With my credits in hand my return ride to Colon made me feel victorious. From the bus, however, I again experienced how people lived in those days on the outskirts of both urban areas. The first couple of stops en route I saw people getting on and off the bus at one of those unscheduled stops that the vehicle was constantly forced to make. Riding the bus was even better than taxi transport as they would often leave you wherever you asked the driver to leave you.
The first stop was at a spot on the road that I immediately recognized as Chivo-Chivo, as my grandmother and I had visited there when she took me to one of her Home Church meetings. In fact, I had heard the people of her generation refer to it as a Be’ji Nite church. From Chivo-Chivo it felt like we stopped at a hundred more points along the road and I began to feel as though we would never reach Colon. The people who usually boarded the bus on those stops were people who lived in those out-of-way parts of Panama or Colon, areas that were still almost virgin forests. These folks rarely came into the towns.
The ride on the chiva gave me the opportunity to observe the people of these rural areas and remember my visits to Paraiso in the Canal Zone to spend a little time with my surrogate grandparents, my uncle’s in-laws. So, I understood those people and their needs for rudimentary supplies. Some families traveled with their little ones who were too young to be left alone out there in the bush. They boarded and got off the bus carrying carboard boxes tied up in bundles, some with live chickens cackling around that they had bought in the city to raise at home. They’d usualy be all trussed up with string along side the other beat up cardboard boxes containing purchases like sacks of corn and other provisions.
“Country people,” I muttered under my breath, since at that time there were very few cities incorporated into municipalities and we were seeing more and more country people. As a young man I had had many a dream about getting me some land close to the city and living there alone like the country people while keeping my city customs at the same time. The whole ride brought me back to my brief life as a “farmer” during my visits with my beloved people in the mountains of Par’iso. My adopted grandparents, the Juliens, who were older people, lived out there mostly by themselves in those remote areas. I remembered those elderly pioneers and how I used to hover around them as a child. I would miss visiting them on the banks of the Panama Canal although I always thought that I could never be considered a farmer. But, I had learned a great many things from them about survival.
Arriving in Colon, I took a leisurely walk back home taking in the surroundings and observing the building that I had adopted as my new home. Although there was nothing to eat when I walked through the door, I did find that my mood had definitely improved with this trip back to Panama City. I felt more positive about my life. I began mapping out my gameplan and how I would approach admission into the new school, the “Silver Roll school,” that had been founded for my chombo community who named it “the College.” I had often overheard my mother talking to her neighbor and referring to the school as the College so, the College it was.
The next day I arrived at Abel Bravo College and handed the document to the same lady with whom I had spoken before my trip to Panama. “Good boy,” she said, “everything seems to be in order here! But let me check it over one more time to make sure.” Not waiting for my response she ran off to consult the secretary, who received the document. “You are now here and registered,” said the secretary in the Chancellor’s Office. Then she said, “You are to report on the first day of classes to the Third year, B class!”
This story continues.