"No entiendo," I said.
"Sit down," she said, carefully. I assume her English was as rudimentary as my Spanish.
I found a little wooden table under the trees and sipped the water, glad I'd chosen the most effective form of rehydrating. A Great thrush, strikingly similar to the blackbirds I know so well, flew across the courtyard; an Eared dove padded about on the ground. Above me, a small, unidentifiable bird flitted through the foliage of a broad-leaved tree and somewhere else a bird made a sound like two stones being struck together.
"Dondé estan los colibries?" I thought, trying not to translate it into English but understand it directly. "Where are the hummingbirds?"
Still, even if they'd preferred somewhere else, this was a lovely spot —quiet, attractive, with birds clearly used to the close proximity of humans, and with enough trees to diminish the sense of being in a large city.
Another small bird flew across beneath the canopy and settled on a twig. This one, however, wasn't unidentifiable; on the contrary, as soon as I saw the long bill, the posture as it sat upright on the twig, and noted how small it seemed, I knew I was looking at the first hummingbird I'd ever seen. Un colibri at El Colibri, I thought. I watched, fascinated. I couldn't see the colours clearly because I was looking up and the bright sky, even broken up by the leaves, made the shadowed bird difficult to see. But as I watched, I saw it calling and realised this was the bird making the two-stones call. Later, after having enjoyed seeing it in better light and having consulted The Birds of Ecuador, I felt confident identifying it as a Sparkling violetear, and the persistent and potentially annoying "tik tik tik ..." call confirmed the identification.
I sat there, savouring my tortilla and drinking my agua con gas on a quiet Sunday afternoon with a mild breeze on a warm afternoon in the leaf-filtered sunlight, watching the pair of Great thrushes, the Eared doves, the Rufous-collared sparrows, and the little Sparkling violetear, and I thought, this place is idyllic.
When the waitress cleared my table I said, "Me gusta," then "Me encanta los colibries" — I love the hummingbirds.
"Ah!" she said, and thought for a few moments. "Is beautiful."
I couldn't have agreed more.
Update, 19 April 2012: I've posted a slightly better, larger photograph on the photoblog.