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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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Consulate Visa banerSpent a couple hours finishing up Mtuseni’s online application for a visitor visa — and writing out a multi-page set of instructions for him to follow when he logs in, clicks through a dozen completed pages, and then provides his “electronic signature” by clicking the Submit button on the last page.

No one else can click that Submit button, only the applicant. It’s a little ridiculous when you think that most people around the world seeking a visa can’t speak English. Or use a computer. Someone fills out the application for them. This is perfectly legal and, given the complexity of the process, is virtually mandatory. But the applicant has to do the final click. This wouldn’t be so difficult if I was sitting next to Mtuseni at a computer in Johannesburg, but I can’t — and there are endless login and security and confirmation screens he must navigate before arriving at The Button.

I think they make it this hard so a proportion of people give up. Less work for the office staff.

But I did encounter one pleasant surprise. Unlike the convoluted process last year of submitting the application, getting a barcoded deposit slip, going to a bank to pay the fee in cash and getting a coded receipt, then going back online to enter the code and schedule an appointment… this year we can pay by credit card! Hooray! I’m still not sure how that works… the system offers no help or hints about what happens after certain data, like a credit card number, is entered. But perhaps we can avoid making the application process a two-day odyssey.

Of course, the fee went up.

And then, the interview. It all hinges on that. I have some new letters of support to back him up, which will be sent under a cover letter from John Kerry’s office directly to the Consulate via special Senate Bat-Phone. Fingers crossed. Perhaps the credit card payment option is a good omen!

His interview will be in a couple of weeks. After he clicks The Button.


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