Friday, June 20, 2014

One Year Later

Wow.  So it's been a year.  One year ago today this sad and sorry lot of New Orleanians made our way into Santiago de Compostella, dragging a 29-pound 14-month old on our backs.  A lot has changed in a year, and a lot has stayed the same. More than anything, we remain amazed at how much of an impact the Camino still has on our lives.  So we thought we'd do a one-year update post.

First we're going to update you on our year, and then some updates about the people we met along the Way of Saint James.

A lot of things related to topics from this blog have been in the news in the past year.  First, in late July of last year, three days after our final blogpost, a train derailed on festival day just outside of Santiago, killing 80, including some people on their way home from pilgrimage.  A sad way for too many lives to end. More recently, the New York Times Magazine put out a knockout piece about Elena Arzak, who embodies everything we love about food, culture, and being Basque.  Speaking of the Basques, we also recently discovered this funny, kick-ass blog by a 22-year old Basque-American in San Francisco that is entirely about what its like growing up Basque in America.  Last week, Spain was in the news when  the King, Juan Carlos I, abdicated, and questions about the future of the Spanish monarchy linger over Spain. While we are by no means pro-monarchy, it is worth remembering that in a twist of historical irony, it is Juan Carlos (helped by Basque terrorists) who restored democracy to Spain after decades being ruled by a fascist dictator.  Only the Spanish!  Two days after the abdication announcement, the Spanish national football team suffered the worst World Cup loss by a defending champion in history (5-1 to The Netherlands) and then followed that up with another 2-0 loss (to Chile).  Game, set, match.  Even more pressing, however, is news that Miley Cyrus humiliated herself by trying to be "cool" as she waved a Basque flag in Catalunya's Barcelona (insert eye roll).

This spring we were contacted (both on this blog and by email) by a grandfather, father, and mother, and 2 year old little girl who were planning to walk the camino this summer.  In the end, they had to bag their plans because of trouble getting off from work. But there is at least one wee one out on the Camino this June, although by the looks of their clothes and the chariot (and the fact that they are using a chariot to begin with) I'm betting they started in Sarria.  Though that is a worthy feat in and of itself.

A lot has been going on in Casa Kennedy too. Brittany's book--which compares Francoist Spain to the Jim Crow U.S. South--is in the final stages of preparation for publication with the University Press of Mississippi.  G-Mom moved to New Orleans in December and is living with the rest of us until she moves to her own apartment in August. Todd and Brittany have written an article together--comparing the U.S. bayou film Beasts of the Southern Wild to, you guessed it, the Basque film Vacas. We've planted a back yard, totally demolished (and begun renovation on) a bathroom, and re-hung tons of moldy dry wall around leaky windows.  But the biggest change is that the 29-pound package we carried on our backs for 500 miles across the North of Spain is now 31 pounds and he walks/runs, talks, and, you know, does stuff.  Here's the K-man now....

On the left, Kepa in a Gillian Welch t-shirt rocking out at JazzFest in May.
On the right, he's checking out G-Mom in April
Kepa, who was born two months premature, is still a bit behind in the talking stage, but he's coming on fast in the past few weeks.  Meanwhile, in every other way he is at or ahead of most milestones.  And the talking is getting better.  He speaks Spanish with his mother and English with everyone else. And although he can't yet count in English, he can count to three and say goodbye in Basque.  Now that's a man with his priorities straight!  He may be one of the most happy-go-lucky baby's I've ever met.  He eats a pretty wide range of food, loves going for walks (well, are you surprised?), and is usually actually happy for naptime/bedtime.  Did we hit the baby lottery or what?

In the fall came football/tailgate season.  Tulane actually managed to win some games and made their first bowl in over a decade.  We went to all 6 home games, an away game in Houston, and the bowl game in New Orleans----Kepa made it awake and happy to 1 AM for the bowl (say whaaat?).

On the left, Kepa en route to his first game of the season.
On the right, Brittany carries Kepa in the pack through the French Quarter the night before the bowl game.
You'd think, by looking at him, that he's really used to riding in that pack or something!

At Christmas time we all went to Virginia to help G-Mom move, and we also went to see christmas lights at two zoos---Houston (while going to the football game) and Memphis (on the way back from Virginia).  For having spent all our travel time/money on the Camino, we got to have a pretty active Christmas!!

Rotating clockwise from top-left: K. at Christmas day dinner, B. and K. looking at the ducks at the Peabody in Memphis, K. helping pick out a Christmas tree, & T. B. & K. at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans at Christmas time.

With Spring in New Orleans comes Mardi Gras.  Kepa had a blast.  Carnival is a much more family oriented event than tourists imagine (outside of the French Quarter anyway).  Parades, beads, bands.  Kepa wants to join a band.  It's like his favorite thing.  Well, that and Singin' in the Rain.

Our February craft project: A Mardi Gras parade ladder in Tulane blue

Kepa enjoys his first active Carnival season, and G-Mom enjoys her first ever!

In June we decided to solidify a Kennedy family tradition----June 3 is "Kenneday."  OK.  It's Cheesie.  I'm not going to defend it.  But at least let me explain it, and it might seem a bit less off the wall (and definitely more sane than, say, walking five hundred miles with a baby across the north of Spain).  We don't really celebrate Valentines Day, nor Mother's or Father's Day (yeah, we're weird.....just always felt like odd, slightly forced holidays to us).  And June 3 was Kepa's due date--before he decided he wanted "out" two months early.  And when we were on Camino, June 3 was the first time we found Tarta de Santiago in Carrion de los Condes. So we've decided to have a family holiday every year now to commemorate that day.  Bri made a tarta de Santiago and we made a dinner out of our favorite camino meal: Chorizo, Bacon, French Fries, and Fried Eggs.

Kenneday Feast!!!!!
Meanwhile, the Camino unexpectedly led us to make some life long friends and relationships.  As we discussed in our "rearview thoughts" post last summer, we really came to love our Camino family.  Sadly, many of them we never exchanged information with and will probably never talk to again the rest of our lives, but it is amazing how many of them we are still in contact with.

We exchanged Christmas cards with The Double A's, the girls from Texas A&M girls we posted a picture of on the Camino.  Amber, who just graduated this Spring, almost met up with us in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, but alas it fell through.  Troy, a guy we knew on the camino who walked with them, did manage to meet us last November.  We had a fun meal with him here in New Orleans.  It felt really odd (but good) seeing a Camino person in NOLA.  It was like worlds colliding.

Troy, Kepa, and Brittany at Company Burger
Joan, the incredibly intelligent, articulate, and generous Andorran man that we spent a lot of time with early in the Camino remains in touch.  We sent him some Mardi Gras bling for his grandsons, and he sent us some beautiful books about Andorra.  He was, before retirement, a very important person high up in their government staffing there.  He has become a dear friend and we hope to visit him in Andorra one day.

Joan, G-Mom, Bri, and Kepa outside a pilgrim's hospital last summer
David and Kim, the English couple we walked with every day for the first week before we left them in our dust (haha) have also stayed in contact, and sent us a lovely magnet from their home region, Suffolk, at Christmas.  David is a Church of England vicar and Kim is a school nurse.  Sadly, Kim had a double mastectomy in December and is only recently back to work.  We wish her much strength in her recovery!
David, Kim, Bri, and Kepa in Torres del Rio last May.

Marian, the head of the older Basque ladies who basically adopted Kepa (and by virtue us) for the entire 500 miles has been the most in contact of all.  She knits things for Kepa, Skypes with Brittany, and sends along Basque coloring books and story books.  She's also gone back to re-do small sections of the Camino with friends.

On the left, Villar de Maserife last June.  On the right, Marian in Villar de Maseriffe a year later.
The most surprising connection may come from Yamada, the Japanese man we befriended (and talked about on the blog) but who spoke barely a word of English.  We mailed him a Christmas card and a CD of New Orleans jazz music (he likes jazz) and he responded by sending us a DVD of his camino pictures.  It's well worth a watch through if you are Camino obsessed, and the Kennedy's are big time stars in this film---appearing at least five times.

It's been a long road, but we've learned a lot.  I think we really worried 1) what Kepa could get out of this experience at such a young age & 2) if we could enjoy such an experience while carrying a 13-14 month old the entire way.  Both worries have proven unfounded.  The camino has proven to be one of the most unique and influential bonding experiences of our lives, and it effects all of our personalities to this day.  We still walk daily when we can, and Kepa still seems affected by the experience---whether or not he actually remembers it.  He definitely still remembered it in December when we decided to watch Martin Sheen's The Way, and he instantly, before the first shot of the camino was over, ran to pick up his Camino stick and walk around the room.  To this day he seems enthralled whenever we look at Camino pictures on the TV, but I think it is more curiosity (recognizing himself but not remembering) than it is actual memories.  But there is no doubt in our minds that his happy-go-lucky nature, his adaptability, his varied food tastes, his happy demeanor, all have a TON to do with the Camino.  One acquaintance described him last fall as "seeming like he's always happy, looking for the next party."  And he is.  And we think the Camino taught him that.  Diversity, uprootedness, community....they aren't bad things.

Kepa learned many things.  Including his love for pork products.  Chorizo anyone?

We ate at Pesche again in May, and it instantly snapped us back to what is great both about the Basque region/Spain and NOLA.  We still think that, someday, we'd like to try our hand at the Camino Norte.  And Brittany and I would like to do the Frances again starting all the way back in Paris.  But that is all a long way off.  In the meantime, it is more house work and school work.  And more bringing up Kepa.  Maybe a short trip to the (American) beach and a few festivals in NOLA.  Looking forward to continue to keep on keepin' on.
Moving forward along the Mississippi

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