The Busy-ness of Building a Better Life

May 11, 2012 — 5 Comments

We finally scheduled Mtuseni’s interview at the Consulate for a visitor visa. He was able to go online and click the magic Submit button, and I went on the second State Department site and paid the fee and picked a date.

Knowing there’s a two-week wait for an interview, then additional time to process the visa… not to mention needing ample lead time to buy an affordable plane ticket for an early July trip… I had to badger him to complete the online application this week. He promised to do it on Thursday, then said he almost forgot because “it’s been hectic.”

Mtuseni uses that word a lot — hectic — and it always makes me grin. You don’t hear it used often in the US. Perhaps it’s more common in South Africa, or maybe it’s just one of his go-to words. He is swamped with school assignments, prepping for class, studying for tests, and his new responsibilities on the student committee. His life should be hectic; he’s in college.

Cranky Teen

Classic cranky teen face

The other day he texted, “I’m too busy to look at myself in the mirror.” He’s said this before; he has a great way with words. I told him the face in the mirror would only scare him. He just laughs this stuff off. From the beginning, he’s been able to roll with my Northeast sarcasm and teasing humor. Not everyone can do that (cough — California — cough). He knows it’s said in love, and it helps lighten his mood. And I know when to drop the wisecracks because he needs a more gentle hand.

The circumstances of Mtuseni’s daily life are incredibly stressful, and college has added substantial burdens. But when he has an extended break from school, he quickly becomes a cranky bear. He’s miserable when he’s bored. So even though he complains about being “hectic” at school — he knows the hard work is a means to an end. And I know he’s loving every minute of it.

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5 responses to The Busy-ness of Building a Better Life


    Dont you be talkin’ smack about us Californians! I always considered my bitterness (and humor) much like you East Coast cynics.


      Long-Distance Dad May 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      I’m talking about the ultra-sensitive Cal types who take sarcasm as literal and don’t see bitterness as a virtue! I think it stems from the horrible pizza out there.



    These journeys of mentoring across cultures are so fraught with learning curves, but the lessons are so worth it. For all. Certainly the universe will honor your path and Mtuseni’s.


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