Archives For Boston

I’m coming to grips with the sad reality that summer is over — and my early September melancholy will soon give way to reveling in the Norman Rockwell autumns we have in New England. It was a good summer, punctuated of course by Mtuseni’s visit, something we had been working to make happen for three years.

Although the extent of his culture shock and reactions to it — and the twists and turns of teenage moods — caught me off guard, it was amazing to have Mtuseni here. The speed bumps we encountered only provided more insights that will help me guide him through new experiences and challenges as he transitions into the post-school real world. As a friend told me, courtesy of John Steinbeck, “What good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?”

Indeed it was a very sweet trip. So herewith a random sampling of moments and memories of Mtuseni’s visit that make me smile:

New York+Times Square

Watching Mtuseni’s post-15-hour flight jet lag begin to lift as we walked into Times Square and he began to realize, “I’m in New York!” The first of many times I heard, “Take my picture!”

Dinner at an outdoor cafe after our first day in Boston -- where he had to buy a "B" cap so he could fit in. A Facebook post where he gloated to friends back in the SA winter about eating outdoors on a summer evening.

Dinner at an outdoor cafe after our first day in Boston — where he had to buy a “B” cap so he could fit in. A Facebook post gloating to friends enduring the SA winter.

Boston+ Charles River

Biking along the Charles River — watching him speed off and do tricks to “impress” me (and being thankful that I forced him to wear a helmet when he pushed the limits a few times).

Boston+Public Garden+fountain

Sitting with my radio student at the Public Garden fountain where my professor held our radio class on a warm September afternoon — shortly after Marconi invented the technology. A circle I had wanted to complete for some time once I knew Mtuseni would study media in college like I had.

Watching Mtuseni become an excited kid at the aquarium, just like when we were in Cape Town. He loves penguins (and sharks). In another life maybe should have been a marine biologist, though we need to get him over his fear of the sea.

Watching Mtuseni become an excited kid at the aquarium, just like when we were in Cape Town. He loves penguins (and sharks). In another life maybe he should have been a marine biologist, though we need to get him over his fear of the sea.

Boston+Public Garden

Having Mtuseni meet and connect with good friends — who were excited to meet him and who know his story and have celebrated with and supported me through the ups and downs of my four years with him.

Taking him to the top of the Pru and pointing out all the places we had been to. You forget how amazing it is to be in a skyscraper for the first time.

Taking him to the top of the Pru and pointing out all the places we had been to. You forget how amazing it is to be in a skyscraper for the first time.

Watching the Fourth of July fireworks along the Esplanade on a perfect summer night, tinged with an atmosphere of healing and strength and pride as the first large event following the marathon bombings.

Watching the Fourth of July fireworks along the Esplanade on a perfect summer night, tinged with an atmosphere of healing and strength and pride as the first large event following the marathon bombings.

Taking Mtuseni to the gym and watching him try to bulk up his skinny self in two weeks -- followed by his ongoing quest to try every crazy energy drink flavor not sold in South Africa.

Taking Mtuseni to the gym and watching him try to bulk up his skinny self in two weeks — followed by his ongoing quest to try every crazy energy drink flavor not sold in South Africa.

Bowing to his obsession and taking him to a huge classic car show -- and seeing the '75 Camaro that was the joy of my early 20s and the '66 Impala that took our family to the beach.

Bowing to his obsession and taking him to a huge classic car show — and pointing out the ’75 Camaro that was the joy of my early 20s and the ’66 Impala that took our family to the beach…

Bugatti

…and his crazy thrill at seeing a Bugatti parked outside the Mandarin Oriental hotel. This one went on his Facebook immediately (where he claimed the car was his!)

Fenway Park+Boston

Taking a Fenway Park tour and watching the obsessed Kaizer Chiefs soccer fan listen intently to the guide’s stories of “the Curse” and other Red Sox lore…

Fenway Park

…and seeing this hopeful radio announcer and budding journalist experience sitting in the press box high above home plate.

Hampton Beach

As when we were in Cape Town, watching Mtuseni’s love-hate game with the ocean. Some day I’ll get him fully in. If not for cell phones in our pockets, I would have thrown him in — it was 98 degrees!

__________

Aside from these “events” — some of my favorite times during Mtuseni’s visit were just simple things. Indeed, when I asked him a couple weeks ago what he missed about being in the US, one thing he said was “having breakfast with you.”

The things that resonated for me are taking him clothes shopping to create the new “grown up” look he wants. His daily ironing (because at home the iron is a plain metal one that heats up on the stove). Hearing his laugh and squeaky “excited” voice over Sheldon’s antics on The Big Bang Theory (“That guy is crazy, man!”) Seeing how much a guy his age can eat (and knowing that anytime access to food doesn’t happen at home). Untangling the mess that he made of his laptop and lecturing him about it (and him actually listening!). And watching him sleep in the morning — marveling that this kid from Africa who I encountered online by chance through a nonprofit is in my house…and at the center of my heart and mind at all times. Crazy how the world works sometimes.

So yes, in the final analysis Mtuseni’s visit was amazing — a blend of fun and frustration, laughter and anger, closeness and conflict that is a microcosm of real-life parenthood. And yes, with his visitor visa in place for the next ten years, I’m already figuring out how to get him here next year.

Chillaxing on a boat in Newburyport Harbor.

Chillaxing on a boat in Newburyport Harbor.


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Last week I was riding my bike past the elementary school that my sisters attended. A little munchkin came out the front door wearing a backpack bigger than him. The guy picking him up asked earnestly, “So how was it? Did you like it?” It was obviously the kid’s first day; he seemed more interested in sliding down the banister of the front steps. Freedom!

I thought how that kid is embarking on a long educational adventure, and how the school surely has a fully-stocked library and computers in every room and well-trained teachers. And he’s attending school in a high-performing state. A recent New York Times article discussed the stringent public school academic standards in Massachusetts, noting that the students rank second in the world in science. That little munchkin probably has a good future.

St. Ansgars Combined SchoolAnd then I thought about the K-12 farm school where Mtuseni’s little brother and sister go. It’s a public school with no library. No computers. No heat. Mtuseni told me on his visit here that the teachers regularly use corporal punishment — even in grade 12 sometimes he got a “switch across the bum.” Girls only get a ruler across the knuckles.

If anyone needs to get whacked, it’s the South African politicians and administrators who allow the pitiful state of the country’s public education to continue.

I read a recent blog post by a guy in South Africa, who reprinted an open letter to the country’s education system. It’s sad to read — and even sadder because it accurately reflects the situation that Mtuseni and his siblings and peers face. Despite having an inquisitive and thoughtful mind, Mtuseni entered Boston Media House poorly prepared for college. And in some ways we are still playing catch-up to get him ready for life after graduation. And I have a feeling that little Bongeka and Musa are in worse shape than we was in terms of academics…

The opening to Khaya’s education post is below.

Dear South African education

August 21, 2013 (originally appeared on the Cape Times 03-26-2012)

I am an average South African student, meaning that last year I was in matric and am now in a prestigious university. I studied and worked hard in order to leave my school in the rural areas in the Eastern Cape so that I can study in a university, so that I can get a good education because I’d like a great job, which will be a first for my village.

Let me give you an idea of the school I come from. Some of the classes have broken windows and that means that we either cover the broken windows with cardboard or hardboards. But that does not prevent the cold from coming in during winter, or the wind from blowing papers all over the classroom. When it rains, the classes get wet.

Some new buildings have been added to the school but it’s the administration building and not much new with the classrooms themselves. Sometimes the teachers don’t come in class to teach and there is very little discipline in the school. My school has no library. The first time I saw a library was when I came to university. I’d seen pictures of libraries in magazines and when watching tv from one of the neighbour’s houses.

Click here to read the rest.

One comment on the post broke my heart; I hope it’s not accurate…

country is dying


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Bhekani's Views

In my 13 days stay in the US, I can recommend some of the best activities to do in the historical city of Boston. The best-ever thing is the view of the whole city from the top of the Prudential building. It also has almost all sort of information relating to the city history, sports and entertainment.

Prudential+Tower+Boston

Boston+skyline

Boston+sports+teams

The second thing I enjoyed is the New England Aquarium. It was recently reopened after reconstruction of the main tank. This was amazing that divers could get in at the top of the tank and feed their diverse ocean species. But unfortunately for me they didn’t have bigger sharks.

Bosotn+aquarium+tank

Boston+aquarium+tank

Boston+harborThere is a saying that “if in Rome, do what the Romans do,” so I took that as a potential Bostonian. I went on and got myself something with a B, which represent their city’s baseball team, the Red Sox. Everywhere I went people…

View original post 118 more words

Post-gym MonsterMtuseni has been back home in SA now for a few days. I’ve spent the time recovering from structural exhaustion. (Trying to be the world’s greatest host/tour guide and on-the-spot parent to a culture-shocked 20-year-old kid with the emotional capacity of a 15-year-old — in the midst of a five-day, 90+ heat wave with someone who avoids the beach because of a rural Zulu belief that going in the ocean makes you sick — well, that takes a lot out of you.)

I’ve also needed this time to step back and process the visit, to remember things we did and said and to make sense of an experience that was filled with fun, frustration, revelations and mutual learning. I’ll be writing posts the next couple weeks to share experiences and thoughts; there is too much for just one long post.

One interesting point is comparing this visit with my trip to meet Mtuseni in Johannesburg last year. I was so focused on trying to figure out the country and be safe and absorb the cultural differences that I had less head space to focus on him. Because I was in my home comfort zone for this visit, I was able to pick up on more subtle things. Plus, he continues to be more open with me as the years pass.

Sometimes he would explain something on this trip that put things into clearer perspective from our early days. It was like finding a long-lost puzzle piece that, when put in context, revealed the big picture. Many times I found myself thinking, “Aha. Now I see why that was a problem three years ago.” This relationship with Mtuseni is not just like peeling the layers of an onion; it’s like some ancient Chinese maze where you keep circling back to the beginning to reach the center, with many twists, turns and dead ends. Maybe I should get an Indiana Jones hat!

One issue that Mtuseni struggled with here was what he called his”celebrity” or “VIP status.” The people I introduced him to all knew his story and were excited to meet him. For a kid who said he had an “ignored life” before we met … who is considered inconsequential and nearly invisible by many in his country based on his skin color and extreme poverty … it was nearly unfathomable to Mtuseni that all these “older white people” would be interested in him and what he has to say, and are rooting for his success. He couldn’t comprehend it and he didn’t know how to react. But he told me today that the experience makes him feel more mature at home, and he’s ready to work hard and make some changes. He’s been processing too!

So that’s a good start for him, and for the trip recap. More to come…

Boston + Charles + biking + travel + duck boat

Bike ride along Charles River

Boston + Newburyport + harbor + travel

On Newburyport Harbor

Boston + Newbury Street + tapas + cafes + travel

Mtuseni’s first taste of tapas (alas, no sangria for him!)

 


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B