As I sit down to write this blog post at 7:00 a.m., a school bus drives by. It depresses me that conventional schooled kids are being forced to go to school so early. Many of the Abrome adolescents do not get enough sleep—yet they get an extra three hours to play with each night relative to their conventional schooled peers. At Abrome our day begins at 10:00 a.m. It depresses me even more that conventional schooled kids are coming together with teachers inside classrooms for seven hours a day during an uncontrolled pandemic. Nonetheless, I cannot spend all morning slapping my forehead over the lack of care that community leaders continue to display during this pandemic year, so I’ll get back to writing about Abrome.

Yesterday I wrote about one great day for one Learner, focusing entirely on that Learner’s experience for the day. Well, not everyone had that type of day, which was kind of the point of the blog post. Other people had different experiences. Like two 16-year-old Learners who said that there were bored for much of the day. I moved into Friday, the last day of week two of the third cycle with hopes that they would turn that boredom into something meaningful.

Goofing around with the panoramic pictures

Goofing around with the panoramic pictures

Friday started as most days do, with Learners trickling in over a 30 minute period. They wrote down their intentions which included sleeping, eating, drinking water, reading, listening to music, watching stuff on iPhone, watching netflix, swimming, playing with Rubik’s cube, not dying, not dying, and to do nothing but to do everything. We then debated where we would hold our morning meetings, as Friday’s meetings are the longest of the week. Most of the Learners wanted to move directly to the lake, while the two youngest wanted to stay in place where there are two large fence posts that they can sit on. One of the older Learners emphasized that they were outvoted so we should just go to the lake. I intervened and once again reminded them that we focus on consensus based decision making, not on majority rules. Both sides were holding firm to where they wanted to meet. Then an older Learner suggested that maybe we could hold the meetings at one location this week, and then at the other location the following Friday. Everyone agreed to go with the suggestion, and then we settled into a nice morning meeting, Check-in, and Change-up, with lots of participation.

When we got to the lake the older Learners lingered nearby, perhaps because they were bored. I asked them what types of special interest cells might make sense as we looked forward to future cycles. The cells we discussed that made the most sense included a full-time Flying Squads, camping and survival, biking, service (focused on social justice), driver training (for Learners with driver’s permits), and no toilet (nature in places with no public bathrooms). I then tried to take a panoramic photo of everyone who had begun to scatter about, and the two bored Learners jumped into action so that they could be in the photo twice. The younger Learners, meanwhile, went to the beach to dig in the sand.

As the older Learners sat on the dock they listened to stories being told by one of the Learners about some of the more exciting moments at Abrome before the pandemic. And then boredom set in again, and the two sixteen-year-old Learners just sat there looking around. Then one of them mentioned that there was a lot of garbage in the fenced off section of the dock (where a beam broke and it had begun to collapse) and that perhaps they should pick it up. In an effort to stave off boredom they jumped into action, climbing up and over the fence, and using a garage bag I gave them to gather up all of the trash that was both an eyesore and a threat to wildlife. They picked up bottles, bottle caps, cans, cigarettes, empty cigarette packages, discarded cigars, clothing, food packaging, tissues and napkins, fishing line, fishing lures, and parts of a broken fishing rod, among other pieces of garbage. They then threw the garbage bag over the fence and the other older Learner walked it over and placed it in a garage can. I guess boredom can turn people into good citizens.

Ready to spear, grill, and eat some fish (on some future date)

Ready to spear, grill, and eat some fish (on some future date)

While one of the Learners jumped in the water and began acting out a variety of scenes to amuse the younger Learners, the two bored sixteen-year-old Learners began working with the discarded fishing equipment that they set aside during their pickup. They decided that they were going to recreate a fishing rod and fishing line so they could go fishing. That led to a short conversation as to whether or not it was legal to do so (they said they would catch and release if they actually got a bite). The effort to use the broken fishing rod proved ineffective, so they then focused on just using line and tossing it into the lake. As one of the sixteen-year-olds ran with that effort the other one asked if he could borrow a knife so that he could fashion a spear, ostensibly to be used in the future for spear fishing. By the time he had finished making the spear the other sixteen-year-old had tossed his line (with bobber, lure, and hook) into the lake many times, all without a bite.

Then things got unboring, fast. The youngest Learner, who had jumped into the lake, was trying to climb out of the lake and in the process found a zebra mussel with his foot and sliced it open. He immediately called out for help and when I got over there he showed it to me just as blood started to pour from the cut. I quickly pulled out my first aid kit and stopped the bleeding. I then contacted his parents to let them know what had happened, and his mom said that she would make her way there to take him home. I turned to the sixteen-year-old Learners and asked if they would watch over all the others while I carried the young Learner to the pickup spot (about 500 meters away). They said they would, and I took off with the next youngest Learner carrying the injured Learner’s backpack.

After the injured Learner’s mom picked him up, the other young Learner and I returned to the rest of the crew. We talked about the injury (it might need stitches, yes it was a lot of blood, yes zebra mussels suck, yes the Learner will probably be back with us on Monday) until everyone got it out of their system. Then one of the sixteen-year-old Learners proposed playing a game, and then further suggested that it be mineral, plant, animal. After a brief introduction to the rules of the game (must ask yes no questions, can only guess three times), we began, with six of us fully engaged in the game. We played many rounds of the game for well over an hour until it brought us to the afternoon roundup.

As the day ended it was quite apparent that boredom really can open up opportunity for something more meaningful.