Week Eight Wrap-Up: Turning Points and Twinkle Lights and Tar Barrels

IMG_3604 - bonfireThe term is half over and my time is Exeter has reached its midway point – that’s crazy! I think right now, I’m at that weird stage where I’m thinking, I have all these things I still want to do and not enough time to do them, time needs to slow down. At the same time, I’m in the midst of essay season right now and all the work is piling up on me and then I think, it’s okay, it’ll all be over soon, I just have to push through for a little while longer. It’s a bit of a strange in-between to be in.

After my last week of travelling, I will admit it was a little strange to be back in class, especially the Monday. Having a pen in my hand again felt quite weird and I found myself having to reorient myself a lot in class to fit the mindset of being in a lecture. Tiredness also blanketed much of my week, but talk of upcoming deadlines very quickly made sure that I knew quite clearly that I was back in university and I needed to get my head back in the game.

Essay season also means that it’s concert season coming up again soon and I’m really excited for it. I play in two different music ensembles and the planned concert venues for both sound pretty great. And to round off the seasons, the holiday season has descended upon Exeter. I see all the lights starting to be hung up around the city and the storefronts have already transformed their window displays to exude holiday cheer. Also, Christmas markets seem to be a really big thing here and I’m seeing lots of advertisements for that. I definitely want to experience one for myself and see what all the hubbub is about. I feel like overall, Europe is quite lavish with the holidays and all the decorations and everything – there’s absolutely a different feel to it and I’m looking forward to being here to experience it.

I also experienced my first bonfire night ever this week and went to Ottery St. Mary’s tar barrels. Ottery St. Mary is this quaint little village that upholds the tradition of townspeople carrying flaming tar barrels through the street. Yup, people literally run up and down the streets with flaming tar barrels and it’s every bit as crazy as you imagine it to be but it’s also quite incredible at the same time. It’s hard to explain the extraordinariness of it – it really is something that needs to be experienced. I saw one of the men after they had finished and despite wearing protective gear and such, they did get burned some and I’d imagine it to be just a little exhausting. For them though, it’s a tradition and way of life, and it’s definitely an honour to be nominated to take part in this. Ottery is the only town in the country that gets to do this, so that in itself is pretty remarkable.

It was also really cool for me to see a real live bonfire; I mean, I’d seen campfires before but that really has nothing on a bonfire. Bonfire night originated in the 1600s; in the November of 1605, there was a Gunpowder Plot in which a group wanted to blow up parliament with explosives. Guy Fawkes, one of the conspirators who was charged with guarding the explosives, was caught, and the plot was ultimately unsuccessful. People lit up bonfires around the city to celebrate this and the tradition has carried through. I remarked to my British friends here that I’d never seen a bonfire before and they looked at me quite incredulously; I found their reactions pretty amusing but then again, I must have looked the same way when they told me they’d never heard of portable heaters.

My floor did a couple things together this week with a pasta night as well as a wine and cheese. Those were lots of fun and it really makes me feel like we should do more of these sort of get-togethers. I’m thinking perhaps pizza at the Old Firehouse should be our next little thing. It’s crazy to think that in a couple of few short weeks, we’re going to be off on our own separate ways and that’ll be it. There are just all these little things that remind me how exchange is going to be coming to an end soon, but I’m trying not to dwell on them too much – I just have to live in the moment and make the most of everything!

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