Cameron Clark, South African Exchange Student
I have got that feeling. I think everyone else does too. The atmosphere around the campus of Woodberry Forest is comparable to a birthday; even if you are not thinking about it, you have that anticipation in the back of your head that it is coming. And, here at Woodberry, when it is The Game weekend, it is everybody’s birthday.
As an exchange student, I had been researching Woodberry since I found out I would have the opportunity to come here. Since October last year, I had been visiting the website a couple of times a week to see what was happening, where I would be living, and how different the school experience would be. The thing I noticed was that no matter what you intend to do when visiting the school website, you would almost always end up on something to do with the two things that make Woodberry what it is. These things are not about academics, athletics, performing arts, or prefects. They are the honor system and The Game. The honor system is embodied daily. The Game weekend is anticipated year-round. The impression that I got from the website was that, The Game was an important football match against EHS and was preceded by The Bonfire.
At first glance, The Bonfire was Woodberry’s version of ‘Main quad war cry’, held at my school, Michaelhouse, the night before the rugby and hockey fixtures against our archrivals, Hilton, whom also offer an exchange to Woodberry. ‘Main quad war cry’ is a “get psyched session” for everyone who attends Michaelhouse and happens in the school’s central quadrangle, main quad. With the first XV rugby and first XI hockey huddled in the center on the fountain, the whole school gathers around them to sing and shout before holding a silence while listening to “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits. After this emotionally-charged moment, the captains of the respective first teams give inspirational speeches to the school out of the center of the huddle.
‘Main quad war cry’, unlike The Bonfire, is a strictly boys-only affair. In South Africa, the parents are happy to know their boys are excited for something and will leave them be for the hour in which main quad war cry takes place. I am thankful for this. Although I have not yet attended the bonfire and I, therefore, don’t fully know the level of parent involvement, I find the idea of parents getting together with the boys to cheer and fire up spirit for the tigers to be truly awesome.
Most boys I have spoken to at Woodberry have had trouble putting the magnitude of the experience into words. When asking around for some veteran bonfire perspective I received responses like “I cannot even describe how fun it is” and “It is not really something you can put into words, you have to be there to experience it”. Nobody really wants to describe it for fear of underselling it or not doing it justice
I cannot say that I for one am excited for this experience because I know the “for one” part is very inaccurate. I know that every boy at Woodberry is counting the days until he gets to don his most outrageous orange and black costume and throw a torch into the fire to get the Tiger spirit going. Everybody is counting down the days until the Tigers can “restore the order”.