I found solace hanging out at the school athletic field in several ways but it was mainly a way for me to stray from my classmates and make new friends who, like me, found comfort in hanging around the field. It was there out on the field that I discovered how some students who attended the Institute from the interior of the country resided at a dormitory at the school.
Some of the boys I had met in class were staying at that small dormitory but no one really bothered to investigate their living arrangements which were really sparse and the boys who stayed there had no one to oversee their continuing needs as newcomers to the big city. Few of us students even knew about this dormitory set up. Leave it to me to follow my curiosity about my paisanos.
I noticed on my visits to the dormitory, however, that I had to stand outside the doorway; not that the boys there would have minded me coming inside but to give the rest of the boys in the dorm a modicum of privacy. You can picture just how crowded the set up was with the boys going about their business in that tiny dorm trying to stay out of each other’s way.
I would, nevertheless, talk to the boys about where they were from and their families and that sort of thing. In this manner I slowly acquired some knowledge about the far flung regions within the Province of Chiriquí and Veraguas. These two provinces in particular were where most of my new friends were from. To tell the truth, the places they talked to me about seemed as distant and unknown as China or Japan; places I figured I’d never get an opportunity to see in my entire life.
Quite frankly it was a breath of fresh air to meet these boys at the dormitory and since there was no place to study at the school, I invited them to go with us to study in the evenings at the only Public Library available which was up in the San Felipe district. I secretly felt sorry for those kids who, unlike me, were far away from family and childhood friends.
Then again, the whole situation at school made us unite and become more studious and determined in completing our academic preparation. Intermittently, I would also go back to my dentistry trade shop and help out during the year and I also found time to continue writing to my Pen Pals in South America.
At any rate, another benefit I picked up hanging out in the school field after class was that I got to watch and cheer on the school marching band since the school yard was their practice ground. I took my place alongside their many other fans to simply take it all in and root for and get to know the best players in this drama.
The drum section especially captured my interest and I was given a chance to participate one day and show what I had learned all the time we’d been gawking just following the action. I was surprised to discover that I could play the rhythms flawlessly without ever having observed or practiced ever before. I remained more than eager to stand on the sidelines biding my time until, at any moment, when the Band Master was pressed for someone to fill in, I would be more than willing to oblige.
This is how I ended up being recruited for the Banda de Guerra del Instituto Nacional de Panama for the upcoming 3rd of November Patriotic Day Parade.
This story will continue.