and process our applications without further dilly-dallying?

At this point, we will have to rebook our flights AGAIN for next Saturday. Mind you, we have to fly through Johannesburg and there’s this little thing called the World Cup that started, oh, YESTERDAY.

Pray for us. I’m angrier than I think I’ve ever been about anything. My Irish is flying off the top of my head like flames. I finally broke down this a.m. (when I found out AT&T had turned off my iPhone service and won’t turn it back on until I pay half of the charges I’ve incurred so far in Malawi – charges that aren’t actually due for a month and that I don’t have the cash to spare for now) and had a long, wailing cry. And then I fell asleep for a few hours.

We’re really good sports. Really. We are. But this is just stoopid now.

Thanks for your support and love and prayers. We will update you as soon as we know when precisely we are flying home.

Home.

There’s a word I’ve never loved or appreciated more than right now.

Home.
Family.
Haven.
Home.

P.S. If you need to reach us, the best and kinda only way right now is via Maury’s blackberry. His email isn’t accessible on it (inexplicably) but he can receive and make calls (most of the time) and can receive and send texts (most of the time.) That number is 312-208-0357.

Hey AT&T: Tanks fer nuttin’!

My iPhone has turned into a block of wood. Well, plastic and stuff.

No service. No service. No service.

Grrrrrr.

Glad I spent two hours on the phone before we left California setting up my roaming and international plans.

Additionally, the Interweb here is … well … in about its Neanderthal era.  Thus, none of the lovely video we have of Vasco and his family, our safari(s), Vasco exploring Blantyre again, the kids at Smile Malawi singing and Vasco singing with them, and about 90 percent of our photos, are un-loadable here at this time.

Please stand by for loads more as soon as we get a more Medieval Internet connection.

If you need to reach us for the foreseeable future before we get stateside late next week, try to text or phone  Maury:

312-208-0357

Love and kisses,
Sally Corinthian

p.s. never put a sock in a toaster, never put jam on a magnet … never lean over on a tuesday.

We found Little Frankie!

Vasco and Frankie on Wednesday at Smile Malawi

Back on October 12, 2007, a few hours before we met the boy who would one day become our son, we met another little dude named Frankie who absolutely stole our hearts.
Frankie (not his real name – he doesn’t remember what it is, where he comes from or anything from his early years before becoming a street kid in Blantyre at around age 4 or 5) and Vasco were the only two boys who lived for a time at what was a drop-in centre in Blantyre run by a charity that worked with street children. They became very good friends. Frankie called Vasco “Vah-seee-koh,” which is where V’s nickname comes from.
Since Vasco arrived in the States last  year (today, June 10, is the one-year anniversary of his heart surgery at Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.), he has spoken of Frankie nearly every day. He prays for Frankie almost every time our family says grace before a meal, and as soon as he knew we would be coming to Malawi a few months back, Vasco started asking, daily (sometimes multiple times a day), “Mom, when we’re in Malawi, can we find Frankie?”
We don’t like to promise things we cannot be sure we can deliver to Vasco, but we told him numerous times we’d do everything we could to find Little Frankie (as he’s commonly known) while we were in Malawi. We started circulating his picture among friends here who work with street kids, orphanages, etc., And then yesterday, we stopped by the drop-in center where Vasco and Frankie used to live (the charity is in a bit of shambles and the staff and management had turned over since our visit almost three years ago), but were pleasantly surprised to see, first of all, a huge photograph of Little Frankie pinned to a bulletin board in a meeting room and then to learn, from one of the older staffers who was still around, that the boy had been moved to an orphanage a year or two ago. A few minutes later, someone came up with the name, Smile Malawi, and we were on the hunt.
I wasn’t sure at all what we would find when and if and where we found Little Frankie, but I did know that if we found him in squalor or having been mistreated, I was going to toss him in the SUV and drive away as fast as we could go.
Happily …
Shortly before 3 p.m. yesterday, after a long ride down one of the roughest, bumpiest, most are-you-sure-this-REALLY-is-a-road? roads we’ve ever traveled, we found a clutch of tidy brick buildings down the lane from a church, surrounded by big gardens filled with growing vegetables, and a sign, “Smile Malawi.”
We walked to the front door and were met by a half dozen smiling, happy, healthy-looking, clean and well groomed children folllowing behind Miriam, the house mother, a woman who looks like the poster child for what Mamas around the world should look like. Robust, beaming, exuding love and affection.
I introduced myself as Maury and Vasco walked in the door behind me and as I began to tell her who we were and what we were doing there and who we were looking for, as I began to say, “A boy named Fr …” there he was.
Little Frankie. Smiling with his huge eyes and the deepest, cutest dimples in the world.
Frankie’s not so little any more. In fact, despite being a few years younger than Vasco (by anybody’s guess – we don’t really know) he’s a tiny bit taller than V. It took him a moment to recognize me – I showed him our pictures on my iPhone – and then he saw Vasco. And you could see it click. He knew his friend.
Vasco was pretty much speechless. And then he began prattling on a mile a minute (in English) as he does, taking Frankie by the hand to show him the presents he’d brought for him – a thick coloring book, crayons, some cookies, a big orange, a bag of his favorite potato chips.
I had a really hard time choking back the tears. I just couldn’t believe we found him. It was like finding a needle in a haystack. So so many children. Too many homeless, orphaned kids. More than a million AIDS orphans. More than 60,000 on the streets. Dozens and dozens of orphanages. But … here he was. Quite literally in the middle of nowhere.
My heart was so full – of joy and thanks and yearning. So so grateful this special little guy and Vasco’s special friend was alive and well and flourishing.
Frankie has been living at Smile Malawi for about a year now. It’s a private orphanage funded by a lovely woman in Wales and other benefactors. In all, 23 children live in what looks and feels more like a group home than an “orphanage.” Each child has his or her own bunk with their own afghan and their own books and trinkets. The rooms are bright and clean. The food was hot and smelled lovely – Miriam made Vasco sit down and try some of her nsima (cornmeal mush that’s a staple in the Malawi diet) to make sure he still knew the proper way to eat it (he did.)
Very little is known about Frankie’s past. He still recalls almost nothing before he arrived at Chisomo. No surname, no birth place, nothing about his parents. He chose “Frank” as a name for himself several years ago at Chisomo, and, as I think I said in Sin Boldly (the chapter “Chisomo” is about Vasco and, in part, Frankie) it was a clumsy fit not unlike the black wingtip shoes he was wearing at the time. A little too big, but it would do all the same.
Miriam told us our Little Frankie is now known as Frankie Mattias, a good biblical name. St. Matthew – Jesus’ friend and follower, the former tax-collector-turned-Gospel-writer and evangelist. A good name.
Frankie is well and thriving despite being the only child at Smile Malawi who is HIV-positive. His blood counts are still good so he is not yet on Anti-Retro-viral medications (ARVs) but should he need them, they will be available to him. He has chronic ear infections and they have affected his hearing and his speech. A simple operation to insert tubes into his ear canals (the kind that is done routinely daily in the US) would fix the problem.
We’re in the process of trying to find an ENT in Blantyre or Lilongwe who might do it for free. We are hopeful as there is a doctor in Blantyre who does just that.
It was hard to leave Frankie behind the first time we left Malawi and it will be hard to do so this time as well, but we feel strongly that he is happy, healthy, loved, cared for and safe where he is. He is enrolled in the local school with his other housemates and the children treat each other just like family. There are several sets of biological siblings that live there among the 23 (ranging in age from 4 – Thomas, a little devil with the kind of smile that makes you want to take a bite out of him to see if he tastes like chocolate – to 17.)
Now we know where Frankie is. We’ll be able to keep up with him and even speak to him on the phone. Vasco was so happy that he was safe and well. He used to pray all the time that Frankie was ok, getting enough food, not sick and not being harmed by anyone. Our sweet son’s prayers have been, once again, answered with amazing, audacious and overflowing grace.
Little Frankie and Me on Oct. 12, 2007 in Blantyre

Me and the boys. They’ve aged well. I hadn’t had a shower in two days. But Frankie and I can still curl our tongues.

A heated game of UNO.

Vasco gave Frankie his favorite Marley shirt. “Positive Vibration” indeed.

Introducing Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David Possley

One of the great joys of new, legal, adoptive parenthood is the blessing of name-giving.

On Friday, we had to fill out a new Malawian birth certificate for Vasco, adding our names as his legal parents and adding his new, legal name:

Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David Possley

Maury and I always said if we were to have a son, we’d name him Fitzmaurice (pronounced “Fitz-Morris”) and probably call him “Fitz” for short. Well, we were blessed with a son who arrived with his first name already in place so we gave him Fitzmaurice as his first middle name.

In Irish, Fitzmaurice means “son of Maurice” and “Maurice,” in Irish, means “the dark one.”

Vasco, for those of you who know him already, is a truly extraordinary person. He has a huge, beautiful spirit and a soul that draws people to him — even strangers wherever we go with him. Such a magnficent soul, we thought, is certainly capable of bearing the weight of many auspicious names, so we gave him a couple more middle names.

Mark is for his American “anjiba” (special uncle) my brother, USAF Major Mark Dante Falsani.

Mark is also for one of my most special friends ever, Mark Metherell, the uncle he never knew but a part of whose spirit and character we like to think he carries with him.

David is for three very special men in his life and ours:

David Vanderveen

David Burchi

and David the Funck


We think it’s a good long name full of meaning — David means “beloved” or “friend” in Hebrew; Mark means “warrior” or “troublemaker” depending on the interpretation of the Latin and/or Gaelic.

Both Mark and David have roots in the Bible — in the Gospels and in Hebrew Scripture.

St. Mark was one of Jesus’ companions, one of the Twelve Disciples, and according to tradition, as founder of the church in Alexadria, St. Mark is credited with bringing Christianity to Africa.

King David, according to Hebrew Scriptures, was the second king of Israel. He was a righteous man and a complicated guy. David was a warrior, a poet and a musician. He is also described as a “man after God’s own heart.”

Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David is a mighty soul — epic, one of his uncles would say — so we thought he deserved a name that fit the largess and beauty and story of his mighty spirit. Our miracle. Our joy. Our son.

While we wait …

Malawi Flames superfans.

It was a quiet Saturday in Lake Wo-be-Malawi …

Our first real “down day” in this journey since we departed almost two weeks ago.

This morning, our beloved Rob and Francisco departed for California. They were the very best traveling companions we could have prayed, wished or hoped for. The rest of our adventure here simply won’t be the same without them.

While Mum had her first bit of “me time” in two weeks poolside at the Mount Soche Hotel, where we’re staying for the weekend, MoPo and V-Man ventured to the Malawi national football (read: “soccer” in U.S.) stadium for a grudge match between the Malawi Flames and Angola. Last time they met, it was a draw.
Unhappily, today it was 2-nil in favor of Angola.
Tant-pis.

We are waiting for the slow-churning rusty machine that is Malawian bureaucracy to chug away to produce

a certified (read: embossed stamped) copy of Vasco’s new birth certificate – with his new name: Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David Possley – on it and Maury and I listed as his parents. We are told that, because someone was hired to work overtime on Saturday (today) we might (MIGHT) have it by end of day Tuesday. Then we have to scurry a few blocks away to the Immigration Bureau of Malawi to apply for Vasco’s new Malawian passport. Normally the turn-around time is … well, lengthy. We are told it could take three days or MAYBE one if we can pull the right strings (Auntie Kamana, we’ll be ringing you tomorrow.)

Once we have Vasco Possley’s new Malawian passport, we must travel north again (four-five hours) to Lilongwe to present it to the US Consul and then, we hope, our case will be adjudicated quickly. Our best-case scenario right now is that it will be adjudicated on Thursday or Friday a.m. and we will speed back to Blantyre to make a night flight to South Africa and our already scheduled flights on Emirates Air, through Dubai, to Los Angeles next Saturday.

If we miss that flight – and it’s quite possible we will – the next day we may depart from Malawi is a week Wednesday, June 16, which would put us home, if we can rejigger flights on Emirates, about June 16/17.

If we stay next weekend, we will likely travel two hours south to Nsanje, the far southern region of Malawi, bordering Mozambique, where Vasco’s people are from. He’s never seen it – at least not that he can recall.

Also, despite our debriefing with his extended family last week, the question of whether his parents both died of AIDS is still up in the air. Culturally, it’s quite embarrassing for the family to admit, which we knew. But, through our interpreter, we felt that they were being truthful in saying Edina, V’s mom, had passed from meningitis. After a few more interactions, we think that’s probably not the case, especially considering that his father, whose first name we still don’t know, died not long after, was a truck driver, and had a “second family” in Nsanje.

Additionally, Vasco has filled us in on how he wound up on the street and it is not the same story that his Aunt Esme told us. We tend to believe him as he is, usually, quite truthful and was embarrassed to tell us what had transpired before his departure from the family compound.  

UPDATE: More stories from Vasco emerged at dinner late Saturday. He suffered such cruelty at the hands of his “family” and strangers. I want to go into their little compound of misery and blast them all – for their cruelty, for lying, for treating this amazing little person like some kind of commodity or, worse, like a problem to be disposed of like an overripe banana or an infestation of rats. F**k them.

Vasco’s true biography will likely remain a mystery until he is old enough to tell us all that he remembers. Until then, we are just so very thankful that he is healthy, that God brought him into our lives, and that he is now, and forever, our son.

Have a blessed Sunday.
Love to all,
C&M&V


It’s a boy!

At approximately 2:30 p.m. Malawi time on Tuesday, June 1, 2010, the High Court of Malawi approved our petition to adopt Vasco. Today, the court issued it’s formal adoption decree.

Vasco is our son. Legally and forever. Now to get him home to Laguna …

I cannot tell you how full our hearts are, how amazing this adventure has been, how much we’re looking forward to being home in “the Shire” again – three American citizens, one happy family.

Forgive us for not posting yesterday. It was, in the words of Vasco’s Uncle Veen, an “epic” day. Also, the Interweb in Blantyre was down most of yesterday and today. I was about to hit the hay and thought I’d try one more time and poof! Interwebness!

We spent a large part of today with Vasco’s extended family in Chileka, just outside of Blantyre. Tomorrow we head up to Lilongwe to begin and/or continue our application process with the US Consul in Malawi to be able to bring Vasco back to the States.

We have a zillion pictures and videos and and and, but the bandwith is such here in Blantyre that we just can’t get them up on here. As soon as we find a stronger/wider/better connection, we will.

Until then, thank you for all of your prayers, love and support. We absolutely felt them. And the stories of God’s hand in our journey continue to astound us. More “God nods,” Auntie Jen. Amazingness.

Vasco is super happy. We’ve learned much more about his “real” history here in Malawi (more on that later but we won’t be referring to him as an “AIDS orphan” any longer as according to his aunt and uncle today,  Vasco’s mother, Edina, died of meningitis in 2003; and his father of unknown causes  — quite possibly AIDS/HIV— in 2006.) Vasco’s maternal grandmother, we were told today by extended family, died in 2007, shortly before we met Vasco in Blantyre, it would appear. Vasco’s mother is buried in a cemetery on the outskirts of Blantyre. We will take him to visit the grave site before we leave for home.

Also, as it turns out, the truth about his tenure on the streets is much different than we were led to believe. According to the family, he ran away from home in Chileka and was on the streets in Blantyre for a month or two. Still a terrifying thought for such a small, sickly child at the time. But not the two-or-three-years that we had been told by his medical escort to the US and the man who introduced us to him back in October 2007.

He was born in a hospital here in Blantyre and so we’ll be heading over there asap to look for his REAL birth certificate.

More and more later.

For now, to bed. Vasco is fast asleep and his Mum and Dad aren’t far behind.

Love to all of you and for those who know and love Kimmy Day, here’s another picture of us just after the adoption was approved on the steps of the courthouse. Kimmy was waiting for us when we got out. We love her so.

Hippos and Elephants and Safaris, oh my!

 THIS IS WHERE A PICTURE OF VASCO STANDING IN FRONT OF A SIGN THAT SAYS “BEWARE OF THE HIPPOS” WAS SUPPOSED TO BE. ALAS, THE INTERNET IN BLANTYRE IN NOT COOPERATING. HOPE TO BE ABLE TO POST IT AND SOME VIDEOS FROM THE LAST WEEK TONITE.

The  flower Vasco picked for me @ breakfast in Zomba.

Hi Folks,

We had a wonderful weekend, getting out of Dodge (i.e. Blantyre) for the weekend, Maury, Vasco, Rob, Francisco, our totally lovely driver James and me, heading first about 90 minutes from here to the Zomba Plateau for a quiet, lovely, fireside evening at its Forest Lodge (no electricity – i washed my hair with juice-glasses full of hot water from the sink in the bedroom).

On Sunday, we headed to Mvuu Camp inside one of the most beautiful game preserves in Malawi. We had a driving safari on Sunday night and a glorious water safari – by boat down the Shire (“shee-ray”) River on Monday morning, where we saw two dozen elephants close enough to smell their breath (and other things), dozens of hippos bathing and bellowing and snorting and a number of other exotic creatures — before heading back to Zomba to have a late lunch with Kim, Charlotte and Dick Day. They made Mexican. We were so grateful for their company and hospitality. It was almost like a beautiful spring afternoon in Laguna, except for the monkeys and the back yard.

We are heading to court again today in Blantyre at 2 p.m. local time to hear the judge’s verdict in our adoption petition for our darling Vasco. Please pray for favor for us in all areas, particularly with this judge, and for grace, mercy, joy and a hedge of protection, especially for sweet Vasco.

Here below are a few of our photos (we have something like 1,000) from Mvuu camp and Zomba:

AGAIN, CAN’T UPLOAD THE PHOTOS, BUT IMAGINE MANY MANY ELEPHANTS AND HIPPOS AND A MONITOR LIZARD AND CORMORANTS AND OTHER EXOTIC CREATURES AND THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SUNSET I’VE EVER SEEN (SORRY, LAGUNA). WILL POST TONITE, WHEN THE INTERNET IS MORE COOPERATIVE.

The waiting game …

Hi everybody.

This is the part where I’m supposed to write that the adoption was approved and he’s ours forever and and and and…

Well, we did, in fact, have our hearing this morning at the Supreme Court (High Court) in Blantyre.

At 8:30 a.m. promptly, we arrived and were greeted on the steps of the courthouse by the one and only KIM DAY!!

I burst into tears seeing her smiling, familiar face — that lovely, Laguna lady who was Vasco’s first babysitter and the caregiver for so many of our favorite kids – Mizz Cora, Sam, Max, Schuyler, Willem …. The closest thing to home and a Mom I could ask for today.

Maury and Vasco and I could not have been more grateful to see Kimmy. (Africa agrees with her. She looks beautiful, happy, at peace, fulfilled, and full of creative ideas – so watch out!)

Along with her was Moira from the Gogo Grandmothers group in Zomba, our South African friend Skallas (who is an adoptive parent himself of a Malawian toddler – he and his wife live in Blantyre and have for a decade) who has walked us through the adoption process, and six of Vascos’ relatives – his Aunt Esme, Uncle Mavuto, Esme’s husband, his young Uncle Dusta (or Dustin), and Vasco’s brother, Juma.

After waiting for about five minutes, Maury, Vasco and I went into the judge’s chambers with our attorney, Charles, and the child welfare caseworker, Dominic.

The judge, whose name neither Maury nor I ever caught, had been assigned to our case only yesterday afternoon after his judicial colleague, to whom the case belonged, was detained in Lilongwe and couldn’t return in time. This was a positive turn of events, Charles (our lawyer) told us yesterday. This new judge was a very good judge.

He was also a very stern judge. Extremely officious and very very serious.
He asked Maury and I nothing. He called on Vasco once to stand – as evidence of how much he’s grown and how healthy he was and asked him how he was feeling (in English) and Vasco answered his usual, “Good!” in English, as we had been instructed the day before that he should ONLY speak English in the judge’s presence. This was not a difficult command to obey as Vasco is struggling, really, to remember much of his native Chichewa at all.

Charles presented our case in a very provincial way (this is a very English kind of court proceeding – “My Lord,” was the end of each of his statements and answers to the judge. The judge asked him to amend a filing because he didn’t like one word. Really. ONE WORD. And then he asked Charles to relate to him the changes in Malawi law pertaining to international adoption in the wake of the adoption of Chifundo (Mercy) James  (aka Madonna’s youngest daughter.) The only other question the judge asked Charles pertained to our occupations as journalists. Apparently the judge was of the impression that all journalists are Christiane Amanpour and jet off to the other side of the world at a moment’s notice to chase a news story.

This is where I had to bite my tongue and sit on my hands. “WE WORK AT HOME!” I wanted to shout. “BOTH OF US WORK AT HOME!” And then I wanted to point out that I am now a columnist, notsomuch a traditional news journalist and I most traverse my mind, heart and soul (and occasionally the internet) in pursuit of a story. But I said nothing. Cuz that’s how they roll here in Malawi.

After about 20 minutes, the judge said that he would like to postpone his ruling in our case until this coming Tuesday, June 1, at 2 p.m. Malawi time. The reason for this was that he had just been handed the case late yesterday, had not had sufficient time to be thorough in its assessment and was also due to preside over an actual trial that had started … oh, about ten minute earlier.

So that’s where we are now.
We wait until Tuesday for his ruling.

Now, lest anyone panic, our lawyer and the caseworker for child welfare both said they were certain our petition for adoption would be approved on Tuesday and that the judge was just being thorough, as that is his reputation. I asked about amending our file to reflect the fact that both Maury and I work at home and Vasco is almost never without one or the other of us within a few hundred yards, unless he’s at school, the dojo, soccer practice, Petie’s house playing, church, Bible club or Uncle Veen/Uncle Dave’s house.

Charles, our lawyer, assured us taht that was not necessary as it was all covered in the lengthy and extremely thorough report from East-West Adoptions – the California adoption agency that conducted our home study for the US and Malawi side of the adoption process.

Charles and Dominic seemed genuinely confident. So we are going with that.

After the hearing as over, we joined Kimmy and Moira and Rob and Francisco and Vasco’s family in the courtyard and hung out for a bit, visiting, taking pictures, etc. And then Kimmy, Maury, V, Rob and Francisco and I headed to the Rials hotel for lunch. Lovely lovely time. On our way out, we were greeted by two more familiar and long-loved faces – the King and Queen of the Day Clan, Dick and Charlotte, who were in Blantyre from Zomba to do a little shopping and for a checkup for Dick. They are two of the most wonderfully vibrant people. We just adore them and it was such a boost to see them today. We’ve promised to stop and have lunch with Dick and Charlotte and Kimmy on our way back from a weekend get away to see some of the natural beauty of Malawi – Lake Malawi and a safari (see below.)

I’ve posted some below, along with a video of Vasco this morning about 5 a.m. talking to Auntie Jen – who was, at the time, about to go to bed in Wheaton and had been praying with The Railroad (as we call them) – Theo, Ian Maisy aka Isabel and Mimi aka Mia Grant-Funck.

We all – that being me, Maury, Rob and Francisco who are still totally knackered from their marathon trip (think Planes, Trains and Automobiles but in Africa) from LA to Blantyre, arriving last night – need a few days to cool our heels.  And I’m on DAY THREE without my luggage. (Last word – a few minutes ago – is that it’s set to arrive on the 12:30 p.m. flight from Lilongwe tomorrow. Please God. I can only where these two outfits  – one of them a chiffon dashiki – so many times.

Happily, with Kimmy’s help, we have made plans to drive a few hours north of here tomorrow (we’ve hired an SUV and driver for the five of us for the next week or so) to Lake Malawi to a beautiful lakeside lodge called Club Mak  and then on to a fantastic safari lodge/retreat called Mvuu on Sunday  where there hippos and elephants are literally hanging out about six feet from our high-class tents. The food is great, the company will be fantastic, and Vasco will get to see some of the natural wonders of his native country.

And as everyone here knows, I LOVE ELEPHANTS.  So even the chance that I might get close enough to a few of them to see their eyelashes makes me giddy.

That’s what we’ve got for now.
Thanks for your love and prayers.
Zikomo kwambiri and chisomo,
Cath

Juma (Vs brother), V, Uncle Dusta -in the right background are V’s Aunt Esme, Uncle Mavuto, & Esme’s husband

L-R: Juma, Mr. Vasco, and Dusta (or Dustin) Vasco’s young Uncle.