School is out and the kids have arrived on the Camino. Parents with children as small as toddlers, and some as old as Middle School are having an adventure of a lifetime walking together.
For the couples with the toddlers, the Mom is usually hanging back as the child walks more slowly, gets distracted by a rock, stops to pick up sticks, and moos at our cows. All while the Dad is standing 100 meters ahead, tapping his boot waiting for them the catch up. I want to tell him to enjoy this time. It will pass much too quickly.
We’ve seen a lot of Dad’s on their own with kids 10+ in matching gear. They seem happy to be out on a long trek together. A bit of precious one on one time, just to chat. While their kids are still willing to do it.
Then there are the packs of teenagers out on their own. Having a lark with their mates. Sans Parents.
Teenagers. Oof! They are a handful. We know cause we raised a few of them. You tell them to go right, so they deliberately go left. They break the curfew you set. They sneak a six pack of beer from the fridge in the garage and share it with their friends – oh wait, that wasn’t my kids. 😳
For much of the year, these holy terrors are locked up in school during the day. They are protected during this time. As are we, from any potential nefariousness they may get up to. But then, June arrives. And the school lets them out. And we can’t put them back in because all the teachers leave and they lock the doors until September. No matter how much you bang on the door, begging. And in the midst of a pandemic? Uh oh. Teenagers on the loose is a dangerous prospect.
This is what has happened in the past two weeks in Spain. As tradition dictates, when a person graduates from high school it’s a milestone to be celebrated. Unlike in the US, in Spain, they take something called a Selectivity Test. It pretty much determines your future. It’s a high stress time. So when it’s over, 17 year old kids from all over Spain converge on the Balaeric Islands – for American reference it’s like South Florida at Spring Break. It’s a drunkin fest of bad decisions and social media videos they will regret when trying to get a job someday after college. And this year, those bad decisions involved Covid. Lots of Covid.
Apparently, the authorities in Mallorca, one of the islands, allowed 2000 teenagers to attend a music concert, mostly maskless. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Except it wasn’t. And very rapidly, the mostly under control Covid epidemiological situation in Spain blew up. As these kids began to get sick.
Some made it back home and, as a souvenir from their trip, started infecting friends and family in their home towns scattered throughout Spain. When the authorities in Mallorca were informed, they shut it down. But it was too late. The Covid cat was out of the bag and spreading like wildfire. And because it coincided with nightclub reopenings across Spain, it just kept spreading.
The kids still in Mallorca were quarantined in hotels and not allowed to leave. Parents – who one might argue shouldn’t have sent them there in the first place – were furious, and worried about their children. Understandable. The contagion rates for PCR tests amongst this group was somewhere north of 65%. Not good. Some had to be transported from the special ferry that docked in Valencia, via ambulance to their home provinces.
So now our contagion rates are exploding in Galicia (all over Spain, really). Yesterday we had nearly 400 new cases and they are almost all the Delta variant. Not so good. And the majority of those cases are unvaccinated people from 12 to 29. Sarria, the start of the Camino for most people, is in the high contagion category where measures are most restrictive. Not what you want to see when you have hundreds of people starting Pilgrimage, or passing through that one town from further upstream, each and every day. And Portomarin’s cases are starting to climb, as well. That’s one day’s walk from Palas de Rei. It feels like it’s coming our way.
We were sitting out on the patio having coffee this morning, watching people walk past. A few groups of teenagers had their music up loud singing along. Sometimes it was rap. Sometimes it was the soundtrack of Dream Girls – so I sang along too. There are those who might be annoyed by the volume, but it made me smile. We wave at each other as they go by. Good Kids – I think. The teenagers walking past our house didn’t choose to celebrate their graduation by getting hammered on a Balaeric beach. They are doing something that has more meaning than that.
As the wave of cases travels towards us on the Camino, I hope these teenagers, and all the Peregrinos stay safe and healthy. That the choices of a few, and their bad decisions, don’t come home to roost.