the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Alice Tao ’24
A bubble is created to be broken by the tip of a ballpen, releasing the never-ending possibilities of a foreign land’s wondrous and unknown nature.
My mom and I had a nightly ritual: Every evening, I hopped onto my neatly-made bed with water dripping down my wet, silky black hair. In a room filled with the fresh scent of vanilla diffusers and tenderness, my mom would read me bedtime stories. Every syllable of her enchanting voice circled in my mind like lyrics to a familiar song, joined together in a string of joy. My favorite character from these stories was Elsa from Frozen. Her fantasy world of magic and powdery snow allowed her to create her own winter wonderland with her fairylike magical abilities. Her winter wonderland sparkled infinite possibilities through the sheer snowy essence it took on as a mini-world of her own.
On the contrary, from the windows of my top-floor apartment, the blinking red lights and bustling noise of constant traffic added to the liveliness of the outside world. While the bustling nature never fazed me, the opulent temples and the surges of people were polar opposites to my sanctuary of my home. My home, filled with warmth, passion, and security. The bullet-proof bubble that I never once considered escaping.
The nostalgic smell of my mom’s homemade butter bread would always permeate our living room. Its warm and soft texture, resembling a baby’s cheek, still reaffirms to me that home is where my mother is. In her snowy reality, Elsa was the golden girl. The unfamiliarity of her foreign world tickled my curiosity. I began to wonder what the world really looked like outside of my impenetrable shield.
My decision to travel 7000 miles to attend boarding school in America was not confined to my fairy world obsession. I wanted to leave my comfortable bubble and see the world from a different perspective. Even as a lone girl among vast borders, I imagined myself as a piece of the puzzle that added to the diverse vision of this country.
On January 9th, 2021, my mom purchased a one-way ticket to Singapore for me, a strange transit and prerequisite predestination for my American dream. As I marched toward security at the airport, every ounce of my facial muscle tightened as I refused to cry. I kept my head forward until I went far enough that my mother disappeared into the crowd, knowing I would burst into tears if I saw her own tear-streaked face.
Two weeks later, I arrived at the embassy on 27 Napier Road. I broke into a sweat. The scary-looking guard guided me to a worn-out stool. I sat down miserably, almost tipping over the crusty piece of metal with my full body weight. My hands felt clammy against my shaking knees as my heart pounded heavily. I paced back and forth in the waiting area, tapping my feet impatiently. I made countless nervous circuits around the place. I saw my veins surfacing on the back of my hands, tumbling over the river bed.
“Sorry, I can’t approve your visa request,” the immigration officer revealed mercilessly to the guy in front of me after he casually said that he was studying meat evolution in college. Meat evolution? I giggled a bit, unaware of the hidden karma that was about to arrive. As I approached the counter, the stern officer gave me a sharp stare. She snatched my thick stack of documents from my trembling hands and tossed it aside. I watched my American dream being thrown away.
After interrogating me with a few simple questions, she spoke in an arrogant tone, “I’m sorry. I can’t approve your visa request, but you may come back in a week with more documents.” Tears streamed down my face. My eyes dimmed a little. How could one stranger decide my fate? With dozens of eyes staring at me from afar, I stood in the middle of the embassy, unable to move. A wave of sadness and disbelief poured onto me. The next couple of days were long and grueling. It was as if God had closed a window on me. The beaming light outside my hotel room dimmed; the remaining hope within me slowly extinguished; my former zeal for life seemed to vanish.
Over the next couple of days, a million possibilities visited my brain. What if I had to return home? I deemed my decision of even attempting to realize this far-fetched dream as a terrible mistake. I laid in a fetal position, with my fingers gripping the edges of the wrinkled sheets. Molten anger stirred within me like an accelerating fireball. I felt a dark cloud hovering above, deserting me in this alienated land. The cold splendor of Elsa’s world opposed my sullen reality. A phoenix born within me stirred up my fiery anger.
A week later, I stepped foot into the colossal gate of the embassy. The gray tiles added to the gloominess of the sky. With additional paperwork tightly held in my arms, I was clutching at some last hope.
The guards guided me through a light grayish-blue hallway into a private room. The glass walls trapped the space in a perfect square, and the floors were made of wooden tiles puzzled together in regular patterns. On the right, I saw the tip of the lady’s head from before scrolling through a stack of documents. She possessed the same sharp stare I had encountered a week prior.
“067!” She yelled. I quickly gathered my papers and rushed to the counter. Her wrinkly eyes radiated uncompromising energy. I carefully slid my documents to her, handing over my fate. After a while, she abruptly reached for a pen and started scribbling something. As the tip of her pen danced across the yellow piece of paper, my heart beat faster and faster, attempting to escape my body. The freedom of air swelled within me as her pen popped my bubble, releasing me into the infinite possibilities of the world beyond my apartment.