Survival instincts

I'm truly thankful for the way I grew up.  I wouldn't have known half the stuff I do today if it were not for the circumstances that shaped me.

I grew up in Rhodesia during the "war years".  Spent my first 12 years of life there, then we moved to South Africa.  I probably experienced things many kids today in your average civilized society wouldn't.  The death of my friend's parents in a hacked-by-terrorists attack.  The warning siren going off for anti-terrorist drills in primary school - so scary to a kid that small that I'd be frozen in place by fear and have to be dragged off to the safety of the walls under the windows where we were made to hide, or the inside passages of the buildings out of sight.  The sounds of mortar attacks in the hills near our home at night.  Finding spent (and not so spent) bullets in the bush.  Other friends who narrowly missed being blown up, because they got up to get something from the bedroom instead of staying sitting in the lounge - and on whose cotton farm we rode around in armoured vehicles.  Yet I saw the "tame" bits of that time compared to many I know.

The things I'm thankful for though were interwoven with this existance.  War led to scarcity and sanctions, things you couldn't find in the shops, creative determination and alternative plans.  Which is why I know how to make peanut butter from scratch.  Flavour flavourless TVP (textured vegetable protien) granules into something edible. And that a certain garden flower's stems taste exactly like rhubarb when cooked.

I was the daughter of a pastor who regularly ran large evangelistic campaigns.  So I know how to silkscreen, how to make a meltable film template for the screen with a craft knife, how to create the screens for each layer of colour, and how to blend colours when you squeegie it.  Also not to breathe in the fumes for too long in an enclosed space.  I know how to operate a slide projector, and somewhere in the back of my brain are instructions for weaving film into a reel-to-reel projector.

I helped my uncle work a manual printing press once or twice - I know how to ink it up and place letters, then turn the paper through it to create the magic of words on a page.  In late primary school I worked holidays at a publishing house - I've handled ticker tape messages (though they were phasing out rapidly while I was there) and sorted more printing letters.  Another holiday job was at a pharmacy - I've done sales and cashier work.  A third was stacking shelves in a supermarket - I know about stock levels and rotation.

My mom taught primary school in an age before photocopiers.  I know how to make a gelatin copy template in a baking tray that will give you at least 10 pages of slightly purple writing before you have to craft a new one.

I know how to make a foofie slide.  A teepee.  A rope and tyre swing.  A fort from elephant grass. I know that some reflective silver paint on water pipes rubs off on you when you use them as climbing apparatus and bridges through the veld.  And that always carrying a rope and a pocket knife on your 12-speed bike will get you places others can't go.

I know that you can run into a pack of hyenas and not be eaten.  I've learnt not to let a gas stove explode (repeatedly) next to your one-man tent, and that running from buffalo bare-foot through patches of duiweltjies is not a good idea.  Nor is leaving tomatoes within reach of the monkeys while out.

I know that wild waterberries are edible.  What Marula fruit tastes like fresh off the ground.  I know how to cast a rhino footprint in plaster of Paris, and that one should not get too close to such beasts..  

I know how to hide a tea-chest of semi-precious stones into the cavities of a car (watched a man do it in our back yard, then leave for parts unknown).  I know that tourmaline, marble, vast slabs of mica, quartz, emeralds and tigerseye could be picked up by just walking around in certain areas on a friend's property.  That the driveway of my great-aunt's house was perfect for picking out copper slag.  And that there was a stream in the Drakensberg where you could grab fistfuls of agates.

I know how to make a conglomeration of vases and containers out of bamboo, decorated by burning patterns into it.  I know how to do "one stroke" flowers and leaves, how to make chalk glow in the dark, and how to paint with copper powder and glue on black velvet to create this:

I can track animals in the bush, I can whistle on an acorn lid.  I can shoot a crab at a reasonable distance with a pellet gun.  I can ride a horse and milk a cow.  Row a kayak and drive a 4x4.

I know how to grow food, I know how to read the weather.  I can bake bread from scratch, make pasta from scratch (thanks to a real live Italian lady and a half-length of broomstick), turn most fruits into jam, cure olives, make cheese, I'm even qualified to can a tuna. 

I can operate a microscope, manipulate an agar plate, and mix chemicals without killing anyone (came close once).

I can do basic woodwork and own both a sewing machine and overlocker - yes, I can use them. I can solder and if pushed I could weld - just not as beautifully as my grandfather has for longer than I've been alive.  I can wield an angle grinder (under supervision apparently).  I've seen buildings built, foundations propped up, walls stacked in stone.

I have written for a magazine, for a business or two.  I can play the piano (thanks dad, and church song services..).  I used to be able to sing.  I used to be able to langarm (dance).  Some things are better left to youth...

More recently I've become skilled in climbing towers, terminating network cables, securing and aiming antennas and splicing fibre optic strands.

You may look at me and think there's not a whole lot to me.  That I'm just another human trundling along on the surface of this rolling planet, a boring middle-aged chick.  But I got skillz!  And somehow I know if you dumped me in the middle of nowhere, many of those will kick in (probably quite randomly) to make me a pretty damn good survivor.