Celebrating New Year’s in Peru!
I was celebrating New Year’s in Peru and accompanying my friend Leo who was on a mission to be as festive as possible. He wanted fireworks. Since I had just gotten back from the Lares Hike, he warned me ahead of time, “Muriel, I’m going to be a belligerent mess setting off fireworks tonight and that’s just how it’s going to be.” The city was packed with pop-up markets and locals doing last minute shopping. What we wanted was not hard to find: fireworks galore and yellow everywhere. Most surprisingly were the blatant displays of yellow underwear.
At midnight, some brave souls run around Plaza de Armas in their yellow underwear to bring in luck for the new year. It’s like how people wear green for Saint Patrick’s day. The rest of us common mortals settle for a dash of yellow, like a hat or a flower, while wearing significantly more clothes. After acquiring a relatively massive amount of fireworks from San Pedro market-right outside of the Cusco B&B, we mosied on through Plaza de Armas where a little old Peruvian lady was selling a bouquet of yellow flowers. Leo thought, what better way to contribute to the economy and garner luck for the new year than to buy from her. So, two birds and five soles later, I had a bouquet full of luck in my hands.
After putting one on his shirt and one on my backpack he gave me the almighty responsibility of giving the rest of the flowers away. I was absolutely delighted and reveled in my new mission with gusto. On this beautiful New Year’s Eve afternoon we wandered the city having no destination in particular and I joyfully handed flowers to random people. A red-headed tourist with everything he owned in his backpack. A girl sitting on the steps and staring off into the distance as her boyfriend texted on his phone. A little boy running a few steps in front of his mother. A young man with his group of friends who lit up like fireworks when I handed him my gift.
It was so nice to just give something to someone and it was even nicer to make them smile. I whittled down the bouquet in about 20 minutes until there was only one long-stemmed yellow flower left. As we continued to wander, Leo would suggest, “Why don’t you give it to her?” or “How about that guy with the dreadlocks?” and I would say, “Nah…I don’t think so.”
I mean, it was my LAST flower. I wanted to give it to someone special. I didn’t know quite what it meant at the time, but I thought I would just know and it would feel right when I did.
So we continued to wander the city and enjoy the day…for 3 MORE HOURS. We walked up to San Blas, up past Limbus, to the lookout point above that, back through Plaza de Armas into San Pedro Market again, stopped into Orion for snacks by the Cusco B&B Hotel, took a taxi from there through the city to drop off supplies at Leo’s place. All the while, Leo points out prospects to give my flower to, I decline, and I poke him in the face with my flower when I can, As the minutes turn to hours, the long stem on my yellow flower dwindles down to about four inches, but thankfully, all the petals stay in place and look as vibrant as ever.
The afternoon was quietly fading as we walked through Plaza de Armas one more time and I stopped. “Leo!!! Look, over there by the fountain!”
“What? What am I looking at?”
“THERE! That gorgeous Adonis of a man. Right there! He just sat down. He’s who I want to give my flower to.”
“Oh THAT guy. Yeah, give it to him!”
“I don’t know, should I though? Do I look okay? I’ve been holding this thing-“
“I know. So, go do it. Talk to him. NOW. Right now.”
So I went over to this handsome stranger and told him all about my flower. I told him about how I acquired it, the ones I gave away, why I held onto this one and why I finally decided to give it to him. We had a lovely conversation where he told me his circumstances for being in Peru- he had just moved back from the states. At the time, I did not have data on my phone so we also discussed how nice it is to not be constantly connected. He had a blank journal he was about to write into when he sat down. I gave him my contact info and said,
“Feel free to contact me if you need a friend while you’re here, but if you don’t, please keep the flower as a consolation prize and I do hope you have a Happy New Year.”
With one last smile, I walked away. It wasn’t until after that Leo showed me the picture he took of the encounter. You’re probably wondering what happened next. Did we become friends? Or did he remain silent, like flower petals blowing in the wind being carried somewhere unknown?
The answer is…I’m not going to tell you. Because that’s not the point of the story.
I gave my flower not because of reciprocity or I was trying to “get the guy”, but because I wanted to give something special to someone. Someone, who for a moment was special to me because I made him so.
We all have something to give to the world. Don’t be afraid because you’re not ready, or someone won’t like it, or you may get hurt, or it’s not as good as something else. Take a chance and just do it.
Now is as good a time as any.
By Muriel Palanca