The month of November contains probably the two really "patriotically" British "holidays". Bonfire Day, or Guy Fawkes Day, is kind of hard to consider patriotic, since it's celebrating the day when someone tried to blow up their Parliament Building, and Remembrance Day isn't necessarily a holiday or even unique to the U.K., but it is a very big deal over here.
So first comes Bonfire Day, the 5th of November. Because this year Bonfire Day fell on a Tuesday, most cities had their major celebrations the weekend before or the weekend after. Oxford's big celebration was after, on the 9th. I still did see a few fireworks here or there on Tuesday when I was walking home from institute though, so that was cool. I happen to live right across the street from the big park that Oxford was doing their big celebration in, so the morning of the 9th as I walked through the park to go to the grocery store, I saw a lot of the set up going on. They were building the wood for a ginormous bonfire, and there were lots of food booths getting set up and even a part that had carnival-esque rides being set up (like a huge carousel, etc.). The interesting thing about the set up was that it was pouring rain, which made me wonder how the evening was going to proceed. I was out and about for most of Saturday, and by the time I got home, about an hour before the Bonfire shindig started, I was uber cold, uber damp, uber tired and uber hungry. And the shindig at the park was going to involve more cold, more wet, putting off dinner for 3ish hours, 7 pounds entrance fee, and being smushed together with a lot of other people. So needless to say I decided to opt for the warm bedroom. The nice part was my window faces the park, so when the major fireworks started, I had a great view! I could even hear the live entertainment and music crystal clear from my room. The only thing I missed out on was actually seeing the bonfire, but hopefully I have another few Bonfire Days left to live and I'll check that off some other time. So I totally do not regret my decision at all.
Remembrance Day is actually November 11th, but England does quite a bit to honor Remembrance Day.
This was a great experience. I've been learning a lot more about WWI and WWII since I've started traveling Europe. We might learn a bit here or there about the wars in school in America, but I'm not sure we can actually comprehend what it is like to live in a country where the war is on your soil. The effects of these wars was massive on this people, and it still affects them today. From all of the war memorials they build, to all they do to celebrate Remembrance Day, to anecdotes told in church lessons, to examples given in lectures on how to better interact with patients, there is still so much emotion tied up to those dark yet in the end triumphant times. It has been a very sobering experience for me to be here and to learn more about how these countries were affected by the wars. And I have loved experiencing all they do to honor those who fought.
Another neat experience I've recently had was participating in a Children In Need charity event. Children In Need is the official charity of the BBC, and every November they hold a big fundraiser. My university put on a little Variety Show as a fundraiser to support Children In Need, and I went because my roommate was in one of the dance numbers. As I was sitting though the various acts, I had two epiphanies. One was a realization that despite how much the rest of the world may make fun of Britain for being so private and closed and not big on sharing their emotions and feelings, the British are the greatest storytellers in the world, and dominate in the fields of expressing emotion. They have some of the best stories/poets/books of all time; they have some of the best music of all time; they have some of the best movies/TV shows/actors. Maybe in their day to day interactions they remain aloof, but when there is a story to be told, no one can beat them.
My other epiphany had to do with the fact of me realizing how much I love existing in this country. Someone asked me the other day how I was adjusting, and it was such a weird question for me to think about because I don't think I needed to adjust, it just felt so natural living here. Everything is so normal, and so comfortable. When I very first arrived, I remember thinking, almost panicking, about how little time I have here, and how much there is to do or see. But after a few months, I've sort of given in to the fact that there is no way I could do it all in 2 years, so I might as well stay a lot longer. I don't know how realistic that will be in 2 years, the Border Patrol might have a word or two to say about staying longer, but there is a part of me that is just naturally settling in for the long haul. And as I watched the various acts tonight from the Variety Show, with all different sorts of British personalities talking in their various British accents, expressing their various British mannerisms, I knew there was no were else I'd rather be.