The first time I saw a hummingbird I was sitting in the Plaza 14 de Septiembre here in Cochabamba with a friend who pointed to the tall tree branches above where we were sitting. There it was, wings beating rapidly - a flickering hologram. It was impossibly still, its body hovering, its long pointed beak first before the rest.
Hummingbird or picaflor here in South America has another meaning too. One of the cheeky teenage boys I worked with last year was always harping on about the girls he was with. He would boast about juggling various girlfriends, making sure they were all in the dark about each other. Zulema, one of the teachers at the centre yelled, Eres un picaflor! meaning You're a hummingbird! seeing as he was always jumping from flower to flower.
I've spent the last two weeks jumping from place to place in Bolivia and Peru with my cousin, one of my dearest friends. We had never travelled together, despite both having lived in Spain for a year and done a fair bit of travelling between us - we were finally on the same continent at the same time. Two hummingbirds on the same flower at once. After all our fluttering around we were crossing paths.
We ran around the beautiful Colonial city of Cusco shellshocked at its cleanliness, modernity, narrow cobbled streets and large people-watching plazas. We spent almost an entire day on the outskirts of the city, amongst hills and streams where Peruvian families washed their clothes, where llamas grazed and were chased by dogs, where an Andean band played folk music that echoed through the valley. Somewhere between Cusco and the journey and trek to Machu Picchu we compared notes on life.
We were both hummingbirds who had worried our families with seemingly directionless change, a hop on hop off bus of not yet adult life characterised by beautiful pictures and low bank accounts. But we were different in many ways too, our flights were spurred on by our distinct passions. When we stopped to examine the charters of the past few years, it was evident that we were flying to and from different things and where we were now was in the place the other had been.
More than twenty three years of my life have been spent in my own company and I'm now in the process of learning to share my time and self with somebody else. On the other hand she has spent many years being somebody's other half and is only now learning to be on her own. We were and are both being pushed from life long habits, forced to reconsider ourselves and who we are within new contexts. She, laughing at my questions and insecurities, and me smiling slyly at hers.
Picaflores fly through the rapid beating of their wings which allows them to be weightless in the air or disappear from view completely. But they are always moving, never stagnant. They are always drawn by new scents, new flowers and intoxications. So it is with us. Same bird, different flower.
We never stop moving from flower to flower. Once we draw all we can from what was once a place we wanted to get to, there is always the draw of a new scent waiting. Something unexpected - lifestyle, mindset, relationships, location, jobs, safety-nets.
I've always watched on the sidelines as others seemed to jump from first loves to new loves back to old boyfriends and potentials. It was with curiosity I witnessed so many get togethers, so many break ups, so many get back togethers, so many break up agains. Now I am on the other side. My family and friends have watched as I jumped between my own flowers. I was caught up sprinting between projects, volunteer work or new ideas sparked by growing or rejuvenated interests, fanciful dreams of living overseas and learning multiple languages, of possible career paths - all the elusive and intoxicating lure of a great perhaps.
Having spent the most amazing week of my life in the sacred valley in Peru with more adventure, companionship, lucky good weather and laughter than one could have hoped for - I am now living the great perhaps I've always wanted. True to nature, there are novel dreams being born on new definitions of great and perhaps and that's something that I hope never ends.