The welcome ceremony was an exciting experience for me. Except for the beginning where two old men gave a one-hour long speech. One man spoke in English, and the other one repeated everything he said sentence by sentence in Japanese. Having heard the same speech twice didn’t reinforce my memory of what he said at all. In fact, it put me to sleep.
Mateo woke me up in the middle of a performance. “Look, that’s Karate. The type of martial art I practice. And that’s the club we’re going to join.” Two young men dressed in white demonstrated some impressive moves on stage. Especially the high spin kicks. It may not be a bad good idea to learn some new moves. It’ll help me blend in better.
The next performance was a dance. There were both men and women dressed in very elaborate Japanese kimonos. They danced around each other with fans. The music was rather soothing, and the movements were quite pleasant to the eye. “I like this performance. What’s it called?”
“It’s kabuki, traditional Japanese dance. My sister is taking lessons.” He smirked. “Are you interested in learning that?”
“Could I? I mean, I don’t know if I’d look good in an outfit like that.”
“Hehehe!” He chuckled. “You would look so girly!”
“I see.” I get it. He was teasing me.
We watched the rest of the performances in silence. I didn’t bother asking more questions because I didn’t want to look like a fool. There were several more dances, a martial art demonstration with swords, Japanese puppet show, and a one-man storytelling act. I was a little sad when the performances finished at 12:00 pm. This is the first time I’ve ever sat in the same room with so many people, and watched people perform on stage.
“Yay! It’s lunch time!” Mateo raced me to the school field, where BBQ lunch was served. There was already a long line when we got there.
“What are you going to have? Hotdog or hamburger?” Mateo asked me as we got closer to the server.
“I’m going to pass.” I wasn’t sure how my stomach was going to react to solid food, so I took a double portion of meal tablets this morning.
“What? You mean you’re not going to have anything!” He looked at me with disbelief. “But hotdogs and hamburgers are so yummy!”
“I’m not that hungry. You can have my share if you want.”
“Really? Thank you! I shall be forever grateful for it!” He bowed to thank me.
“You’re welcome. You’re welcome.” I didn’t know how to react so I bowed in return. “Umm… What would you like?”
“2 hotdogs, please. Thank you!” He ordered two burgers for himself. He gobbled everything down within a few minutes. I had never seen such a small person eat so much food! How does all that fit in his tiny body?
“Let’s go!” Art gathered our group in the field after lunch. “Are you ready to have some fun?”
“Yeah! Let’s have some fun!” Fiona cheered.
“Woohoo!” Mateo shouted.
“We’re team gamma delta phi! We are team gamma delta phi! We’re the best in town! We are the nicest bunch around! Gamma, delta, phi! Gamma, delta, phi! Go team!” Our group shouted as we marched behind Art around the school field. Mateo cheered the loudest. Walking next to him made my share of the cheering easier.
Whenever we crossed paths with another team, we’d shout louder to show our team spirit. After about half an hour of marching, we settled in a spot on the grassy field and played some games against two other teams. I didn’t work too hard at the game and spent most of my energy observing people. The people here came in all sizes and shapes. I could see that some of them were Asians, but many of them were not, and others looked like a mix of different ethnicities.
“What are you doing?” Mateo caught me rubbing my arms after we were dismissed from the orientaion.
“Um…the colour on my arm is not coming off at all.” I even poured water on my arm to rinse it.
“Art said the dye is going to last for a couple of weeks.”
“What? I’m going to be blue for two weeks?”
“It shows our school spirit!” He smiled with his baby blue face. “When I take the bus, everyone will know that I go to Felix Martin University. The best International school in Tokyo.” He’s the only one in our group who dived inside the giant bucket of dye. And is now completely blue, from head to toe.
“I’m content wearing clothes with the school logo on it.” I had spared my face from the humiliation, but my blue arms were quickly becoming a nuisance.
“That’s not the same!” He corrected me. “Anyone can wear a shirt with the Felix Martin logo on it, but only the students who attend the University have the honour of being the school colour.”
“I see. So I should be proud to have taken on a different skin colour!” I wasn’t sure if I agreed completely with his logic.
“Exactly! I understand that it’s not easy to be completely devoted to Felix Martin on the first day of arrival. But I think your courage will grow with time.” He patted me on the back.
“Um… thanks!” I had no idea what he was talking about.
“It was really nice meeting you today. See you next time.” Mateo bowed formally.
“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow. Right?”
“Classes start tomorrow. And since we’re in different programs, you may not see me tomorrow.”
“I see. Until next time then.” I bowed and made my way towards my dorm. It was a day well spent.
Someone was right behind my heels when I swiped my key at the entrance of the dorm.
“Mark, hello again.” Mateo smiled.
“He.hello. Did you follow me here?” I was a little shocked.
“I guess we’re staying in the same dorm.”
“Cool. I had no idea you were staying on campus too?” I placed my outdoor shoes inside my locker and slipped into slippers.
“Yea. My father insisted that I stay in the dorms during the week because wanted me to become more independent. He thinks it’s a good opportunity to meet international friends.”
“Does your family live close by?”
“Around 40 minutes by train from here.” He put away his outdoor shoes and put on a pair of anime slippers.
“That’s not far at all.”
“Which room are you in?”
“305, on the third floor.”
“I’m on the second floor, room 202.”
“Cool. I’ll see you around then.”
“I’ll come and visit you sometimes, if you like. Mom says it’s nice to visit new friends.” He looked a bit nervous.
“Ah, sure!” I was surprised that he called me a friend. That’s not a common word where I come from. In fact, he’s the first person who has used it to refer to me. “It would be nice to have you in my room.”
“I’m looking forward.” He bowed. “My mom said it would be best to make friends with people who have similar interests. And it would be more fun to join clubs with friends.” He bowed once more. “I would like to formally invite you to join the Karate Club with me.”
“Umm… if for whatever reason, I end up not liking it, would I be able to leave?”
“You mean quit? Of course! There are no contracts so you can quite at any time if you don’t like it. But I’m sure you’ll like it!”
“I’ll give it a try then.”
“Woohoo!! I have a clubmate! See you at the first practice!” He dashed into the hallway.
“Wait! When and where is the first practice?”
“I’ll come and find you! Bye bye!”