There are people who think that there is no happiness in their lives. And there are people like me who think that there is a lot of happiness everywhere – you just need to find it and care for it.
There are also people who don’t believe in love. And, again, there are people like me for whom love is a religion.
I think that those people who don’t believe in happiness or love didn’t have the luck of meeting the kind of great love that I did. Have you ever wondered why some people are so insanely happy with each other? Has it ever brought a tear in your eye when you saw an elderly couple holding each other by the hand in a park and looking at each other as if they were both still 18? Have you ever wanted to ask them how they managed to do it? Well, I met an elderly couple like that once. I met them and I asked them. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I hadn’t.
A while ago I spent some time in the Guajira desert. I’ve already written a couple of times that it’s one of my favourite places – it has the energy of solitary romanticism, desolate pride, natural universality and simple beauty. I loved being there and I loved myself there – I synchronized myself with the rhythm of the local people and I had a routine there that I missed already after three months of travelling. After a cold night in a hammock I woke up to take a bath in the sea. I always ate the same breakfast and had very similar conversations with the only three people in my village. I worked until the moment that my laptop’s battery were almost going dead. I went for a fish lunch (always the same) and then I worked until my laptop’s battery went totally dead. The evenings I devoted to long walks in order to meet the natives scattered along the shore, to play with their children and to drink some coffee with them. Time was passing slowly on reading and preparing the notes for the following day and finally, after three hours of night-time power supply, my computer, like a Phoenix, came back to life in order to spend the morning with me.
After three weeks I wrote the largest number of texts ever, I read all the overdue reports, I ordered my photographs and finished reading all the books. I enjoyed the sea and my own company and I was ready to return to the civilization. I had a great plan to go to Bogota and Medellin to visit the museums there, eat some pasta and sushi and see the coffee plantations and the beautiful mountains. The plan was very good so I eagerly shared it with an elderly couple with whom I was going in a bus to the nearest town.
– And where are you going to?
– We’re going to see the flamingos. Do you want to join us?
– Well, I already saw the flamingos, now I have to…
– Yes, yes – see the city. But it’s the biggest flamingo colony in the world – there are thousands of them there. Surely you haven’t seen anything like that.
I started scanning through my Lonely Planet, but I haven’t found anything about a flamingo colony. If it was the largest colony they’d surely write something about it.
– It’s a sort of secret, hidden place. Not many people know about it. We have been saving for the whole year in order to finally come there and see the flamingos. They’re said to bring good fortune
– They should be located a bit closer. I mean, reaching this place is some kind nightmare. Half a day spent in the car only to be able to watch them for an hour
– Flamingos are the birds of fortune, that’s why they are so beautiful. They are where they love to be. And where they are being loved. It’s like a definition of a place where each of us should be
Since I have a soft spot for love-based arguments, I agreed to come with them. I lost my tickets to Bogota, but in exchange I gained a beautiful lesson about flamingos, love and happiness.
I stopped believing the psychologists who claim that passionate and romantic love ends after 3 years. I’ve never seen a couple that was more in love. I swear. They met when she was 33 and he was 28. She was a feminist and absolutely didn’t want to be with anybody. Meanwhile, he decided that he finally found the woman of his life and that he wouldn’t quit and would fight for her. It took him two years! But he made it. She said that it had been hard at the beginning because she hadn’t been used to being with somebody and hadn’t liked to adjust. But slowly she started noticing the advantages of living together. He said that he had almost gone crazy during those first years and that there were no more defiant and independent woman in Columbia than her. And how did it happen that they remained together despite those difficult times?
“Because we have loved each other… and we still do. Love was our decision.”
It was a very silly question. From the beginning it was obvious that they love each other. They’ve spent 27 years together and he still looks at her as if she was the only woman in the whole universe. He constantly asks her whether she isn’t cold or hungry, whether she feels comfortable and whether he can do something for her. And she straightens his collar, strokes his hair and calls him her “beloved”.
Obviously I’ve read that it is possible to love each other so strongly after 27 years, but psychologists deny it. They say it’s a statistical error and that we’re unable to remain in love for so long because we simply cannot stay high all the time.
– We are high all the time – says Maria, smiling. Well, we like being high, so we do our best to be high all the time. And you know what? Every child of ours also has a partner with whom they’re high all the time.
Because when we made a decision to be together, we also made a decision that things can be the same way as when they started or better, but never worse. We both knew that it meant three things:
And that’s what we taught to our children. They knew that we’re like that. And they became saturated with it. That’s why they never accepted a partner who’d give them less than they expect.
– But such level of dedication and awareness is a very high expectation in modern times. Where did they find those partners?
– Julia, there’s a whole lot of good people. But sometimes they’re like flamingos – you need to go off the beaten path to notice them. You need to change your plans in order to meet them. You must put some effort in order to grow accustomed to them. Our children knew that this is possible so they were searching for flamingos only. Because they knew that they are somewhere
– And how many children do you have?
– That’s a lot
– A lot indeed. That’s why we knew we couldn’t screw it. We brought six human beings into the world. We wanted them to be good and happy people and for them to bring happiness to others. And the best thing that a parent can do for a child is to show that they are happy too. That they love their partner, job, pets and a stranger. We haven’t given any money to our children. We have no inheritance to leave them. But we taught them that if they live, the happiness is their obligation. Both towards themselves and towards others. And that there are always beautiful flamingos somewhere. You just need to listen, look around and… change your plans sometimes
This is why I change my plans often. I go off the beaten path and look for my flamingos. That is why I exchanged diving in Tabago for the cold NYC. Because my obligation it to pursue happiness, not to carry out a plan. I still have time to go back to Tobago, but the most important thing is not to let your plans stand in the way of opportunities. And to believe in flamingos. That’s the most important thing as well.