Archives For Valentine’s Day

A Valentine’s Surprise

February 15, 2017 — 1 Comment

I awoke this Valentine’s to a WhatsApp “hello” from Mtuseni’s sister Bongeka. I’ve been grappling for six weeks to get her the mandated tablet for Grade 8 students… along with a SIM card and data plan. Having no electricity at home, she certainly doesn’t have WiFi. Her school principal said Bongeka told her she really needed data so she could “do research” at home. The principal figured it was more about her ability to chat with school friends. LOL…. ┬áteenagers!

I was also looking forward to Bongeka getting connected to have direct contact with her. Her first school year was frustrating because I had no contact and only got minimal updates about her from Mtuseni — who gets more taciturn as he gets older — and periodic calls with her principal. Knowing that their mother expresses little interest in their school activities, I’ve been eager to find out what she’s doing, how she’s feeling, and to be her champion. After all, I’m invested in her for at least the next five years through graduation.

So I was happy and excited to hear my WhatsApp chime and see her name and a little “Hi sir.” (Mom may not be big on schooling… due to her own background and illiteracy… but she certainly raises the most polite kids.) I haven’t seen Bongeka in five years. She is still very sweet but also very bright and grown up. She used big words — spelled correctly — in her texts. She is also excited about learning and doing well. As I mentioned in a previous post last year, Bongeka was being teased and ostracized in the settlement for being smart. (Dumb kids!) So I went on a mission to get her into a private school, and last year after a bumpy first term she totally blossomed at Meridian School.

bongeka-first-text

So we chatted a bit yesterday, and then again this morning as she went home from school to do a project for her technology class. She needed to draw a functioning roof truss — and explained to me what a truss is. I’m excited to be hearing about her daily experiences, and hope I can fill in the support gaps for her as I did for Mtuseni. I know it will be different with a girl, but as her principal said to me today “I’m eager to see how far she flies.”


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A Few Words On Love

February 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

Valtentine's-Day-heart-cookiesThe last few weeks were clouded by a real rough patch for Mtuseni and me — which I eventually realized had far more to do with me than with him. Things are back on track, although the ride from here on out will be a little different…and there may be a new face in the driver’s seat. There’ll be more on that later as I sort it all out in my head.

But a brief exchange between us on a chat the other day let me know the train hasn’t gone off the rails. I was teasing Mtuseni about why there was no girl for him to be celebrating Valentine’s Day with. The rare times we touch on his dating life are always marked by a kind of shy false bravado from him — a Casanova in his own mind, perhaps. Which is what I expected in response to my good-natured ribbing.

Instead, he caught me off guard with his reply: “I love you and mom too much. There’s no space for anyone else.” Personally, I haven’t received such nice Valentine’s Day sentiments in a long while, and it was heartwarming to hear after this dark stretch and in the midst of an especially miserable Northeast winter.

Then this weekend Mtuseni posted a new status line on his WhatsApp profile:

“Sometimes I think about people that need my help.”

This from a kid who has almost nothing, and who needs all the help he can get. It was paired with a pensive selfie — one of those rare photos that almost accidentally reveal Mtuseni’s quiet soul. Sometimes I almost feel unworthy of him. At the core — beneath all the brash, crazy, confused, early-20s maleness — is a deeply thoughtful and caring person who often talks about making a real difference in the world. How could anyone not love this kid? (Not that there was any doubt on my part.)

These years with Mtuseni have taught me a lot about love. And ironically that four-letter word played a large role in the last few troublesome weeks. But I guess that’s how love works: It’s a messy, bumpy ride sometimes, but you don’t jump off the train. If you hold on and stick with it, there can be new landscapes and warm sunshine just around the bend.


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