When does that bubble pop? / by Amanda Liew

Back in the first few weeks, I went to the Penn/Brown/Cornell Centre for our introduction meeting. The program itself is fantastic, and they are the ones coordinating all these subsidized shows for us to see (I got to see The Marriage of Figaro! and I’m seeing Two Men, One Guvnor next week!). Something that one of the staffers said, really struck me though. She said that the first few weeks we were here, everything would seem like a vacation. It’d be unbelievable, and we’d be taking in everything. But then suddenly, the bubble would pop. And the realization would hit us that we weren’t on vacation. We were abroad. Not fully, but pretty much alone. In a flash, everything would seem different. We’d stop thinking “Oh, this isn’t too bad, England is so much like home!” and start panicking at the differences. Eventually, things would start getting better in a real way after the bubble pop.

So I wondered…has my bubble burst yet? It’s the beginning of November now, and I’m pretty sure I’ve had adequate bubble popping time. Then I realized, I know exactly when my bubble popped. It was October 10th, on the Waterloo Bridge, at around 5:30pm. I was walking back home from my Conduct of War class when I witnessed a woman on her bicycle get hit by a taxi. In reality, she got hit behind me, but she landed only a few feet in front of me without a helmet. It was horrifying, it was shocking, and it didn’t feel real. I had never seen blood come out that dark red before. As others with medical training rushed out to give her CPR, I couldn’t walk away. How do you walk away from something like that? So I stayed, and I prayed - I didn’t even know what I was praying, all I could think was “God, I’m praying for her, I’m praying for her.” So many thoughts raced through my head. She was quite old, perhaps a grandma. I wondered if her family knew. After what seemed like too long, but was probably only a few minutes, the ambulance showed up. As they were about to cut her shirt off, and they asked us to leave to give her some dignity. It felt so wrong to walk away. Like somehow I was abandoning her, even though I didn’t know her. I went back to my flat and rushed to Beccy’s room crying so hard. I was in shock but I didn’t understand why. As amazing as Beccy was (we only knew each other for about 3 weeks at this point and she was so wonderful), I needed to talk to someone from home. I needed to talk to someone who knew me better than myself to explain to me what I was feeling. I didn’t understand why I was in so much shock when I wasn’t even related to the situation. I wasn’t giving her CPR, I wasn’t even the one to call the ambulance. Yet, I felt so tied to that situation, and I didn’t know how to go on with my day. I had plans to go grocery shopping after class, and somehow it felt like such a violation of the world to carry on with my normal day. That somehow this woman’s life could be over, and I was grocery shopping. It seemed wrong. To this day, there’s still a lot of confusion over what happened to her. As I was watching, I think someone said she wasn’t breathing, but then I think she responded. A week later, they put up some traffic signs with the exact time and date with “Fatal Collision” at the top as a warning for other cars. I still don’t know if that means she’s passed away or that she was in critical condition.

Eventually, after talking to some wonderful friends from home over the next few days, the people who know me well reassured me that I was ok in responding the way I did. I was in shock; it was the first time I had ever seen anything like that happen before. I realize now, though, that that moment was when my bubble popped. When I needed somebody from home so badly, and it seemed like nobody was in reach even though in a way, they were. It felt as if I were trying to grasp at smoke, checking Facebook, Gchat, Skype, and whatever way possible to talk to someone back home. I am grateful that I do have friends here and back home who support me no matter where I am, in the best capacity they can. But as hard as it is to admit, at a certain point, you have to realize that no matter how much you try to stay connected to things back home, you are quite far apart. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a really amazing group of friends here. Like I said, Beccy has been an absolutely wonderful chum, and Sarah G and I pretty much have the same life story so we talk a lot too.

Until next time, friends.