Pressure Point

May 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

Mtu visa chatWhen Mtuseni popped onto WhatsApp today and I asked how he was doing, his response was “I’m not sure.” Lines like that always get my head and heart racing. Is his mom sick again? Is he sick? Did he fail his exams last week? Did he break his laptop again? I’ve learned that life with Mtuseni can be fraught with perils. So when I asked what that meant, he said there’s a lot of work and “the visa thing alone is pressure.”

It’s that time of year again: our annual attempt to get Mtuseni a B2 visa to come visit Boston during his winter break in July. We’ve been down this road three times before, and despite all our efforts and letters of support from congressmen and senators, it always ends in disappointment. I’ve tweaked the strategy a bit this time — but in the end it always comes down to his being able to convince some DMV-style clerk at the consulate that he has enough “strong ties” that he’ll return to South Africa. We’re betting that his being one term from finishing school –and his tuition being paid up for the year — will be enough to prove his case.

It’s so frustrating. If he was a white South African college student, he’d be approved in 60 seconds. John Kerry’s staff person who is helping me said a black girl in his exact circumstances would have a better chance. As a young, poor, black male, he just fits the profile of someone who’ll come into the US under false pretenses and disappear, driving a gypsy cab in the Bronx.

Mtuseni dreads the visa interview process and is intimidated by the heavy security to enter the US consulate in Johannesburg. And the rejection always hurts, though after the first couple times he’s tried to act stoic. It hurts me, too. But we keep trying. I have to.

It bothers me to see him so stressed about it. I sent him a long file of interview tips and detailed responses to review last week. And he has a mock interview on Tuesday to practice being “respectfully assertive.” This new balls-out preparation — along with his nervousness when “put on the spot” — is cranking up the pressure on him. I feel bad, but hopefully it will all be worth it when he’s here in late June, for his first trip to America.

I did get him calmed down and laughing by the end of our chat today. (And I have to take some credit for his Boston-style sarcastic wit, which I adore. He cracks me up.)

Send good energy his way next Thursday the 16th at 10 AM South Africa time (4 AM Eastern US time). I hope to wake up to a happy message from him that day. And then call my travel agent…

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