Mateo walked over to me with his head down. “There’s no prize for the competition. I’ve been looking forward to it for a whole month!”
“What’s are ‘cheers’? Isn’t that what people say when they drink alcohol?” I wondered how people would ‘do’ the ‘cheers’?
“Haha! That’s funny!” He chuckled. “What she meant is when people shout ‘phrases’ at other people.”
“Isn’t that a rude thing to do?”
“Yes, very much so in Japan. But I think it’s a common thing they do in North America on the first day of school.” He looked at me from his seat. “I don’t want to do cheers. I want to win a prize!”
“Let me try asking her about the prize.” I couldn’t understand why they would have such misleading advertisement in the student handbook of such a reputable school. “Hello there, you told my friend that there is no prize for the competition today. Is that true?”
“Who are you?” She glanced at me with vacant eyes.
“Mark Winfield, first year Bioengineering student,” I answered.
“And who’s your friend?” She frowned.
“Mateo. It’s pronounced Ma-te-o. Not Mario or Matthew. And he’s 100 % Japanese,” I answered with a serious face.
“Hahaha!” She laughed out loud. I also heard laughter from the guys sitting in the seats near her.
“You’re hilarious!” The girl looked at me from head to toe. “You’re not from here, are you?”
“No, my parents live in America, but their parents are from Germany.” I didn’t like the way she asked the question, but I decided to answer nicely anyway. “I just got here this morning.”
“Oh, an American. No wonder you sound so funny!” She couldn’t stop laughing. “What was your question again?”
“I wanted to know why you told my friend that there’s no prize for the competition today.”
“I’m still not sure who your friend is… Anyway, if you have any questions, you can ask the group leader when he comes back.”
“When is he going to come back?”
“Hmm, it’s hard to say with him.” She glanced at the clock. “But don’t worry, he’ll definitely be back before 9:30.”
“Ok, thank you.” I returned to my seat.
“We’ll wait for him then.” Mateo looked up at me. “There’s not much to do now, so let’s get to know each other a little better.”
“My mom told me that it’s good to make friends with tall and good-looking guys. It’ll bring me good luck with girls.”
“What?” My jaws dropped. He reminded me of that Priya lady earlier. Is everyone here interested in dating?
“When I first saw you, I knew right away you fit the criteria. So I started talking to you right away because my mom is always right about these things.” Mateo showed me a photo on his cellphone. “This is my mom. Isn’t she beautiful?” She looked nothing like Mateo. Her face is a small oval shape and her long black hair flows beautifully with the wind as she stood under a cheery blossom tree. The man who stood next to her so closely must be Mateo’s father, because he looks exactly like him, only about 30 years older.
“Um.” I nodded.
“She also told me to practice karate every day. And eat lots of meat because I’m still a growing boy.”
“I see. You’re a lucky boy then!” I hate to admit that I felt a tinge of jealousy deep down inside. The image of my mother crying in agony as I was forcefully taken away is still fresh in my mind.
“What about you? May I see a photo of your family?” Mateo asked.
“My family?” I was caught off guard. “Umm…I’ll show you pictures when I get a new phone.”
“Is your mother beautiful like the actresses in American movies? Blond hair and blue eyes like you?”
“Yes. She’s beautiful.” For some reason, I cannot recall the color of her hair and eyes. But I must’ve inherited my genes from her.
“That’s so epic!” He stared at me with admiration.
“Um, hey, look, the group leader is back. Let’s ask him about the prize.” I pointed to the front of the room. A buff guy had just walked in and is now talking to the girl with purple hair. He wore the same engineer overall with his sleeves rolled up, revealing his heavily tattooed arms. They were also dyed baby blue.
“Hey everyone!” The buff guy waved to everyone in the room. There were around 30 students waiting patiently for his arrival. “My name is Art. I’m going to be your group leader today. And this is my helper, Fiona.” He winked at Fiona, and she did a little wave.
“First of all, I want to make sure that you’re all on the Gamma Delta Phi team.” Most people nodded, so he continued. “These are the letters of our team, g ¶ j.” He wrote the letters in Greek on the blackboard. “They are also written on my bandana.” He passed out a stack of yellow bandanas to the class. “Each of you is also going to get one. This is how we’re going to identify each other for the rest of the day.”
“Now, for today’s activities.” He read from a piece of paper. “First, we’re going to head over to the Crown Theatre Hall for the welcome ceremony. Then we’re going to take a group photo and have some BBQ for lunch in the school field. In the afternoon, we’re going to walk around campus, play some games and get dyed baby blue. Oh, yea!” He made a pose with his blue arms. Fiona also posed with her arms and cheered, “Yeah, it’s gonna be awesome! Go Felix Martin! Yay!”
“Woohoo! Baby blue!” Mateo was the only one who cheered.