Monday, March 7, 2011

Three Amigas

There are many pleasant ways that a man can be woken up. The first and most obvious is with sex--there's nothing quite like the gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) touch of a lover to rouse you from deep slumber. It's a fantastic way to start the day. The second best for most people is to wake up to the smell of delicious food.

That's how my morning started. At first I thought Jess had gotten up early to make something for us to eat--not a common occurrence around our house, given that both of us are always busy and working on projects. No, when the smell of eggs and the sound of sizzling bacon hit me, the first thing I did was flop an arm over to the side, expecting to hit empty bed.

I said I was sorry like a dozen times, but wives tend to get miffed when you drop your arm across their sleeping faces, even if it's an accident.

Curious, I got out of bed and threw on some pajama bottoms to go see who was in my house. No, I wasn't worried that the zombies had somehow breached our defenses and come inside to make breakfast. I WISH that were the case--any zombie that would cook for me would be one I'd think hard about keeping around. Nor was I worried that someone had broken in--there were about a dozen people that had free reign to come and go in my house at all hours. Lots of us have that policy.

What did I discover when I made my way into the kitchen? Patrick and his three girls, making breakfast for all of us. The fact that there was fresh bread, eggs, and bacon made me wonder just what was going on. Eggs weren't that uncommon, but I hadn't had bacon in a while.

As it turns out, Pat was giving the girls a lesson. He and I have talked a lot the last few days about the ideas behind yesterday's post, that being the sharing of all skills and knowledge among as many people as possible. While I ate breakfast this morning, he explained to me what his plan was.

The girls had all managed to cultivate good skills with firearms during the time they and Pat were on the run, especially while they were locked up in that abandoned militia fortress. He's proud as hell that the girls have been able to build a decent sense of judgment about danger and how to respond to it, but he's discouraged by their lack of pretty much any other skills. Add to that the deep emotional trauma they've been dealt and you have a recipe for shut-ins who won't socialize with anyone.

So he's having them do chores and duties wherever he can find them. The eggs were collected by the girls early this morning out at the farm, during a lesson on how to care for chickens, which included a lot of details about the species. I can see Aaron's touch there--he and a trusted group of people are trying to talk to everyone who can teach skills, explaining his view of the learning process. He calls is holistic education. As I've said in posts about Aaron before, he (and I) believe that the best way to teach people about a subject is to give them every possible angle on it.

So while they were collecting eggs and feeding the chickens, Pat's girls learned about the history of the domesticated chicken. They learned about chicken physiology. Common illnesses and how to spot them. What foods work best to make the best tasting chicken. If there's a thing that a farmer knows about those little cluckers, the girls had to hear at least a bit of it.

The crazy thing? The girls seemed to like it. Sure, Pat had to go with them to keep them calm, but it was more social interaction than I've seen them have since they've been here. Pat says they seemed like kids again, talking about how cute the chickens were, yet they didn't bat an eye when the farmer that was teaching them took one to demonstrate the best way to kill it. That's a reality everyone who learns out on the farms is going to have to deal with--once in a while, you'll have to kill an animal. For little girls, I really thought that would be a sticking point, knowing they would have to do it to keep the population down to a manageable number, but nope. No problem.

It didn't bother them to watch one of the hogs get slaughtered, either. In fact, they were such good students that their teacher gave them a small package of bacon to bring home along with the eggs, and a loaf of bread.

That's how they came to be at my house, making breakfast. My stove has been modified to run on a propane tank, and has an (admittedly cobbled together and crappy) vent hood that keeps us from killing ourselves with gas and smoke. It's one of the few stoves in the compound that can be used inside (excepting the mess halls), which is why Pat brought them here.

He's got a good idea with these girls. Making sure they learn the basics of farming along with the hard realities that go with it. Then moving on from the production of the food to how to cook it on a small scale for personal use. After breakfast, he took them to the closest of our three mess halls, where as I type this they are learning how to make meals on a larger scale. It's a lot for them to take in, and I expect they'll lose some of the knowledge being crammed into their brains by tomorrow...but some will stick. And they'll do it all over again, three days a week, until they've mastered it.

Pat's going to have them working pretty much nonstop. Tonight they'll be working with him at the forge for two hours, then spending time with Jess to learn some of her skills--I think she's going to do basic knitting this time. I imagine that Pat will keep on working them, eager as they are to make him happy, right up until they start asking for breaks. Their almost fanatical need to be near him, understandable though it is, is unhealthy. Making them do all of this will accomplish myriad goals.

1)Getting them interacting with others, which they aren't inclined to do on their own
2)Genuinely teaching skills that will serve them and the rest of the community well over a long period of time
3)Acclimating them to the rigors of making life work as an adult
4)Hopefully making them aware, through constant effort, that they do in fact need time off to be kids.

The last one is a big deal for Patrick. He's worried that the girls just won't get out there and have a little fun. They don't talk to other kids, don't even act like other kids. When the alarm sounds because of a zombie swarm being sighted near a part of the wall, they don't get worried or scared, don't cry like some of the other young ones. They just check whatever weapon happens to be at hand, make sure it's easily accessible and functional.

Pat's hope, as well as my own, is that the unending lessons will eventually make them ask for a day off. He says that when and if that happens, he'll be a happy man. Of course, he's going to hedge his bets a little, and tell them that if they want a day off that they have to spend it with the other kids. He's not going to let them hang on to his coattails forever...

I think it's a great idea. In fact, I'm going to get in touch with my other council members and see what we can do about cutting the duties of the other children around the compound so they can join the girls. With Aaron to help manage and guide the process and me to organize the times and details, I think we can make a good effort toward giving the next generation an education like nothing any of us have seen.

Those three little girls are special, and the friendship between them is beautiful. Pat realizes, as do the rest of us, that to keep that bond among them would be a shame. Better to see them share it will the other children, and bring all of our younger citizens together with a common goal. It's exciting to think about, and more so to actually plan!

I'm gonna go get started now.

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